We parents have got a lot to worry about.
If you don’t believe me, just scan a few of the titles of some recent parenting books:
- Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It
- A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting
- When Parents Love Too Much
- Parenting Out of Control: Anxious Parents in Uncertain Times
- All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting
Just typing those titles makes me feel more anxious than when I started writing this blog. What’s a conscientious parent to do?
On March 5, Dr. Wendy Mogel came to the Triangle and spoke with Cary Academy parents as part of an event co-hosted by some of our peer schools. Dr. Mogel, a practicing psychologist is the author of a few classic books on the pressures of modern parenting: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B-minus.
She opened her talk with some words of advice to parents from the children she works with:
Really, she emphasized. The message from students to their parents at every school she visits is the same. Kids feel their parents’ anxiety, and they want them to relax … just a bit. Please.
There is no doubt that parent anxiety is on the rise. It takes form in worrying about grades, college admissions, career readiness, friendships, social status, and safety. These are real concerns, no doubt. But, when parents worry too much or try to protect our children from every possible setback in life, our kids can feel that stress — which gives them yet another thing to worry about as well.
Mogel is particularly adamant that we allow kids the space to make mistakes and to feel some frustration.
“When your child comes to you with a problem,” she said, “you absolutely want to convey compassion, and you’re interested — but you are alert, rather than alarmed.”
Mogel cautioned parents against trying to solve problems for our kids and discussed the benefits of facing real setbacks early in life, be it with friends, a difficult teacher, or poor grades.
“We are raising them to leave us,” Mogel added. “You can sort of think of your child as a seed that came in a packet without a label. And you can’t tell what kind of flower you’re going to get or in what season it will bloom. Your job is just to provide sufficient food and water and pull the really big weeds.”
Mogel peppered her talk with stories and anecdotes that made us all feel like part of a connected community of parents, and helped us realize we are not alone in wrestling with these challenges.
In the end, she encouraged us all to do what we could to enjoy the journey. If not for our kids, then for ourselves.
“If they don’t see you enjoying being a parent,” she said, “they will not wish to have children themselves. And if they don’t have children, you won’t get to be a grandparent.”
Photo credit and quotes from Mogel’s talk: Courtesy of Durham Academy