Back-to-school time and parental anxiety

Kim Olver
Posted 9/4/19

Are you a parent of school-aged children? As they prepare to return to school, it’s easy to begin worrying about their well-being, especially considering the recent and ongoing violence. Does …

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Back-to-school time and parental anxiety

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Are you a parent of school-aged children? As they prepare to return to school, it’s easy to begin worrying about their well-being, especially considering the recent and ongoing violence. Does putting your children on the bus or dropping them on school grounds cause terror in your heart? What’s a parent to do?

I realize that the number one priority of any parent is keeping their children safe. I have taught parenting workshops around the globe and, yes, parents want good relationships with their children, and yes, they want to be respected by their children, but they will give all that up to know their child is going to survive. Their children’s survival is always the main desire of the parents I speak with.

Every parent has felt the overwhelming urge to place their child inside a protective bubble or wrap them in multiple rolls of 10-ply toilet tissue to keep them safe. But how do you keep them safe from an active shooter, especially in their school when you are not there to protect them? You’ve said your prayers, written your congressman and purchased the bullet-proof backpack but… is that going to be enough?

Choice Theory teaches us to take control of what we can, influence the things and people we can influence and accept the rest. It’s a lot like the Serenity Prayer. Worrying accomplishes absolutely nothing and if you have any belief or faith in the Law of Attraction, the last thing you want to do is think about what you fear because your thoughts may actually cause it to happen.

What can be done about violence in this country? No one agrees on its causes let alone its solutions. Some people think tougher gun laws will help, others want to lock up all “mentally ill” people and others blame violence on the ingestion of the very drugs used to treat mental illness. What is really at the root, and can you do anything about it?

Depending on what you believe is at the root of this problem, you may be able to do something about it. I wrote a note on Facebook titled “Mass Shootings: What We Can Do About It” that provides my theory. If the problem is poor mental health or the drugs that treat it, the question we ought to be asking is what causes poor mental health in the first place?

It is my firm belief that there is a disease of disconnection. People with mental health problems are disconnected from the important people in their lives, or disconnected from their relationship with themselves. Each of us can do something about that by spreading kindness wherever we go. Teach your children to look for their classmates that seem alone, without friends. Teach them to reach out to those who may be hurting.

You can lobby politicians, protest and sign petitions. These things may help you feel a bit more control. If you are able, you may even choose to homeschool. It’s a huge commitment and not always possible for working families, but it’s an option. You could also investigate getting a job at the school so you can be close to your children to protect them if tragedy strikes. You may even take a gun safety class and get your own protection permit and gun so you don’t feel so defenseless.

Even after doing all those things, you must send your children to school. They need to be educated, and they can’t carry a gun to school. How do you allow them to leave your presence each day knowing something terrible could happen? The truth is something terrible could happen to anyone at any time in any place. The flip side of that truth is that millions of children go to school every day and return home safely each afternoon. That is the norm.

When you live in fear, the shooters win; they stop you from living your life freely. We live in a world where safety is an issue. Teach your children what they need to know about emergency situations—where to go, whether to hide or confront, whom to tell and how to find you. These may not be things you want to have to teach your children, but providing them information that could serve them in an emergency just makes sense. You don’t want to terrify your children, so if you have these educational sessions, you want to do it when you aren’t panicked or terrified. Children will certainly pick up on your emotions and learn the wrong lesson. They will learn it’s a big, bad world and they should be constantly vigilant. I, for one, do not want my children to live that way.

Here are the steps I’m advocating to get your anxiety under control:
1. Recognize your anxiety is not helping you at all. It isn’t what’s keeping your children safe.
2. Analyze the situation to determine what things are within your control and which are not.
3. Plan steps to address the things you can, to the extent you are able.
4. Take those steps.
5. Educate your children about the steps they can take to make themselves safer without terrifying them. Speak with them the same as you did when they were little and you asked them to hold your hand while crossing the street.
6. Keep your own fears at bay by remembering all the days your child has left your side and returned without incident. There are many more days like that than days when tragedy strikes.
7. Worry if you must but do it when your children aren’t present. They do not need to “catch” your condition, developing worry of their own.

I have never known a situation to improve because you worry about it. Ninety percent of what we worry about never happens, and the 10 percent that does was something you couldn’t have prevented anyway. Worry is incredibly unproductive and steals precious moments from your life. You cannot be worried about something that hasn’t happened and still be present in the moment you’re living. Be present for your life and if, that’s a big if, your worst fear comes true, you will be better able to handle it if you have experienced good moments along the way.

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