After yet another school shooting last week, I imagine most parents are feeling the way I do: heartbroken, anxious, and so so tired. We love our babies and want to protect them, but how? If they aren’t even safe at school, what are we supposed to do?
While I could rant all day about things that need to change—in politics, in society, etc.—I won’t. Other people are doing that better than I could. (I’ll link a few resources at the end of this post.)
There are so many reasons to fear for our children’s physical + emotional safety. While that in itself isn’t new to parenting, the reasons for our fear have changed over the years. Between rampant bullying, easily accessed pornography, an uptick in depression + anxiety + suicidal thoughts among children + teens, mass shootings, and more, it’s easy to be afraid. It’s understandable that parents hover protectively over their children, wanting to spare them any pain or trauma. I can’t blame anyone for turning inward, looking for any available way to have a little more control over where our children are, who they’re with, and how safe they might be.
But what does parenting in fear do to us? What does it do to our children?
For one, it’s paralyzing + isolating
It prevents us from being involved in our communities, getting to know our neighbors, learning about people + cultures that are different from our own. Parenting in fear keeps us from the rich variety of experiences that are available to us.
For another, it teaches our children not to let themselves be vulnerable.
And yes, vulnerability is terrifying. Being vulnerable enough to trust others opens us up to all kinds of hurt + betrayal. It also opens us up to love, connection, and growth. Is protecting ourselves and our children worth that loss?
It’s a lot to think about. And it’s a decision that has to be made over and over and over again.
But to me, parenting in fear isn’t worth it. It’s not worth the anxiety, the sleepless nights, the mistrust and unfounded judgement I feel when I meet new people or go new places. I don’t want to make choices for my family based on all the terrifying “what ifs,” regardless of any possible benefits.
I’m choosing instead to parent from a place of love.
Love for my children, who deserve to experience everything this beautiful world has to offer, including the negative stuff. How else will they learn empathy? How else will they see a need for change + growth?
Love for myself, because I deserve to feel joy + hope + gratitude rather than constant fear.
Love for this world and the people in it, because I believe that the good here outweighs the bad. I have hope for the future. I think radical kindness can change everything.
So I’m asking myself some questions to ensure that I’m parenting from a place of love, rather than fear:
- Have we created a home that is safe for our children and their friends?
- Do we show them unconditional love every single day?
- Is our anxiety about the world influencing theirs?
- Have we examined and tried to eliminate our own prejudices so we don’t pass them on?
- Do we punish bad behavior or enforce consequences and use it as a learning experience?
- Are we letting our children take reasonable, age-appropriate risks?
- Are we giving them opportunities to fail in a safe environment?
- Do we encourage open, honest communication about even the hardest subjects?
- Are we modeling kindness, generosity, and non-judgement in the way we treat others?
- Have we prepared them with resources + skills to keep them as safe as possible?
I encourage you to ask yourself the same questions, and others as you think of them. We can all do more to make this world a safer, more inclusive, more loving place for everyone.
Change starts at home, and real change comes not from fear, but from love.
(350 + 252 + 119 weeks)
Recommended parenting resources:
- @simplyonpurpose and @simple_families are two of my favorite Instagram accounts for parenting advice
- @mindfulcounseling on Instagram is an excellent resource for learning to process negative emotions and develop self-love
- Moms Demand Action is an organization devoted to establishing common-sense gun reform in the United States. (They’re similar to MADD.) You can learn more on their website or text ACT to 64433 to get text messages about events in your area.
- Simplicity Parenting is my current favorite parenting book. I cannot recommend it enough, no matter how old your children are.
If you know of any other great resources for parenting in love, please share them in the comments and I’ll add them here.