A recent report showed that ill people who know that many people were worried about their illness actually did worse than those who knew that few were worried about them.
All parents worry. But the extent that we worry may impact our children negatively. When we worry we focus on the negative and our children feel the focus. Subconsciously they gravitate to actions that keep them as their parents’ preoccupation. We can actually perpetuate problems in school or illness at home by setting up that expectation. Worry is often based on irrational unrealistic fears. But those fears may control our feelings toward our children’s problem. If children don’t feel the confidence from their parents that they will get better, they tend not to heal as fast. Likewise, in school if kids don’t feel their parent’s support and confidence they don’t succeed in school as easily.
Our children respond to us from the attention we give and the control we grant them. If their behavior (I stink at spelling, or I have a headache) gets the parent’s attention and controls the parent’s response it may become a behavior that is fostered to continue. These behaviors may not be positive for the child in any other way except for the subconscious attention it draws to him. Headaches, stomachaches, emotional outbursts, and even less than optimal school performance may pull us into the same trap that temper tantrums do. (Certainly, many illnesses, school problems, and emotional outbursts need serious attention. Usually, in these cases, there are more objective signs that teachers, doctors, or even parents can see that support the need for addressing the child’s problem.)
So how can we avoid this negative spiral? Parents need to always temper how much attention they are paying to a problem. Too much attention may perpetuate any problem. We also have to measure how much a problem is controlling the household – the discussions, the actions, and, yes, even the worry a problem is causing. Get an objective opinion whether the problem is worth all the concern. Set a positive course to fix the problem and then have faith and confidence in the resolution. The more we can move away from preoccupation and worry to action and confidence, the more we can get away from any traps that attention and control can draw us into. If problems are real and worth more concern, you will get another chance to reassess your action.
Many of today’s parents tell me that their parents always blew off their illnesses when they were kids. “Oh you’ll be fine – just take some Tylenol. Your headache will go away.” Some people criticize their parents for being too insensitive. Maybe they had it partially correct – they didn’t get too worried and we didn’t get too much attention for mild illnesses.