Yesterday, there was a school shooting at a Nashville elementary school. The shooter was armed with two assault-style weapons style weapons and a handgun. That is every parent’s worst nightmare. The thought of it makes our souls quake. And yet we as Americans have not taken action to ban these weapons of mass death and prevent these tragedies. As parents, we have to get up and go on about our business the next day and send our children back to school. However, these type of traumatic events can cause our anxiety to go through the roof. In these trying times, we must overcome fear of uncertainty. We must carry on, even though we may be afraid to do so. We have to find a way to bring positive thoughts to the front of our minds and reassure our kids that they are safe.
This post below was originally published February 7, 2020. I thought I would republish it today because it full of positive messages on how to overcome fear and find the positive. Speaking about the positive, I would like to thank the Nashville Police Department officers for stepping up and handling the school shooting so quickly (and no doubt overcoming their own fears) to minimize the damage and and give us all peace of mind and closure that it was resolved with the death of the shooter.
Don’t Let Fear Rule Your Thoughts
It is amazing how fast things are changing. There were no TVs when my grandmother was little and now we all carry screens in our pockets. According to Bloomberg Opinion, “The pace of innovation and disruption is accelerating.” In the last 20 years we have seen a huge acceleration in the melting of the ice sheets. Greenland’s mass variation is 286.0 Gigatonnes per year according to Data from NASA‘s GRACE satellites since 2002. Parenting in these modern times can mean facing fear and overcoming anxiety and uncertainty. Doing so allows our children to build adaptability and resilience for better mental health.
Parenthood is filled with uncertainty. However, we can’t spend all of our time worrying about a potential threat or future events. To overcome a high level of uncertainty we often need to focus more on being in the present moment. Excessive worry about a possible scenario or potential risks and negative consequences can stop you from making important decisions to enjoy the good things in life now. In the face of uncertainty you still need to be able to embrace positive thoughts.
That is why I have expert to share tips on dealing with fear of the uncertainty. Madeline Levine, Ph.D. is a psychologist, educator and co-founder of Challenge Success, a project of the Stanford Graduate School of Education. She is also a New York Times bestselling author of The Price of Privilege and Teach Your Children Well. Her latest book is available through my Amazon affiliate link-> Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain World is on sale February 11th, 2020. She understands the importance of parents overcoming uncertainty. And of parents helping their children to overcome fear of uncertainty and develop flexibility, resilience, and confidence even in uncertain times.
Overcoming Uncertainty And Fear to Help Our Children Thrive
By Madeline Levine, PhD
For more than a decade I’ve been crisscrossing the United States talking about rising rates of anxiety and depression in our kids. More recently, I have been talking about parenting challenges in our rapidly changing and uncertain environment. I’ve had the privilege of meeting with groups of all stripes: public, private, liberal, conservative, rural, urban, and most everything in between. But what has genuinely surprised me is the uniformity of concerns, regardless of which community I’m in.
Parents want to know what to worry about and what they can safely take off their plates. They want to know how to prepare their kids to be successful in a future that seems so unpredictable. How to deal with the endless alarming news about children and teenagers. Most of all, they want to know how to protect their kids. Parents want to ensure some stability for them in a world that seems anything but.
When Parents Are Worried (Parenting With Fear)
Parents are worried sick about their children’s prospects in an unstable world. There is a lot of uncertainty in a world teeming with threats near and far. Whole categories of jobs are disappearing, not just to other countries, but everywhere, forever. We face uncertainty in global financial upheaval; terrorist attacks; refugees in misery; the environment under assault from poisons and rising temperatures. Parents always want what is best for their children. But social currents driven in large part by our uncertain era keep pulling families off course. Not knowing what’s coming next, or what to do for our kids in place of the things we’ve always done, has caused us to double down on the old ways. We get conservative and look to the past for solutions when we should be looking to the future.
Constant Oversight Is Not The Answer
Helicopter parents provide constant oversight. However, this is not the solution. Constant oversight means that kids are protected from the mandatory bumps need to experience themselves. These bumps help them to learn that they can be challenged, even defeated, and still recover. Or better yet, learn to savor the experience of being challenged. When children are denied the opportunity to figure out their own values, desires, and interests, the outcome is often a despairing dependency. Intolerance of uncertainty can produce the antithesis of healthy autonomy.
Ten years ago, my young patients were in a fury about the parental yoke: “It’s my life! Tell my mom and dad to back off. I’ll figure it out myself!” One of the most disturbing developments in recent years has been the fading of youthful rebellion among the teenagers I see. It’s been replaced with resignation and a jaded demeanor I’d expect from folks many years older who had to work at jobs they despised in order to support a family or pay a mortgage. “You don’t understand,” these teens will say, shaking their heads. “There is no way out of the next three years. I’m just going to suck it up. I have no choice.” The belief that you can’t act on your own behalf is a significant contributor to depression at any age.
Agency is the belief that you have the power to take actions that will have an impact on your immediate environment. The alternative is feeling powerless, which leads to demoralization and victimization. By micromanaging children—not just at school but on play dates, on the soccer field, at grandma’s, in the clothing store—parents hamper their kids’ ability to discover themselves and advocate for their own agenda. This is true whether it’s a 3-year-old who wants to wear mismatched socks or a teenager who wants to quit playing cello even though continuing might give her an edge in college admissions.
The Human Response To Unpredictability and Uncertainty
Decades of research on the human response to unpredictability, risk, and ambiguity tell us that our brains do not function optimally under any of these conditions. We tend to make compromised decisions when probable outcomes are unclear. We like predictability and still have our savannah ancestors’ DNA ordering us to escape or kill as quickly as possible when circumstances become uncertain and threatening. But we don’t live on the savannah, and our children will be required to come up with far more complex solutions than fight or flee. How can we prepare them for a future we can barely imagine ourselves?
In attempting to answer that question for my book, Ready or Not, I delved into the heart of the dilemma: the nature of uncertainty. I studied how it affects our brains and how that influences our decision-making process, especially when it comes to decisions about our kids. I looked at the strong correlation between uncertainty and anxiety, and at how they amplify each other. Furthermore, I reviewed notes on the many families I’ve counseled. I was able to trace a connection between anxiety and parental overprotection. I also found a connection with a condition called accumulated disability. That is the impairment of life skills and the ability to cope, adapt, and function. Learned helplessness, the belief that you are powerless to change your circumstances despite evidence to the contrary, can also be linked to the anxiety-fueled parental overprotection that’s a by-product of our unstable age.
Remarkable Potential And Opportunities Exist Even During Times Of Change
It’s only natural for parents to be more focused on tomorrow’s negative possibilities than its positive potential. Fear of the unknown and resistance to change is hardwired into our brains. It’s an evolutionary survival response. How can we start overcoming fear of uncertainty? How do we liberate ourselves? We start by learning how the brain processes uncertainty. In this way, we can more easily override these ancient responses. Then parents can take a fresh and open-minded look at how best to prepare children for all the uncertainty, opportunity, and astonishing change likely to occur in their lifetimes.
The future may well hold remarkable opportunities for our kids. The silver linings are that our kids may live lives that are longer and more varied, healthy, and productive than those of any previous generation. Along with preparing them for the uncertainty of this century, we need to remind them and ourselves that the experience is likely to be extraordinary. They’ll talk about their youth to their own children, perhaps with awe and gratitude. After all, they were raised during such a fascinating and unprecedented era.
I hope you found Dr. Levine’s wording reassuring and inspiring. Her tips for how to overcome fear of uncertainty are certainly meaningful to me. How do you stay upbeat and overcome fear and anxiety while parenting in these modern times? What strategies do you use to override your reflex reaction to uncertainty and stay grounded in your decision making? Share your questions or tips about dealing with uncertain situations on social media @familyfocusblog!
Overcoming Fear Quotations
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a few overcoming fear quotes to inspire you.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
So go outside and look at the beautiful sky. Remember, the world is has ugliness in it, but it has so much beauty too!