Days 112 Extra - Question markA few days ago our daughter emailed us saying that she was in Liberia. With the Ebola crisis emanating from that region of Africa, our parental worry antenna shot up. She assured us that she was being extremely careful and was super sanitized but Ebola stories have been endemic on the news. Of course that’s why she was there – to report on Ebola  for the Wall Street Journal. We are proud of her but also worried for her.

This got me thinking about being a parent. No matter what the age of our children, I vacillate between pride and worry. Are they doing well enough in school? How is their health? Will they make good friends and find loving relationships? Will they make good decisions about life and morality? Will they be safe? Will they be able to support themselves financially? Will they keep faith?

While my children lived at home, my job was to lay the foundation – to teach them the basics and try to provide a safe, nutritional, educational, moral environment. Now that they are grown, I can only continue to love them and trust that that foundation will carry them through the tough times.

No one escapes childhood without some hurts, be they physical falls or emotional heartbreaks. Still, as a parent, it’s hard not to worry. No matter how old one’s child is we can’t guarantee his or her well-being. So how can a caring parent stay sane?

1. Lay a Foundation, But Let Go of the Outcome.
Do the best you can during the active parenting years and then repeat this mantra: “I are responsible for the process I use in raising my children – not the outcome.”
2. Let Go of Guilt and Start.
In hindsight, parents sometimes feel guilty that their “best” was flawed. Maybe from lack of money, time, or knowing healthy parenting practices, you made mistakes or did things you regret. Learn from the past but let go of the guilt. You can’t change history. Start now to be the best parent you can.
3. Let Go of Pride.
We put so much energy into our children it’s tempting to see their successes as our successes. Of course the corollary is to feel that our child’s failure is our failure.

Worrying is not restricted to parents. I can worry about money, my job (or lack thereof), health, politics, the environment, human relationships gone awry, or my hair. I have found the following principles help keep me balanced:
1. Take Action.
One of the best remedies for worry is to do something proactive. I can’t single handedly stop climate change, but I can reduce how much energy I use and recycle more.
2. Think Beyond Myself.
Increasing my love for others and decreasing my judgment of those I disagree with can lift my spirit beyond “woe is me.” Being in community with others can multiply positive actions and bring support in times of discouragement.
3. Turn it over.
For people of faith this typically means prayer or meditation. Even if one has no specific religious belief, the attitude of letting go can put problems in perspective and bring some peace.

Bonus: Laugh More – at ones foibles, the temporariness of this life, myself. Sometimes I just have to laugh at my uncontrollable hair.

So, wise readers – What has helped you deal with the inevitable worries of life?