One mom shared a story with me about being in the grocery store with her four kids—the youngest still a toddler—and how her nerves nearly reached a breaking point. She had just heard a news report of a child being abducted from a mall, so she was anxious about hauling all her kids through the store while still trying to concentrate on her grocery list. She handed out instructions like a drill sergeant before they got out of the car: “Keep one hand on the cart at all times, don’t wander off, and don’t talk to strangers!” As they headed to the checkout line, she felt a surge of panic. Where was Addy? She wasn’t in the cart! Had she climbed out? She said she screamed to her seven-year-old: “Where’s your sister? Where’s Addy?!” Her seven-year-old looked at her evenly and replied, “Mom, she’s sitting on your hip.”
In her panic she had forgotten she had picked the baby up out of the cart several minutes ago when she was crying. Addy, at that moment, was completely nonplussed as she sat on her mom’s hip, chewing nonchalantly on her sunglasses, totally oblivious as to why her mom was screaming. My friend said she felt limp with relief, but also a little concerned about her own mental health.
Another mom shared a story about picking her daughter up from daycare to learn she had bitten another child. What? My child is not a biter! she thought. She was even more horrified when her daughter later bit a baby right on the head, right in front of her eyes. As she drove home crying, embarrassed, and ashamed of her daughter’s behavior, her thoughts took her to the extremes of her child forever being a social outcast, where no school would take her, and having to be placed in a special facility for children who couldn’t control themselves. They would have to drop out of church, and she would have to quit her job because she couldn’t leave her daughter alone. This was going to affect the whole family! In just a matter of minutes, her thoughts had taken her to quite a panicky place.
Have you ever felt like your fear and worry caused you to take a ride on the crazy train? Relax, we’ve all had those moments of over-the-top worry and panic. The question is what can you do to help yourself deal reasonably with fear and stop it before it gets out of control? We asked moms for some of their tried-and-true go-to strategies when fear strikes.
Do your research. Moms everywhere shared it was very helpful to find out if their fear was even reasonable. For instance, knowing the incidences of a child being taken by a stranger are extremely rare can calm your heart. Gavin de Becker, child safety expert and author of Protecting the Gift, says your child is vastly more likely to have a heart attack than to be abducted, and child heart attacks are so rare that most parents (correctly) never even consider the risk. Moms shared with us it helped to focus on the things they could do to mitigate danger, but then they reminded themselves (sometimes out loud) the situation didn’t warrant a high level of fear.
Bring it out in the open. Many of our moms shared the power of talking about their fear with someone they could trust, and how it not only calmed their heart, but it helped them know they weren’t alone. As in the case of the child-biter mom, after she talked the situation over with a mentor-mom friend whose daughter had done almost exactly the same thing, she realized she was blowing the incident way out of proportion and that it wasn’t the end of the world. In talking their fears over with their husbands, or other mom friends, moms shared they were able to put a name to their fear, talk rationally about it, and then move to solutions. It’s one of Satan’s tricks to convince us we should keep our fear quiet and try to handle it alone. He wants us to feel ashamed and overwhelmed. Talking about fear busts both of these.
Ask for help. Our moms shared the calming effect prayer had on their fears. And it wasn’t because they were talking to just anyone about it—it was because they were talking to a God who really understood and could take their fear away. As a mom, I often read Isaiah 41:13 out loud: “For I hold you by your right hand—I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.’” It’s incredibly reassuring to know my fears don’t surprise God. He already has whatever I’m afraid of under control. There have been many times when, as a mom, I’ve been honest with God and cried: I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid, and I need your help!
It’s also wise to know when to seek outside professional help. Talking to a pastor, doctor, or professional counselor is a wise option if your fear is causing you to experience physical side effects or lack of sleep. One mom shared: “I don’t hesitate to talk to my obstetrician about my pregnancy concerns. Why should I be embarrassed to talk to a counselor about my fear?”
In the next article, we’ll be asking the question, "Where is God in my fear?"