My son was leaving to go camping for 3 nights in Yosemite with his friends. I have been SO GOOD about not worrying or micromanaging, like seriously, they don’t even have a camping reservation. Ever since I started doing research into the skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression in teens, I’ve been much more cautious about putting my worries onto my kids.
My son is 18 years old. A man who makes his own decisions. He’s camped before. He knows what he needs. So I don’t go over his packing list with him. I want to communicate enthusiasm and show that I trust him. So I sneak things in….
“What’s the weather going to be like in Yosemite?” He answers “probably nice”. “Did you check? Sometimes it snows in the mountains in June.” (He looks it up! Yeah! 40 degrees at night, Score 1 for Mom!)
I say, “I know you aren’t planning on cooking while camping, do you want to bring that box of granola bars from the pantry?” “Sure” he replies. (He grabs one. For four days. Score 1 for the teen)
After he’s left, I notice his warm North Face jacket still in the closet. I text him, “Your jacket is here. I’m worried you aren’t going to be warm enough.” “I’ll be fine”, he says, “I brought a long sleeved shirt and a windbreaker.” ……me, silently aghast…. “Can you ask your friend to just throw an extra sweatshirt in the car, just in case?” (He doesn’t, and he never got cold. Score 1 for the teen)
Me….squeezing one more text in before he goes out of cell range….“Do you know what to do if you see a bear?” “Yes, Mom” He replies. (the old me would have told him what to do, showed him youtube videos or warnings so I’m giving myself a 1/2 point for this one). I don’t even remind him not to keep food in the tent. Or say 3 people have already died in Yosemite this year. Or tell him not to wander off a waterfall. So proud.
Over-parenting is fear based parenting. It can make our teens not want to listen to us, it can increase anxiety and depression in kids because they pick up the message that world is scary, can’t be trusted, and that they aren’t strong or capable enough to handle adversity.
So what if my teen gets hungry?! So what if he gets cold?! This is how they learn what they are actually made of. Right!?
I felt totally justified in my worrying. I felt like I was being a typical MOM. That it’s my role and responsibility to worry about his safety and well being.
But maybe it’s time for Moms to teach without FEAR. Could I have gone over his packing list with enthusiasm, instead of presuming he’d forget something? Just because my brain starts looking for everything that could go wrong, doesn’t mean I should communicate it to him.
Some schools are deliberately putting kids into adverse environments, forcing them outside of their comfort zones in order to build self reliance, resourcefulness and confidence. I love this idea. Over parenting has helped our teenagers live cushy lives where they don’t get to test their mettle in the real world. Maybe a little constructive adversity is just what they need to thrive in this dynamic world?
And maybe I can start by letting go of worry, trusting that we live in a safe and wonderful world, with many helpful people.
He ended up having a great time and everything went perfectly. (Score 100 for the teen)