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Exhausting Yourself with Worry About Your Child

Are you a parent who spends lots of time and mental and emotional energy worrying about your children? Worrying is a useless emotion and does nothing but cause problems. It causes parents to show up dismissive, controlling, disapproving, and disagreeable. Showing up this way doesn’t create an atmosphere where you child even wants to be around you, so you end up knowing even less about their life. Listen to this episode for some ideas about how to move into more useful actions that worry.

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Full Transcript


worry, emotions, happening, life, child, parents, calming, detour, negative emotions, relationship, kids, danger, brain, expressing, release, choices, listening, control

I’m so glad you’re here listening to Parenting Through the Detour. This is episode 40. Exhausting Yourself with Worry About Your Child.

Howard W Hunter said, “Your detours and disappointments are the straight and narrow way back to him.” And we know that men and women are that they might have joy. But when you get taken on a parenting detour, it feels like joy is something that other people get to feel. But not you. It doesn’t have to be this way. Join me on this podcast. And let’s find some joy through your detours. And I’ll give you some help along the way. I’m your host, Tina Gosney. And I’m a life and relationship coach, and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Hey, welcome back to the podcast. It’s now the middle of March. spring is right around the corner, and I can’t wait. I’m kind of over the winter and ready for some sunshine. And for some beautiful spring flowers, I don’t know about you. But I just love spring when the blossoms in the flowers come out. Also, this week, this middle of March, just a couple days ago, I released the beta version of healing your family relationships. And I’ve met most of the amazing women who are participating is all women this time. And I’ve met most of them, I’ve got tell you that they are just so perfect for this program.

They are struggling through some hard things with their family. And we are working on healing those relationships. And it’s such a good reminder to me that everyone is going through hard things, there is just no getting around us going through hard things. While we’re here on this earth. There are times in our lives when circumstances are harder than other times. But we always are going through something. And that’s just how life is. And just because somebody else is going through some a different heart than I’m going through, doesn’t make their heart any less important or real to them. Because we all just need to have compassion for each other about the things that we’re going through. And this is just a reminder to me, as I’ve been talking to these amazing women.

Today’s podcast is about worrying. And this is very common, you don’t even have to be going through hard things to be worrying about your child, I used to live in a constant state of stress and worry, I worried about everything. I lived so much from worry and stress that I didn’t even know how to live without it. I didn’t even know lots of times that I was in a state of worry and stress. Because I didn’t know what life was like without it. It was just the norm for me. And I think that, in that aspect, I am not unusual. I know as parents, we just consider that we have a lot to worry about.

And I think it’s more of a female thing than it is a male thing. But we have so much to worry about with our kids. And it starts before they’re born. And it never stops. It just changes focus. And I’ve watched my daughter as she has this little baby now and how she starts she has started to worry about things too. And it’s just just like, this is the cycle of life, just moms get to worry about their kids. And as we become the parents of adult kids, we worry about different things then when we did when they were little. And often that worry leads us to feeling helpless.

And we don’t know how to help them with any of it. We want to step in and solve their problems. We want to be able to be there and influence them and help them and guide them. And sometimes they don’t want us to often they don’t want us to and we worry about so many things that we have no control over. Like are they taking care of themselves? They Oh, they look too thin, they look too heavy. Is there something wrong with them? How is their health? Are they being kind to others? Or how was their relationships? How was their their education, their job, their finances, their spiritual health, their mental health, all of the things.

And then a lot of people that listen to this podcast are like me and they have a kid who is in the LGBTQ rainbow. And they know that’s just a reality for their kid in their life. And we worry about what their life is going to look like about their safety in this world that doesn’t really accept them. Their mental emotional and physical safety because of this reality for them. or maybe you’ve got a kid who’s involved in substance abuse or pornography, and that’s taken over their life.

Or maybe you’re seeing your child go down a road, that’s taking them to a place that you hoped they would never go. No matter what you are worried about, there is definitely no shortage of things for us to worry about. But here’s the problem with worry. It doesn’t produce anything productive. The only thing it produces is more worry, it doesn’t have a resolution, it doesn’t produce useful actions. And if it produces anything, it’s a lot of negative emotions, and usually unproductive actions.

So that’s why I say that worry is a useless emotion. And it will manifest itself in many ways. And most of the time, that worry is based in a fear of what might happen in the future. That fear can be a poison to our relationship. And when we feel that fear, it comes spilling out of us in so many ways that drove our kids even further from us. Here’s just a few of the ways. And the first one is that we get really dismissive of what they want for themselves. And we say things like, well, I know better than you. So you need to start listening to me. And then we stop listening, and we start lecturing.

And it’s all in an attempt to get that kid back in line to get them back on the track or back on the path, right back on the straight and narrow, so that you can stop worrying about them. But I promise you’re gonna find something else to worry about, even if you thought they were on the straight and narrow. And we ended up talking to them and at them instead of with them. And when we get dismissive of what they want for themselves, they feel very unseen and unheard, when we don’t listen to them, or even ask them what they’re thinking and feeling. And lots of times we just assume that we know what’s going on in their head. But I promise you, you are probably wrong. But we’re never going to know what’s happening for them.

Unless we ask. And then even when we do ask, sometimes we don’t have a relationship where that child feels safe expressing their thoughts and feelings with us. So they still won’t open up and share. Because you don’t feel like a person that they can trust with those thoughts and feelings. There might actually be in their mind, there might be some ramifications later on, for telling you what’s going on for them, what’s really happening for them. And if this is the way that you’ve dealt with your child, like lecturing, talking to them, not asking them, what’s going on for them.

If this is a pattern that you’ve seen in your life and in your parenting, then you have a lot of relationship work to do for it to change. Another thing that we do is we try to control their behavior, because worrying is exhausting. And we are already we already have full lives, we don’t want to spend the energy that we have worrying. And we don’t want to feel this way. So we try to get that kid to change so that we don’t have to worry anymore. And it might look like I’m going to go ask this friend or this other sibling, one of your other children to talk some sense into them.

Or maybe it looks like strictly controlling an environment that takes away their choices, their or their agency. This might be for you know, a young adult that still living in your home. Or, for a child of any age, it could be expressing so much distress to this child, that they then feel guilty about what they’re doing, and how it’s affecting you. And that is a form of control is manipulating them with your own emotions, and trying to incite some guilt within them. Another way pretty common that I see is disapproving of their choices, and expressing judgment and disapproval to that child.

So this does not show unconditional love. It shows actually conditional love and it says to them, Well, I can love you when you fall back into line. And it goes back to being dismissive of what they want for themselves because you’re holding out love and acceptance in the family unless they comply. This is also controlling, expressing disapproval and judgment of someone else’s actions is a form of conditional love and control.

Because we all have a biological need to be accepted in our tribe. Our tribes are our families. So we have a need to be accepted. And if we feel judged, and we feel disapproval coming from our family It threatens the very core of our safety of being accepted into that tribe. And when you get into this pattern of relationship, you’re on very shaky ground, you might get the behavior you want in the moment, they might comply just so that they don’t get in their minds. They’re not ousted from the tribe or from the family. But it comes at a big price, because you’ve now risked their relationship to get a result. And you can only do that so many times before it becomes intolerable to the other person. And they just say, I can’t live this way anymore. Another thing that we do is that we also become very disagreeable, we express all of our negative emotions, and we take them out on the people, this person, this child, and we can’t take the intensity of it ourselves.

So it comes spilling out in all sorts of ways. And we set in lots of what I call dirty pain. Because you’re taking a useless, unproductive emotion, and you’re spinning around inside your head, with all sorts of ruminating thoughts, thoughts, like, this is not the way it was supposed to be. I can’t let this happen. He’s ruining his life. And then you mentally go through all the things you think will happen, right. And my favorite is, this is not who our family is.

When you say things like this to yourself or to other people, you are letting your own emotions spill out and you’re making a mess around you because you can’t tolerate the effects those emotions have when you keep them in. So the fear, the stress, the worry that you have is a completely normal biological, emotional and mental response to what is happening in your life, to your environment, and to being a parent. And it comes from the lower brain.

Because yes, you want what is best for your kid, and you see danger all over the place. This is what our lower brain is designed to do. It did this for us before we ever became parents, it would. In fact, everybody has this lower brain, this primitive brain, it’s constantly on the lookout for danger. And it’s constantly scanning the environment looking for danger, because danger might threaten our life, we might our life might end if we’re not aware of all the danger. And then when you become a parent, your brain does this not only for yourself, but even more so for your child. You’re constantly scanning the environment, for danger to your child.

And that response that we have of protecting them from danger, doesn’t just go away because they become an adult. So it fixates on things that seem dangerous things that are happening now, or that we think are happening now or that might happen in the future. And it says to us, this is a threat to our survival and the survival of our child, we need to focus on this as much as possible, and as often as possible. And then when it does that, when it fixates on all of those dangerous things. We get to experience all of the negative emotions of what might happen right now. Just like it’s happening to us right now, like those things maybe haven’t even happened yet.

But we are experiencing the effect of them emotionally right now. And when you look at worry this way, it just kind of seems like our brains are a little bit crazy. Like this thing might happen in the future. So I’m going to fixate on it right now. And experience all the pain of it right now, just in case it does. That’s just naturally what our brains do. Do you know what our lower brain doesn’t automatically do? Look at things in a rational way, and try to find solutions to the dangers that it sees. Know what else it doesn’t do. It doesn’t notice the things that aren’t dangerous. It’s programmed to look for danger. So worrying likes to take over. It likes to rule our lives just like I let it rule my life even without even realizing that I was doing it. living my life from stress and worry because I didn’t even know anything different.

And that’s what happens when you’re in the middle of it. When you’re inside of it. It’s like you’re inside the jar. You can’t see what’s happening. You can’t read the label of the jar from inside the jar. You have to be outside of the jar. So we’re going to just take a step back and we’re going to look at it from the outside. Now there’s a couple of things going on with worry that you’ll find. Maybe this is something that can’t be solved and you have no power over the situation. I want you to release the worry, you can’t do anything anyway.

So experiencing those negative emotions about it now is not going to help, they are only going to compound negative emotions, and probably trigger your nervous system to react in unhealthy ways. So when you release the worry, when you just put a hard line and say, I’m not going to worry about this anymore, it doesn’t mean that everything is sunshine and daisies, it just means that I’m not, I refuse to be reacting to worry in unhealthy ways.

I refuse to let worry, rule my life. And since we’re usually comes from fear, it’s helpful to get really clear on what you’re afraid of. Now fear likes to look out ahead of us in very nondescript ways. But if we can be clear on what we’re afraid of, it’s easier to pinpoint what is truth, and what our brains are just making up. And if we can pinpoint what we’re afraid of so much easier to find a solution. Because if we can define a problem better, we can find a solution easier. The second thing we need to be aware of with worry is that some things can be solved. But if we’re wrapped up in worry, we can’t see the solution. Because we’re so caught up in the negative emotions.

And with a triggered nervous system, we develop tunnel vision, we literally cannot find solutions. Because our prefrontal is not accessible. When we get really triggered, we cannot access the higher brain. So if this happens to you, I want you to again, release the worry, you’re going to find answers when you can calm yourself and think more rationally. You can do things like intentional breathing, meditation, tapping, doing a calming activity that will help you to calm your body and get out the ruminating thoughts in your head. This will help you to calm your system and bring it back online. So you will be able to think more clearly about possible solutions.

Now calming activities can look different for everybody. One thing that typically has been very calming for me, because I am a musician is to go and play the piano. Music is actually a very emotional process. Creating music is an emotional process. And I’ve allowed myself to process many emotions through the music as I play the piano. But what does that look like for you what is a calming after activity that you can release the worry that you feel and calm your nervous system so that you can bring your prefrontal back online. Now when I say release the worry, I know some of you are probably thinking, if I release the worry, I’m not being a good parent, because good parents worry about their kids, right? It’s just part of being a parent. I will offer you that. Maybe you’re wrong about that.

Because whenever I have a question about what a good parent does, I like to look at the example of our heavenly parents. They are infinitely better at parenting than I am. So I like to look at them for the ultimate model for advice. And I don’t think that they sit around and fret about our choices. I don’t think they dismiss our wants and needs. I don’t think they even express disapproval and disappointment or try to control us. And then I for sure do not think they risk a relationship that we have with them because they are reacting out of fear for our future. In fact, I don’t think they react out of fear and worry at all. I think they see a much bigger picture than we do. I heard this quote once from Thomas McConkie. I love Thomas McConkie, I will listen to just about everything that he does. I’m a super fan of Thomas McConkie, and maybe someday he’ll hear this or if you know him, you can tell him that Tina Gosney is a super fan of yours. But he said this once when I was listening to a podcast that he was on.

He said, “When God has a plan for us, he is willing to let us exhaust ourselves in the way that we think we should go. Because eventually we’ll wear ourselves out. And when we collapse and exhaustion, something deep inside ourselves that is more willing to go the way that we are meant to go will actually go that way.” Okay, when I heard that I was like, yes, thank you, Thomas. I have seen that in my own life. And I’ve seen people go through that process of exhausting themselves.

To find something deep inside themselves, that is more meaningful in their life, and then they’re willing to go that way. And I think it’s not just our kids that he does that, too. I think it’s us too, as parents, I think he lets us exhaust ourselves in thinking that we need to handle things a certain way, until we’re so exhausted, that we just say, I don’t know what to do anymore. And then we can start learning and finding those things deep inside of ourselves, that help us go the way that we were meant to go all the time. And he does that, for us as parents, he does that for our kids.

He does that for all of us while we’re here on this earth, trying to figure it out. So if you believe that God is always working for your good, and that he’s always working for your kids good too. And that all things lead back to Him, you will have a more expansive view on what is happening, you don’t get caught up in tunnel vision, you don’t get caught up in the worry and stress over what’s happening today. And what this doesn’t mean is that you don’t still have concern over choices that you see happening, or sadness about the way that things are. But you use those emotions as a guide to let you know what’s important to you, your child and their life are important to you.

And you take that opportunity to experience those emotions without letting them be in charge. worry and stress love to be in charge. They it’s like we hop in a car with them, and we give them the keys to the car and we just take off down the road. And we’re just gonna go wherever they take us. You don’t have to do that. You don’t have to give them the keys to the car, you can turn them into more useful emotions. And you can put them in the passenger seat, and you can take back control of the car. So if you’re going to take anything away from this podcast today, this is what I want you to take away. Worry is not a useful emotion. And it can cause more problems.

But it’s okay to be concerned about your kids, it’s natural to be concerned about your kids. It’s just the nature of parenting to want the best for them and not want them to make choices, that will cause them any more pain or suffering than they’re already going to go through. But concerned is not the same as worry. So don’t mix them up. And emotions should not be ignored. But they also shouldn’t be put in charge, you can be in the driver’s seat, and you can bring that emotion along with you in your life. And when you know how to handle your emotions in a healthier way, they don’t have to be in charge. They don’t have to run your life. And as we look at releasing worry, and moving into a form of acceptance for what it is, I want you to think about acceptance. It’s not the same thing as resigning yourself to the way that things are. And just giving up. It has a lot more to do with being in the here and now and calming yourself in a wise way. And that helps you to know what you can and can’t do to help the situation.

Now, I don’t worry about things nearly as much as I used to. I still have worry though I still have it creep into my life. But I can usually see it for what it is. Sometimes I don’t and when I don’t Micah pointed out to me. So it’s good thing that he’s around because he sees things that I don’t because sometimes I’m inside that jar and I can’t read the label. So it’s good to have someone pointed out to you. So I don’t really spend a lot of time in worry.

But you know what, I don’t love my kids any less than I used to. When I did worry. I love them just as much I love them more every single day. And now, I’m a lot better at showing them that love because I don’t let all the garbage that comes from worrying. Get in the way of me showing them how much I love them.

That’s what I have for you today. I want you to if you’re like bummed that you didn’t get in on this beta testing, which is super awesome. By the way. I’m sad that you didn’t get in. And I want you to get on my email list. So you know the next time I’m offering a class that you’re going to be interested in. I do have a masterclass coming really soon. It’s going to be coming in April. So this masterclass I’m working on. You’re gonna want to get on the list so you don’t miss any info about when it’s released. It being able to get in on that masterclass. So, click the link in the bio, get on my list, and you won’t miss anything that’s coming up.

Okay friends. Remember your detours do not define your family. Have a great day and I’ll see you next week.