I am a nervous wreck. I have been for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was always careful to listen to the rules, respect authority figures, and, above all, avoid hurting myself. It wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I got diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I sometimes wonder if I had it even as a child because that would explain so much.
Now that I’m a parent, my fears of injury are tenfold in regards to my children, not that I try to let them know that. (They do though. My 4 year old will ask me sometimes if I’m nervous. Lord, help me)
My 4 and 2 year olds definitely have their father’s disposition. They are fearless. They’ll do something that they know will hurt them, and, if they think the fun was worth the pain, they’ll do it again.
It scares the living daylights out of me!
But I try not to let them know. I don’t want to transfer my fears and doubts to my children. Those are my issues to work out. They shouldn’t have to suffer because I’m generally scared of the world around me.
Because of this, I’ve started using the phrase “Be careful!” a lot less. I have two phrases I generally use instead: “Do you feel safe?” and “Observe your surroundings!”
By doing this, instead of the meaningless platitudes of “be careful” I am instead having my kids pay attention to what it is they are doing.
“Do you feel safe?”
Asking this question shows trust in what my kids are doing. It also forces them to think about their own feelings towards their personal safety because that’s not always the first thing on their minds.
Sometimes I’ll follow it up with asking if they need my help or something more specific in reference to what they are doing. For example, when my oldest was climbing the rock wall on their castle for the first time, she was still unstable, so I asked if she felt safe and if she wanted me to come stand by her. After thinking about it, she told me she felt safe and didn’t want me to stand right behind her.
“Observe your surroundings!”
If you’ve spent any time around kids, it’s easy to see that many times they’ll focus in on what it is they’re doing and not always pay attention to the world around them outside of that one thing. The hyperfocus is real.
A gentle reminder to observe their surroundings reminds them to take a second to look outside themselves. How close are they to the edge? Is there an obstacle in their way? Are they about to run into someone or something?
Now, am I perfect at not saying the dreaded “Be careful”? Heck no. Especially with my fearless extrovert of a husband (not that extrovertedness plays any part in that, I just need you to understand this man’s personality) more than willing to bring them just a little bit closer to perceived danger than I would. However, my children are confident in themselves and their abilities, and that is my ultimate goal in this.