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6 Steps To Stop Parents From Catastrophizing

Fern Weis May 2022

Parent Coach for Moms of Teens: Fern Weis

Zero to disaster in 60 seconds!

It’s crazy-making. If you’re already worried about your child, this example may sound familiar.

“Something small can trigger your fear and before you know it, you’re projecting into the future, catastrophizing.”

Projecting Into The Future Can Be Catastrophizing:

“My 15-year-old daughter hasn’t turned in her math homework for a week. There will be zeros and poor test scores. It’s bound to spill over into other courses. She’ll fail one class, then another. She won’t graduate (let alone go to college). There will be depression and maybe drugs, and she’ll be living with us for forever.”

Zero to disaster in 60 seconds.

I know that sounds dramatic, and yet sometimes we go there. Something small can trigger your fear and before you know it, you’re projecting into the future, catastrophizing. Most of the things you worry about don’t happen, so why do you do it? It’s exhausting and depressing and it makes the kids crazy, too.

I’m no stranger to catastrophizing. One of my kids had me terrified and depressed for years about his present and his future. Micromanaging? You bet. While it helped me feel better to do something, anything, it didn’t improve anything. It actually made things worse by sending the message that I didn’t trust him. I didn’t believe in him, and he didn’t believe in himself. If your mother has no confidence in you, why bother with anything?

“This is how the relationship’s downward spiral begins.”

Panic Ramps Up:

When your child is on a steady slide, or does something out of the ordinary that is worrisome, you may go on high alert. Code red! Danger!

For too many parents, this creeps into your words and tone with your child. The panic ramps up. You may start to hover and take over. Maybe there’s an edge in your voice. Desperation, disappointment, and fear rear their ugly heads. How can your child not sense this?

This is how the relationship’s downward spiral begins. The thing that’s going wrong is the only thing you can focus on, and the last thing she wants to talk about. Trust erodes. Zero to disaster in your relationship in a short period of time.

How did you get there? It started in your thoughts. (“My mind is a dangerous place. I should never go there alone.”) Some days that was me, wishing I could shut my brain off.

“Leave criticism and judgment behind.”

Steps To Stop Parents From Catastrophizing:

Remember that anything is an opportunity for a conversation. It’s all in how you present the topic.

1.Ask yourself, “Whose responsibility is this?”

The first step is to determine if this is something you should be involved in. Objective thinking often reveals that it’s your child’s responsibility. Offer your help, but don’t do it for her.

2. Say what you see and what you hear.

Believe your eyes and ears. This you can believe. Be respectful and neutral. You can express concern without speaking angrily. There’s no need for finger-pointing, which makes your child feel worse about disappointing you. You want your child to hear you, not tune you out.

3. Have a conversation, not an interrogation.

Leave criticism and judgment behind. Present the facts and gather some information by asking curious, open-ended questions. Your goal is for your teen to feel it’s all right to talk about it and not worry about being attacked for falling short.

“Keep it short and get on with your day.”

4. Watch your tone.

“What’s that about?” can sound accusatory or curious. Watch your tone!

5. Don’t assume you know what she needs.

Even on a good day teens are confused. She may not know what she needs, and neither do you. Ask. “Do you want a hug? Time alone? To talk? Help getting started?” What a wonderful way to help her discover what works and doesn’t work for her. This is where independence and confidence are born.

6. Keep it short and get on with your day.

Yes, this is much easier said than done. Parents are expert worriers. Know that you are helping her become self-aware and to develop skills to manage her life.

Children Learn About Life Whether Or Not We Catastrophize:

There’s very little in your control. Regardless of your worry, your child is going to learn about life, sometimes the hard way. 

Your job is to prepare your child for life, to be able to cope and thrive. Your home is the training ground for this process. Practice these six steps to stop parents from catastrophizing and you’ll give her the best gift of all: independence, self-worth, and the ability to live life on her terms.

Get simple strategies to relate to and bring out the best in your teen. Learn more HERE.

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Fern Weis

About the Author:

Fern Weis is a Parent Empowerment Coach for Moms of Teens and a Family Recovery Coach. She’s also a wife, former middle school teacher, and the parent of two adult children who taught her more about herself than she ever could have imagined.  

Fern partners with moms of teens and young adults, privately and in groups. She helps them grow their confidence to build strong relationships and emotionally healthier kids who become successful adults. She knows first-hand that when parents do the work, the possibilities for change are limitless; that it’s never too late to start; and you don’t have to do it alone. Learn more about Fern at www.fernweis.com.