5 Tips for Chronic Worry as a Parent
By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
As parents, we can find reasons to constantly worry about our children, regardless of their ages. Worry isn’t something we try to do; it just happens – unless we nip it in the bud when it starts to rear its ugly head.
When normal concern for our children crosses the line into chronic worry, anxiety, or fear, we are not only sinning against God (by not trusting Him to care for what He has entrusted us with), we are also damaging our health and our relationships with our children and others.
There are three reasons why chronic worry is bad for parents, as well as our children, no matter what their ages: 1) Worry causes stress, and stress wreaks havoc on our health by prematurely aging us and lowering our immune system’s ability to fight illnesses; 2) Worry makes us an annoyance to our children and others around us; and 3) Worry tells our children – and the rest of the world – that we don’t trust God. We don’t intend to send that message, but worry says, “I must control this because God can’t.” Wouldn’t you rather trust God with your children and lives a less stressful life?
You can overcome this debilitating habit with these five tips to stop chronic worry over your children:
1. Become a prayer warrior rather than a panicked worrier.
If you’re a chronic worrier, chances are your children tell you very little of what’s going on in their lives, so you won’t worry even more. That contributes to even more worry on your part, from lack of information and trying to fill in the gaps with a myriad of what-ifs. Instead of being a worrywart, be a parent who asks your children how you can pray for them. By asking, “What’s coming up in your life that you need me to pray for?” you let your children know that you intend to give their situation to God instead of dwelling on it or trying to control it. As you begin praying for your children, Scripture holds a promise that you will experience peace.
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Don’t worry about anything,” and assures us that as we “pray about everything” and tell God what we need, and thank Him for all He has already done, we “will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” That’s a practical prescription for peace as a parent. Take that prescription daily. An equally great result of praying for your children, instead of worrying about them, is that your children may eventually tell you more, knowing you’ll pray for them rather than worry.
2. Realize God loves your children even more than you do.
I’ve often heard moms say, “I can trust God with my marriage, finances, health, and work, but when it comes to my kids, I’m a wreck.” Why is that? If God can take care of our eternal lives, He can certainly take care of our everyday lives, including watching over our children and any situation that concerns us. In addition, God doesn’t make the parenting mistakes we do. (Psalm 18:30 tells us all His ways are perfect.) He sees your child’s entire life in front of Him; He knows the day they will take their last breath here on earth. He also knows what’s eternally best for them, not just temporarily good. Because God is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-present, and all-powerful, you can be assured that when He withholds something from your child, it’s for their good, and when He delays on a promise, it’s because He has something better in mind for them.
Instead of stressing daily about my daughter’s need to find a home soon in a very high-priced area near her full-time career job ( in order to avoid a horrendous Southern California commute while gas prices are sky-high), I can rest assured that even though it looks impossible to us for her to buy a home right now, God already has for her the perfect place for the perfect price at the perfect time. Of course, there are days I forget that and start to try to figure out how we can help her financially and where we can find a house when nothing appears available. But God wants my dependence on Him just as much as He wants my child’s dependence on Him, and He has eternal things at work right now, not just our temporary relief to what feels like a burdening situation. The best part is I don’t have to worry about making a mistake by not rushing in to help. He is our Deliverer – and my daughter’s Deliverer, too. Therefore I will trust Him with what He wants us to know, learn, and trust Him for right now.
The other day, I was encouraged with this promise in Psalm 37:25 that is particularly meaningful to parents: “I once was young, now I’m a graybeard—not once have I seen an abandoned believer, or his kids out roaming the streets” (MSG).
3. Believe Scripture when it says God is loving and good.
Matthew 7:11 tells us, “So if you, despite being evil [or human], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (NASB). Psalm 84:11 also promises: “[God] withholds no good thing from those who walk with integrity.” Furthermore, we know from Psalm 136 that “His love endures forever.” Therefore, if Scripture tells us God is kind, good, and loving, then He absolutely cannot act apart from His divine nature. That means everything that touches your child’s life must first pass through your Heavenly Father’s loving. That is a confidence booster for me as a parent. Because God says in His Word that He knows how to give good gifts to His children (and ours), we can trust that even if something happens, that doesn’t look good to us, God is looking to their eternal good, and He sees the whole extent of our children’s lives, not just the temporary that we see today.
4. Trust God with what He may be allowing to shape and transform your child’s character.
Sometimes God will allow whatever it takes to bring a wayward child back to Him or to cause our child to grow closer to Him through some difficult circumstances.
Romans 8:28 tells us that God causes all things (even the difficult things) in your child’s life to work for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The following verse tells us how He works certain situations for good in our lives: “For those whom he foreknew he predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (verse 29). There it is. God is working situations in your child’s life to make them more like Jesus!
There are many times I’ve tried to protect my child from struggles, tried to extend financially to help her in a bind, and tried to step in and take from her a burden that she was carrying. But then I’ve had to remember that God wants to grow her faith. He wants to be the one to come through for her in a mighty way. He’s the one who wants her to give to Him all that is weighing heavily on her heart and mind (Matthew 11:28-30). My adult daughter is convinced today that God is ultimately her Rescuer, as she and her parents pray for what concerns her.
Our task as a parent is to cause our children to become less dependent on us and more dependent on God as they grow and mature. Physical growth of our children is inevitable. But mental, emotional, and spiritual growth is not – it’s something they must be deliberate and intentional about. And we, as their parents, can pray that God puts them in the position where He can reach them, draw them close, and show them things about Himself they would not have learned if we were enabling them. Give your children opportunities to take ownership of their faith and grow into the men and women God designed them to be by stepping back and believing God really is working for their eternal good.
5. Find other parents to pray with you about your children.
We can become strengthened by the prayers of others when we pray with other parents for our children. If worrying is your downfall, bring some accountability into your life to help uphold you in that area in which you fail (chronic worry). There’s something wonderful about calling or texting a friend back and forth about the prayer needs of our children. Find someone you can trust who will keep your prayers for your children confidential, and then grow into a prayerful parent rather than a panicked one while surrounded by that support. By doing so, you will be investing in your relationship with God, your friends, and your children too.
For more on trusting God with your children, regardless of their ages, see Cindi’s books, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom and When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter: Affirming Her Identity and Dreams in Every Stage of Life.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker, Bible teacher, and award-winning writer who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is also a mother, pastor’s wife, and author of 17 books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 150,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your Tears, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, and When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts. For more on her speaking ministry, coaching services for writers, and books to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.