3 Common Parenting Fears You *Really* Shouldn’t Stress About (and One You Kinda Maybe Should)
A famous quote from author Elizabeth Stone goes like this: "Making the decision to have a child—it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." But the resulting anxiety that plagues us as parents may not be rooted in reality. Here, the cold, hard facts face off against our biggest fears. Read on for three common parenting fears that are pretty much unfounded…plus one that you probably should worry about more than you do.
Don’t Stress: Stranger Abductions
Tragically, nearly half a million kids were reported missing last year in the U.S. And, thanks to necessary media coverage, the details of these cases become the stuff of our collective nightmares. But the size of our fear does not necessarily reflect the data. Per The Washington Post, “Only 0.1 percent of missing persons cases were what we'd think of as a ‘stereotypical kidnapping’—where a complete stranger tries to abduct somebody and carry them off by force… The likelihood of any of these scenarios is both historically low and infinitesimally small.” We repeat: Infinitesimally small. In fact, you are more likely to get struck by lightning than to have your child lured away by a predator. Something to keep in mind the next time this particular worry wakes you up at night.
Don’t Stress: SIDS
In 2015, there were 3,700 Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths reported in the United States, where roughly 4 million babies are born every year. And while the prospect of even one such loss is devastating, it’s important to note that only 43 percent of those deaths were actually caused by SIDS itself and not, for example, accidental suffocation resulting from unsafe sleeping environments. In fact, if parents follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Sleep Guidelines to the letter, the risk of SIDS is all but eradicated.
Don’t Stress: ADHD
According to a report out of Harvard, “Experts estimate that 5 percent is a realistic upper limit of children with [Attention Defecit Hyperactivity] disorder, but in many areas of the country...up to 33 percent of white boys are diagnosed with ADHD.” One study found that “being young for one’s grade increased the chances of being prescribed stimulants 20-fold.” One doctor, writing about a swath of similar findings, cautions against “turning immaturity into a disease.”
Maybe You Should Stress: Screen Time
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its guidelines to better reflect the reality that many of us live in (aka "They watch Wild Kratts so I can pee"), experts are still ringing all sorts of alarm bells. Dr. Delaney Ruston of Stony Brook University Hospital, director of the documentary Screenagers, explains that engaging with a screen "releases a dopamine [rush] that is so rewarding, kids want this more and more. And therefore when they are not on these highly stimulating screens, they actually can get really agitated." From delayed speech in toddlers to a potential mental health crisis in teenagers, screen—and social media—use requires lifelong parental guidance. Oh, and P.S.: We’ll have to put our own phones down to provide it.