By: Rebecca Michelsen, M.Ed., MCHES, Manager of Community Outreach & Family Programs at Penfield Children’s Center
Social media and the news seem to be filled with stories lately of parenting tragedy or triumph, or maybe I am just more aware of them now that I have an infant in my life again. As a parent of a young child, whether it is your first or your third, you may hear these stories and they may create a lot of different emotions for you. These feelings could include, but are not limited to: sadness for the family who has lost a child due to a tragic circumstance or possibly worry and anxiety that something similar could happen to you and your child. Some of these stories may even cause you to re-think some things you are doing with your child.
While being well-informed is good for being able to make wise or healthy decisions, over-consuming information can be unhealthy and can lead to chronic stress and worry. Here are some things to keep in mind as you navigate parenting in a world of information overload:
- Trust your gut. If you have any concerns about your child’s health, safety or development, don’t be afraid to call your pediatrician’s office. You will either be able to speak with a nurse or possibly even the doctor directly who will be able to walk you through your concerns to determine if this is something that needs immediate attention or is something that should just be watched.
- Don’t compare what is happening with you and your child to anyone else. Remember each parent and child experience is going to be different so don’t compare what you and your child are experiencing with what other friends or family members have experienced with the children. Also remember that if this is your second or third child, to not compare them to their older siblings. Each child comes with his/her own personality so he/she is going to do things differently than other siblings. Additionally, you are different as a parent if this is your second child so how you interact with this new child in your life will probably be different.
- Avoid “Googling” health information and tips. We’ve all done it. It’s late at night and suddenly your child isn’t feeling well or develops a rash, so to determine how serious it is we “Google” the symptoms. The search results most likely give way more information than we need and most of it is probably absolute worst case scenarios. Again, if you have concerns about your child’s health, call the pediatrician’s office; that is what they are there for.
- Take a break from social media. You can control the flow of information you are taking in. When you see these stories pop up on the news or show up in your news feed, choose to change the channel or not read the article; especially if you know it will most likely upset you and cause undo worry and stress. If you do feel the need to read or watch the news story, make sure that you have some way to leave the worrisome thoughts behind, so that you aren’t carrying extra worry around with you.
When you start to feel overwhelmed by this information, remind yourself that it’s good to be aware of these situations, but most of these things don’t happen on a regular basis. The best thing that you can do, is to pay attention to basic information being shared, but not to let it consume you.
What are some ways you manage “information overload” as a parent?