Monday, January 2, 2012

Fear Mongering

As a parent, it is my (together with my husband) responsibility - tremendous and terrifying responsibility- to make decisions for and on behalf of my child. What she will wear, eat, drink. What type of education we will give her. Then there's the more controversial topics like extended breastfeeding and vaccination schedules.

We begin this process of making decisions for our child often before we even realize it's for the child. For example, choosing which prenatal vitamins to take during pregnancy, which prenatal care practitioner we choose, where we decide to give birth. While those decisions may seem about us, the parents, they are simultaneously affecting the child as well. And from the very beginning, with those early choices, and continuing on through the journey of parenthood, we are bombarded with information and opinions from friends, family, medical staff, parenting forums, strangers in the grocery store - about how to care for our children.

Like I said, the responsibility is tremendous, and at times, terrifying. We all want what's best for our children. We want them to have better lives than we did. And we don't want to make any mistakes. So when it comes time to make a tough choice about a particular issue, what do we do? Research. We want to be making a well-informed choice. So we study both sides of the issue. We ask friends and family what they've done. We pray about it and ask God to lead our choices. And unfortunately, very often in our journey to make a choice about this thing or that, we run into fear mongering. Whether or not some of the things that are presented to us in a fear-inducing way are true, it's the delivery of such information that is so wrong. I mean, c'mon people. We all know that there are pros and cons to every side of every decision. There are facts and there are opinions. Do we really need to subject ourselves to fear and hysteria? I don't think so. To me, the facts matter most. The opinions of those who want what is best for me and my child affect me too. But the fear-mongering - I try my best to just tune it out. But regardless, you can't escape it.

Examples:

Homebirth. "Your child will DIE if something goes wrong and you're not in the hospital! Are you really willing to put the life of your child at risk??" Or. "You WILL have a c-section if you deliver in a hospital."

Circumcision. Though I don't have a son, I've seen the fear mongering on both sides of this issue. "Your son will DIE of penile cancer if you don't circumcise him! All the other boys will ridicule him! He'll get infections!" Or: "Your son will DIE of blood loss if you circumcise him! He will be robbed of his dignity and sense of self! He will associate violence with sexuality!"

Vaccinations. "Your child will DIE of disease XYZ if you don't vaccinate her against it!" Or: "Your child will be autistic if you give her all those vaccinations!"

Co-sleeping. "You'll roll over your child and suffocate him if you sleep near him! You will never get her out of your bed - she'll be in high school still sleeping with you!" Or. "You will alienate your child and teach her to distrust you unless you co-sleep! He will die of SIDS if you're not close enough to him!"

I could go on and on. And if you're like me, you've seen all these arguments and more on so many different issues. Here's the problem with all this fear mongering. It can damage our ability to make the right choice. It makes us emotional about topics to the point where we'll make a knee-jerk decision just to ease the tension in our hearts. What we should be doing is looking at the facts. No matter the topic: take the emotional fear-mongering skewed opinions out of it, and place the facts in front of you. Study the facts. Pray for guidance. Make your choice, and be at peace about it.

I know it's easier said than done, because let's face it: these are our children we're talking about!! We can't be objective when it comes to our child; inevitably there will be an emotional element that can't be severed while we make decisions on his or her behalf. But we can still protect ourselves from excessive fear-mongering, and I truly believe it is absolutely vital to do so.

What do you all think? Have you encountered this? How do you deal with all the fear that is thrown at you as a parent?

3 comments:

  1. One of the best pieces of advice our pediatrician gave me when my oldest daughter was 4 months old was to throw away the books and stop reading the magazines. He said that my husband and I knew our child best and part of parenting is the natural bond with the child. When to feed her, when to let her cry, etc. would all come from our hearts. We would know the right thing to do. We've taken this approach since the pediatrician told us this, and it has worked for us. Sometimes we've parented through trial-and-error, sometimes we've weighed the options based on information from various sources. In the end, though, we've always done what WE feel is right because these are OUR children. I always try to remember that there are extremes on both sides. As long as we're somewhere in the middle I think we'll be okay.

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  2. We've taken a very child-lead approach to everything. Especially once we had AJ... it opens our eyes to realize every child is different! What worked for one won't work for the other. Elijah loved co sleeping, AJ hated it. To this day, Elijah still enjoys sleeping in our bed... AJ passes.

    I get snippy with people at times. LOL Honestly, I try not to be, but I have sometimes just told people, "Well it's my kid and I'll deal with it the way we find fit. Now mind your own business."

    YOU spend all day with your children, YOU know them best and what will work with them! YOU know when they are ready to wean, potty train, sleep train, vaccinate, whatever! I think our own parent-child bond and instinct clues us in when we are making the right choices for our children.

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  3. For awhile I stopped sleeping well (from stress) during pregnancy. My mom told me to stop reading the books/magazines/etc... about everything that could go wrong. Once I did that, things were better. Of course, there were plenty of other things that kept me from sleeping well after that...

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