Parent Tips – August
How to Respond to Your Child’s Fear of Missing Out
by Alison Blanchet, Family Honor Presenter
As kids grow older and choose their own activities and social groups, “FOMO” – or the fear of missing out – becomes a reality.
It’s brutal for parents to watch their children worry about what they might be missing in their social circle or for those children to know that they have simply been left out. There’s no magic formula for avoiding this, but parents can take steps to give a good example and create a positive environment for their children. Some ways to do this are:
Lead by example.
Adults are not immune to excluding their peers, so look for opportunities to model this when you see people at Church, work or school who are in need of company. Does your child have a teacher who is new to town? Invite them over for dinner. When you attend Church look for people sitting alone and introduce yourself and ask if you can join them. Do you have a co-worker who mentioned that they can’t join their family for a holiday? Make a point to invite them into your traditions in some way. Explain to your child, “We are a family who thinks of others, especially those who might be lonely for some reason.” Your child will learn from watching you.
Form strong attachments with your children.
Children who know that they are loved and have a consistent foundation in their family will hopefully feel less anxious about fitting in with an ever-changing group of peers. Reinforce that you enjoy spending time with your child by talking to them when you run errands or cook dinner and continue to do fun activities as a family as your child gets older and peers become more important. No one can replace a parent’s influence!
Practice social skills.
Students today are spending hours in front of screens and messaging services and it’s affecting their ability to have conversations in real life and consequentially include others. Practice making small talk by asking your children open-ended questions. A fun example of this is “would you rather” questions. For example: Would you rather vacation at the beach or the mountains? … watch a movie or read a book? … eat a dozen worms or a dozen spiders? (More family conversation starters can be found online). Encourage your child to approach their peers and ask open-ended questions to encourage conversation and then ask them to share interesting (or mundane) things they’ve learned about their peers when you’re having dinner or in the car.
Prohibit or limit social media.
Nothing feeds feelings of insecurity and being left out like scrolling through pictures of friends doing cool stuff together. While previous generations heard about the parties and events they weren’t a part of days after the fact, children today can watch the fun happen without them in real-time on apps like Instagram or Snapchat. Younger children are still developing self-control and the instant world of social media encourages them to share too much too quickly without thinking of how it might affect their peers. Limiting children’s access to social media for as long as possible will help them feel less of this pressure. If you are concerned about your child having a way to contact you when they’re not at home, acquire a simple phone that cannot access the internet. Then they can reach you, but not the world wide web.
Encourage your child to host their friends …
… and them have them all leave their phones at a basket at the door or stacked up in the middle of the table. This helps avoid the temptation to stare at their screens. It doesn’t take much to entertain students- food and a space to visit is all they need to have fun. Heat up some frozen pizzas or put in a movie and you’ve got a party. You’ll be amazed what you can learn listening to your children and their peers chat around the kitchen table.
Most importantly, continue to pray with and for your child!
Trust that the Holy Spirit can help you navigate these challenging moments and console when feelings are hurt.
You might also find these other articles interesting:
Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation?
Cumulative effects of loneliness, low parental support, relationship instability, intimate partner violence and loss