Midterms and Catastrophic Thinking

A couple days ago, I read a great blog by Adele Calhoun, An Invitation from God:  Healing from Catastrophic Thinking.  It came at the perfect time, because it’s high school midterm week and my daughter’s living my recurring nightmare.  The one where I forgot to attend math class all term and have to take the final.  Or the history nightmare where, I also forgot to read all the books.

In the seconds I’m capable of reason, I know her situation isn’t close to my nightmare.  She’s most probably not going to flunk any midterms, and certainly no classes.  She’s far more disciplined than I was back in high school.  But it’s been a tough semester, and in the Northeast air we breathe, with parents stressing about tutoring, and private college counselors, and providing enriching experiences so their kids look good on applications. . . let’s just say it’s been stressful.

There’s nothing like midterms and a high schooler to send me over the edge when I obsess about long-term consequences.  If she doesn’t do well sophomore year, her grades will affect her college prospects, which will affect her opportunities, which will affect her job prospects, which will. . .

There are so many ways I can veer towards catastrophic thinking for my kids:

  • If my children don’t stop chewing with their mouths open, no one will ever want to be their friend or marry them
  • If my daughter doesn’t take more risks socially, she’ll end up as a recluse playing Farmville on FB with imaginary friends all day
  • If my kids don’t learn how to cope with their anxiety, they’re going to end up clinically depressed, medicated and become non-functioning adults

Clearly there are problems with my thinking—most notably that when I get in the ruts of worry, I forget that there’s a loving God who cares about my kids more than me and holds their futures close to heart.

Ironically, I’m also tempted to ignore “little things” that really could have significant long-term catastrophic consequences:

  • Not forgiving or facing conflicts with husband, kids or friends so that little bitternesses grow into big ones.
  • Sliding on healthy eating and exercise so that I end up with diabetes, heart disease and all sorts of other health consequences
  • Focusing exclusively on kids’ performances, so that they conclude I love them for what they achieve rather than who they are, as exemplified by my high schooler wailing “Why do you only talk to me about school and grades these days!!!”

Adele writes:

I am, in my deepest self, God’s beloved. There is nothing I can do to make him love me more. And there is nothing I can do to make him love me less. No matter what the weather of my soul I am constantly the beloved.

I’m loved.  My daughter’s loved.  Nothing can change that fact.  We’re going to be OK.

So I’m trying to take a deep breath.  To remind myself I’m not living a nightmare, and neither is she.  T0 release my kids, their future, and yes, even midterms to God.

What is the appropriate level of parent involvement in these crucial teen years?  How do you manage your worry and not burden your child?  What role does God play in all this?


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  • http://olderthanjesus.blogspot.com Alison Hodgson

    Thanks for posting this, Kathy.

    What comes to mind is the short story by D.H. Lawrence “The Rocking Horse Winner” in which the house whispers, “There must be more money, there must be more money.”

    I live in a community that is full of high achieving people and there is this under current that life is not a journey, but a race and unless we provide our children with X, Y and Z they are DOOMED. “We must get ahead! We must get ahead!”

    Our oldest has a multiplicity of challenges and yet is very intelligent too but hates school, our second is very smart, responsible and hard working and our youngest is very bright and struggles with personal organization.

    At times I find myself caught up in “It’s a race and we’re behind and NEVER EVER going to catch up” with one child and quiet smugness that we’re right up there with another and only God knows with the third whom I’m homeschooling.

    I always come back to “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” God’s promise in a letter from the prophet Jeremiah to the exiles and I exhale and then breathe again.

  • http://www.dorothygrecophotography.com dorothy greco

    Midterm week indeed. And finishing financial aid apps. And studying for AP exams. Making sticky buns for breakfast (not because I’m a perfect mom but because they read this as love and support) and encouraging them to knock off early. Thanks for the reminder of what we’re battling.

  • Tara Edelschick

    “I’m loved. My daughter’s loved. Nothing can change that fact. We’re going to be OK.”

    That’s a lovely meditation. Hard not to smile a deep, internal smile when I read it.

  • http://www.farfromflawlesslife.blogspot.com Missy June

    Oh so important to manage our anxieties in this way. And so to trust God with the ultimate outcome of our parenting.