FOMO (The Fear of Missing Out), Parent Edition

October 15, 2015

In a world inundated by acronyms, it can be hard for parents and even teens to keep up. However, I’d encourage parents to take a moment to consider the modern parent version of FOMO (The Fear of Missing Out).

Living in a FOMO (The Fear of Missing Out) Parent Culture

Added to the dictionary in 2013, FOMO (The Fear of Missing Out) is defined as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” Can you think of an example you’ve recently encountered? I’m guessing the answer is yes. It’s not hard to find a headline denouncing anxious teen technology use or social media addiction…. but teens aren’t the only ones.

In my work with parents, I frequently hear exhausted or frantic descriptions of books read, blogs skimmed, workshops attended, and “[mom] shame” suppressed. It’s hard for parents, professionals, and schools to stay on top of the “latest and greatest” methods. “Is everyone else using sticker charts?” “Are grades really destroying my kid’s intrinsic motivation?” “Did that seven-year-old just walk by with their own iPhone?” “Will my kid even get into college without 5 extracurriculars?”

We’re parenting in a world that looks drastically different from the one in which we were raised. When stressed, uncertain, or pressured, our go-to is often the type of parenting we received as children. But what happens when the “go-to” existed before the invention of the internet, the cell phone, or the computer?

Before FOMO tells you to buy the entire cart of parenting books you found on Amazon, let’s pause. Whatever issue is having you up late, pouring over resources on HuffPo or awake at 3:00am replaying your conversation in the school parking lot with other parents, let’s take a moment to check-in.

Get Back to the Basics

I start all of my parenting workshops with the same activity consisting of two lists. On the first list, I ask parents to share challenges they experience in their homes, hear from friends, or fear from the media. The list is often long and fairly consistent from group to group. On the second list, I ask parents to consider the hopes they have for their children. What values are they working to instill and encourage? What type of child will they want to have a relationship with once the child reaches adulthood? This list is also long and similar between groups.

The other similarity? I see a visible shift during this activity from tension and discomfort (List #1) to smiling, encouragement, and hope (List #2). What happens? We move from a place of fear to a place of intentionality. Of course, this practice doesn’t erase our challenges or solve them all in one fell swoop. What it does do is help us see that the challenges we worry about can connect with the values we’re hoping to promote. Are you worried about homework? Let’s find ways to encourage problem-solving and time management. Are you worried about dating? Let’s promote healthy self-esteem and boundaries.

The truth is, there is no “secret” to parenting. It’s hard work and there’s no definitive guide. That doesn’t mean we have to let the FOMO (The Fear of Missing Out) mentality take the wheel. It gives us the chance to stop searching for the elusive “easy button” and start connecting with our values and the family culture we want to cultivate. When the FOMO (The Fear of Missing Out) anxiety starts to rise, recognize it as an opportunity to make the choice to slow down, reconnect, and seek out support from those who encourage you.

Written By: Caitlyn Weeks, LPC, LMFT


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