It can happen any time of day—during any activity. That punch to the gut, choking back the tears, as your mind races to the worst possible outcome of the day’s events—or of life’s most critical moments.

The anxiety that accompanies parenting is permanent. And several years into this parenting gig, I’ve realized it’s the only thing I can’t really control.

Here are some thoughts that often randomly run through my head, on any given day, during any given activity (brushing kids’ teeth, getting them dressed, etc.):

  • What if he wanders into the street when a car is driving by?
  • What if he runs away when he’s in someone else’s care?
  • What if I get sick and can’t take care of them anymore?
  • What if North Korea just bombs us while we’re at the park right now?
  • What if he chokes on the candy the girl handed him at the park?

Are any of these things likely to happen? NO.

Is my worrying about them going to prevent them? Probably not.

Then why are these horrible thoughts so present in my mind? What is wrong with me that I think these things?!

As I’ve talked with more and more parents, I’ve learned nothing is wrong with me. This anxiety is just part of the job.  And I don’t expect it to go away, ever. Not when my kids are in school, or self-sufficient, or raising their own families.

They’ll never stop being my kids—and so that worrying for their lives, their happiness, and their success will be the voice I try to ignore, but learn to live with, forever.

That’s why acceptance is the only solution.

It’s totally natural to worry about our kids. But if you’re one of those moms or dads who experiences these occasional heart-stopping thoughts, know you’re not alone. And try to not let it steal the joy of being with your kiddos!

Here are some ways to manage the anxiety and channel your genuine concern in constructive ways:

  1. Create routines to eliminate the opportunity for details to be overlooked during things like mealtime, bed time, getting ready to leave the house, taking a walk, etc. (but don’t let the routine itself become a source of anxiety for you)
  2. Research issues that truly bother you, or that you think there is genuine cause to be concerned about. While the internet can often lead people astray on medical issues, it can be helpful to hear from others worrying about similar things in their kids’ lives.
  3. Live in the moment whether you’re with your kids or not.
  4. Actively try to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  5. Breath deeply and slowly.
  6. Be confident in your and your child’s abilities.
  7. Let them know you love them.
  8. Take comfort in the thousands of years of (relatively successful) parenting that have come before you. Nothing is new under the sun.
  9. Get a pet! When in doubt, some cuddles will release anxiety and tension.
  10. Don’t be scared to talk about your feelings with friends and family (I’d include strangers in here, but you don’t want to unnecessarily ruin someone’s day… e.g. “Hi, how are you doing? Are you also worried about a nuke from North Korea right at this moment? No? Just me?!”)