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Fear of Child being Harmed

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Worries Big & Little > Fear of Child being Harmed


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Imprisoned by fear of harm coming to baby

May 2009

I am writing to get some advice from the community. I have an 8 month old baby. My partner and I have been with him every day since he was born, which means essentially no more time for ourselves and our relationship is suffering. We would like to have an occasional evening out to ourselves, but we are terrified of the idea of leaving him with a stranger (there is no one in our circle of family and friends who could babysit for us). I am wracked with fear that anyone I leave my baby with might harm him unintentionally or intentionally. I know it's not entirely rational, but I can't shake the fear. I don't even trust my own mother with him 100%. I am curious if anyone else is debilitated with such fears, and if so, how are you managing to sustain your sanity and your relationship? On top of everything, I am starting to feel lonely and depressed at home with the baby all day. I made the decision to take time off and stay home shortly after he was born, but am starting to realize that I am very unhappy as a stay at home mom. Any advice is very welcome. -trapped at home


That's a hard way to live. I went through that with my daughter who is now 11. I wish I had examined it fully when she was born. It has had such a detramental effect on her. She gets night terrors and is constantly afraid that something will happen to her and that she's not OK moment to moment. My fears, though mostly silent, communicated this to her. My recommendation to you would be to get help for this fear instead of seeing the fear as 'real'. Its something you're doing in the face of immense vulnerability at suddenly having your heart torn out of your body and put into this little being. This vulnerbility is just part of being human. As years go by, there's less and less control over this being. The only way to communicate trust to her is for me to trust that she's taken care of no matter what. I wish you a better journey through these waters than what I've made.
Sounds like post-partum depression. Go see your doctor and an acupuncturist! anon
Ok. My heart so goes out to you. You NEED A BREAK! As a parent to another parent...you have to trust other people. Your child is beautiful and special...but, people trust their children to others every day. Today, I watched three children for two different friends all day...we did have a cut on the knee at one point and I did feed them all some really disgusting Whole Foods Organic Mac & Cheese (I hate the boxed stuff...but they LOVE it...but only when the five are together as a group...weird...but,it works), but they all finished the day well.

Also, I work part-time at a day-care. Guilt ridden mom's bring their children to us all day long (some are full-time and some are drop-in). We adore these children - whether it is the first visit or the 100th. There is the occasional bump - usually among the infants just starting to sit or stand...but that will happen anywhere. Three-minutes later, they have moved on...

Take a deep breath, get a babysitter and hopefully that will help you gain some perspective. -anon


I don't think I'd go so far as saying I was imprisoned by fear, but when I had to think about babysitters/nannies for my first child 6 years ago, I was terrified about whom to trust. I interviewed a few nannies and when we chose one, we paid for her Trustline certification, I checked out her DMV record and made sure she was tested for TB (just like health care workers). I would do the same now. I also had her come over for just a few hours each day for one month while I was at home (and of course paid her for it). Then, I left her with my baby for about an hour after a month of this, and then I left her again the next day for an hour. Until finally, when I had to go back to work, I was pretty comfortable with her taking care of him. Even though I left him with her for small amounts of time in the beginning, I knew that of course he'd choose me over her when I was home. So, don't think that just because he/she wants you when the nanny is around means he/she does not like the nanny. Sometimes it's easier for a child and the nanny to bond when the parent is away.

We also had an arrangement where she'd drive him to my office during lunch hour so I could breastfeed him; this way, I got to see him and I also got to know her more. I also asked her to fill out a chart (when did he nap, eat, etc. etc.) for each day she watched him for probably the first month. Yes, it all sounds anal, but I found someone who did not mind doing it all (no nanny should mind any of this!) and I gradually felt better about having someone care for my child. do your homework but don't be paranoid


Please don't think of the sweet early baby months as a prison sentence but a very special sweet time that will go by very quickly. Enjoy it while you can.I too had no close family or friends I trusted to babysit (both my parents are dead and some of my fiance's family I would not trust at all) when I had my girl and and I really could't afford to hire anyone so I stayed with her 24-7 her first year and a half and pretty much loved every minute of it! My fiance and I just did ''dates'' at home after she went to sleep.Grab a bottle of wine and a some fruit and cheese and have a picnic on the living room floor ( baby monitor close by!). Or go out as a family to eat and then for a walk and continue your date with your husband again aafter baby is sleeping.

Perhaps too you might be suffering from a little postpartum depression?I think it can last up to a year or more... some medicine could help or excercise...

If you really need to get away, hire someone(interview them thoroughly)from an agency maybe and then set up a NannyCam to make sure everything is okay. ( you can find one online for 79 dollars). Maybe join a moms group so you can have some other moms to hang/ do things with and maybe you can trade babysitting nights eventually with a few you like and trust. If you can wait until you baby is a little older like 1.5 and sleeping more at night it might be easier to have a sitter then because basically your child will just be sleeping. ( You can still use the Nanny cam) The first time maybe just go out for a half hour to get used to it etc and build up. If you still get freaked out, just wait a while and try to enjoy these early months. Sarah


Dear trapped at home, Unfortunately, the way our culture is set up, depression from isolation is a common occupational hazard of motherhood. It's great that you're writing for help. You deserve to feel good and enjoy this time in your life. Also, babies need their caregiver to be reasonably present to facilitate responsive two-way communication. As you likely know, this is more challenging when you're feeling overly depressed, anxious or unhappy.

All moms need a break. It a necessity vs. a luxury. This sounds like a good time to connect with other parents in your neighborhood. There are lots of mom's groups, many of them formed to help make connections and inoculate you against isolation and feeling trapped. Also, have you considered posting for recommendations for a babysitter, and then trying them out while you're home doing chores? Finally, excessive fearfulness can be a symptom of depression and/or anxiety. If these small measures do not work, perhaps it's time to seek some professional help to work through any enduring difficult feelings of fearfulness and depression. Best wishes! Joanne


Fear that my child will get cancer

April 2009

How do I deal with my fear that, everytime my 10 year old complains of an ache or a pain, she has cancer? Iím not being completely irrational, we live in a toxic world full of cancer- causing poisons in our food and emissions in our air. I know lots of people whoíve had the big C of all different kinds - breast, ovarian, lymphoma, pancreatic, Ewingís sarcoma (in a teenage boy who recovered), the list goes on. I donít run to the doctor everytime my child says something hurts but I sure think about it. Iím kind of freaking out about this and I could use some down-to-earth advice on how to deal. Scared Dad


I work in heavy industry and have been an environmental professional for +18 years. I've seen a lot of changes in my short career span. The media gets it wrong most of the time. Air and water quality have greatly improved over the last 30 or more years. I've seen a lot of air emission & water quality requirements go into place. Just think about cars 25 years ago vs. how they smell & look today. The same thing is going on in industry, really. If environmental issues are of concern I would try to educate yourself by getting data from EPA, BAAQMD, and RWQCB.

Additionally, I have routine fears about being in a bad car accident. I dwell on this too much. There's probably a psychological component to your fears (& mine) that you might want to explore as well. - Good luck


Wow, Dad. This seems troubling to live with every day! I can understand the fear, this is one heck of a toxic world! However, if your son is not being unusually exposed (i.e. living next to a chemical reactor field), there's not a lot of reason to think he would have it more than anyone else, including yourself! Do you have this fear whenever you have pain? If not, it's probably because of your outstanding love for your son. That's not to be ashamed of. But, one piece of advice that I got when my first was born and every minute I feared SIDS. ''If she's going to die of SIDS, she's going to die of SIDS. Better to appreciate the time you have. '' Sounds harsh, right? I was like ''Geez!'' But then i got it. We can't control these things. There's no cancer preventative, outside of trying our best to be healthy. There's no reason to think your son will get cancer, but if he did, you'd deal with it then. He doesn't now (right?), so lavish in these healthy days! Know that anything could happen at anytime, each day is a gift. You do your best for him, and you will be there no matter what happens. So, when it's late at night, and you're thinking of what might be, try to think of what is, instead. Remember that these things are out of our control, and if it were to happen, you'd be there for him in this time that you can no control. In the meantime, you can control all the fun and healthy times you are having. Today your son does not have cancer. anon
You fear what you don't know about. So study cancer for what it is and isn't - this goes well beyond western medicine. Just to throw it out there - cancer cells need 10 times the amount of sugar to survive than a regular cell, and the digestion of any animal protein uses up two types of enzymes that destroy cancer cells on a daily basis (plant protein doesn't need the enzymes for digestion). That is a lot of information right there that won't sit well with neither the meat nor dairy industry. Learn what turns into sugar in your body. Learn what happens to oils at high temperatures. Did you know that canola oil is only one molecule different from plastic? Learn about how important green food is in reversing sick cells to healthy cells. For one thing subscribe (it's free) to beyondhealth.com. A must see (google) is the DVD ''Healing cancer from the inside out.'' Once you truly feel informed, the fear goes away and you just make decisions based on your knowledge. As far as your kid goes - multivitamin in the morning - Omega 3, a kids greenz and calcium/magnesium in the evening (all chewables - start past age 4). As far as your worry about environmental toxicity goes, cilantro and chlorella are great detoxifiers for binding heavy metals, parsley and garlic are good general detoxifiers. Make sure though you take extra minerals during detox, so you don't deplete yourself (the good gets taken out with the bad) and to take ''algin'' (google) so the heavy metals can't redistribute back into the body once in the intestines. I'm detoxing from the mercury in 13 flushots and 14 amalgam tooth fillings. Live and learn... Anonymous
I too went through a period a few years ago where lots of people I knew were getting cancer and going through treatment. I don't think I had the same reaction to it as you. I thought I was the one who was next! After a while my fears subsided and I learned to live with the reality that cancer can hit close to home and if I get it I will deal with it. It made me think about enjoying the NOW more. A reminder to get off my butt and do what is meaningful, and to stay healthy. As far as having those fears about your child, it's frightening to think about losing your child. Try to remind yourself it can take years to build the toxins up in your body and that mostly older people get cancer. Do what you can to feed your child organic foods and stay healthy. Keep reminding yourself that children get aches and pains and hurt themselves normally. There might be a lesson here if you look closer. If you feel that you can handle it yourself, I would see a therapist who can maybe help you get to the root of the issue and help you to feel calmer. good luck
Please try and fully educate your self about cancer and you will probably relax a little. Cancer is primarily an adult affliction. However there are a few cancers that afflict children and if you read about them what their symptoms are and the recovery rates as well as the overal instance of a child actually getting cancer (very low) you might feel better. You also might want to read stories about and by children that have survived cancer and this might help you realize the most important thing about raising a child is your positive attitude about life even in the face of death. Please relax you will do more harm worring unnecessarily.. try this site for info on cancer statistics in children and go from there. http://seer.cancer.gov/statistics/ anon
These things are equally true- the world is a scary, horrible place that wants to devour your child and the world is a magical place, full of joy, that wants to embrace your child. I think it is one of the hardest things about parenthood- learning to cope with catastrophic thinking. So do the best you can and develop some coping skills- meditate, go to therapy, work it out at the gym, go to church- whatever helps you. Basically, you have to find a way to talk yourself down when you have these thoughts and different things work for different people. You can't let fear rule your life and take away your joy. Accept that you only have control over the things you have control over and let the rest go. If your thoughts are obsessive and really intruding on your ability to enjoy your life- please do find a therapist to talk about it with. There are many good referrals here in the archive or your primary care doc can refer. But rest assured- we've all been there or somewhere close to there. Good luck!
If your child really hurts, you may as well run to the doctor. Then you will know what it is and that it is not cancer. As far as I know, most cancers don't reveal themselves by just ''hurting.'' anon
Sometimes we have free-floating anxiety that's looking for a place to roost, so dealing with the source of anxiety's probably the best way to go. Anxiety is an activation of the nervous system, and so it's best to find ways to calm your system. Exercise and good self-care can help. You might try re-framing this thought. This particular thought distortion's called ''catastrophising'' which means thinking of the worst possible outcome without any real evidence. A re-frame of this thought might look like: ''This is just a thought, an form of energy, which doesn't make it true. I do not have a crystal ball. The probability is exceedingly low, and worrying about it will only make me and my child more nervous. If there is a problem, I know I can act on it in a timely manner. Or you might try ''downloading'' your worries by writing for 10 minutes non-stop, and then throwing the paper away without reading it. Or you might check in with a loved one for a supportive ''reality check'' to calm you down (setting this up in advance). If none of this helps, you may find it supportive to see a therapist to deal with the root of the anxiety. Best wishes! joanne
In all seriousness, the best thing you can do for your child is to get some therapy for yourself to understand why your anxieties are so huge. You are undoubtedly passing some of that on to the kids. When I was a kid one of my friends had a mother who would literally look for pieces of her in the garbage can (assuming, what else? that somebody had come by and chopped her into little pieces, because she was 5 or 10 minutes late). We all know people who have died suddenly or not so suddenly, young or old. Sadly, in this country we are doing such a fabulous job of preventing death and illness that we are under the illusion that it never happens. We all worry to various degrees. But you'd do better off simply enjoying your child now. Life is never long enough for anybody.
Ummm, you are being irrational. Although we all have fleeting thoughts of disaster, it's your job not to convey that to your kids (and also not to convey that you think the world is full of killer toxins). Childhood cancer is very rare, and overreacting to every ailment will probably make your child anxious and perhaps neurotic. You can worry all you want, but outwardlly, overreacting isn't helpful. every parent is a worrier
Dear friend, I say this directly and with care. As the mother of a child who actually has a terminal diagnosis: get over it. Fear is when there is an immediate threat to you or your loved ones' well being. Anxiety is when there is no direct threat but you see threats all around. Anxiety keeps you from seeing the happiness in front of you, including the potential of healthy times with your kids. What I have learned about threats, death and terminal illness: Life is about living! Get to it and live gratefully, no matter your cards dealt. Love, a friend Living To Be Happy
It can be so hard as a parent to know we can't protect our children from everything in this world. We can only do the best we can, as so much is out of our control. One piece of advice I can give is to try to only focus on what you can control. It can help to limit cancer-causing toxins in your home to the extent that you can-green/homemade cleaning products, organic food where you can, more natural personal care products, limiting plastics, etc. The Environmental Working Group has great information at www.ewg.org, including a shopper's guide to pesticides. They also have a personal care database to see the toxin levels in all types of toiletries to help you chose safer brands.

Petrifying fear that something will happen to my son

April 2008

I know this is partly a ridiculous question, because everyone reading it probably feels the same to some degree, but I also bet some of you have some good tips for me. I am trying to get a handle on what feels at times like a petrifying fear that something will happen to my son, who's 5; at other times it's like a preemptory depression, with me anticipating that if (when) something does happen to him, I won't have anything to live for and will probably consider suicide. I know this is unhealthy thinking and have been doing a lot of work (in therapy and out) to not worry so much, and especially not to show it to my son. The last thing I want is to be operating from a fear-based perspective, or to have my worry rub off on him. I have gotten much, much better. But I still think about how much of my life is about him: I have a good job, but not a life-defining one, not one in which others rely on me; I am not partnered; and though my family would miss me, they don't really need me.

I feel like the only thing anchoring me to this world is my son. I am cognizant that a lot of the answers may lie in my burgeoning spirituality--prayer and meditation and trusting in ''God''--but this is all new to me, it doesn't feel real yet. (Though reading Pema Chodron does help.) What should I do when my mind goes there (imagining the worst)? What can I do to make the rest of my life more meaningful, so that he's not my everything? I do have good friends that I love, but they don't have answers, nor the power to keep me going if anything should happen. And for the record, I had a devastating death in the family a few months back, so a lot of this is stemming from that (knowing that anything can happen, knowing how tenuous life is) and from a new and overwhelming feeling of responsibility to my family (that they couldn't possibly handle another loss, so I have to find a way to keep going for them). And all of this is totally hypothetical--my son is healthy, and there's no reason for me to think that anything terrible is going to happen to him (except that he has been spending more time away from me, with his father, lately). Hope to hear from others who feel the same way, and others who have conquered their fear of losing their children. Trying to Live in the Moment


I remember reading about this same issue on BPN several months ago and many professional therapists/psychologists posted responses that basically said that what you describe is fairly common and is a sign or symptom of anxiety and/or depression.

I am not a professional in this area but I would just like to tell you to not be so hard on yourself and seek whatever help or support you need because you do not need to suffer with this. I have experienced the same feelings you describe and I'm sure that every parent has too to varying degrees. I have had periods of mild anxiety in my life and that is when those thoughts creep in. Through being really conscious of what is happening in my life I have discovered that the thoughts usually stem from something totally unrelated to my child but somehow the anxiety gets transfered or takes the form of thoughts or fears about my child, or about my ability to provide for my child (I also don't have a partner - which is a lot of pressure whether you realize it or not.) Our feelings for our children are so sensitive and vulnerable that it is an easy target for general anxiety to attack.

What I have done is that every time I catch myself thinking a ''doomsday'' type thought like you describe, I stop myself and don't allow my mind to go there. I re-direct my thinking and if I continue to go back to the thoughts I might spend a minute thinking about why the thought is there and consider what else is happening in my life that is causing this. In other words I do my own cognitive therapy but it works and it helps. Those negative thoughts are useless and have no value and you can train yourself to get rid of them. There is a huge difference between being mindful of keeping your child safe and obsessing over things that will never happen.

I hope that you are able to find some relief and realize that you are not alone. Best wishes. anon


FEAR NO MORE...EMPOWER YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILD. okay that was hokey - fear never leaves a parent. i've been a parent for 24 years - done with the 24 year old and started anew with the 3 year old. i lay awake fearing the worse and i mean the worse - i create scenarios in my head, i read way too much into life tragedies - like the whole madelaine mccan thing - jeeze louise - i'm petrified. but in reality - the worst happens to a very very rare number of people and in very very odd circumstances i.e. you leave your child unattended, there is drugs and alcohol involved, there is some level of neglect involved. i represent kids and parents in neglect cases (cases that go to CPS) and you'd be amazed by the amount of neglect that kids face and NOTHING really bad happens to them - at least nothing in the sense that you are concerned about - rather the bad things that occur is systematic and long-term neglect and its affect on children's psychological well-being. from reading your post, i take it that you are probably over-protective, never leave your child alone - look way ahead into the future and super plan for any type of problems you may face. you are already on the right page. the next step is to get your child on the same page. i am a KIDPOWER instructor - we teach self defense and safety skills for kids : www.kidpower.org. we don't teach fear, we teach confidence and strength. that is what YOU and YOUR child need to survive through life's challenges. fear is natural but living in fear is a drag. the best way to climb out of it is to empower yourself and your child. you may never be without fear - in fact, there may be some other issues causing you to have such fear (abandonment, loss, grief, etc. issues - that have nothing to do with your child), however, making your child suffer for your fears is not fair. i almost did this to my eldest daughter - making her afraid of what i was afraid of. but the picture of the world in my head is not in her head and its not fair to teach your child to be terrified - a reasonable amount of fear is healthy and ok - but being petrified is not fair. try kidpwower - it changed my life and my child's. www.kidpower.org
I feel this way, too. To a degree, I think it is normal, but no one wants to live in fear all the time. I recently found a book called ''Protecting the Gift'' by Gavin Becker, who also wrote a NY Times best seller called ''The Gift of Fear.'' I've only read a couple of chapters so far, but he offers amazing practical tools for keeping children safe (and us parents sane). I've already started utilizing some of the suggestions in the book, and feeling more physically in control and intuitively in tune has helped me to feel more secure and relaxed about my child's safety. I can't recommend this book highly enough. I love my kid more than anything, too.
Hello. I sympathize. and I still suffer from horrendous nightmares about losing my children from time to time. The way I get past it is by telling my children how much I love them, and by kissing them every chance they let me, by singing to them to wake them up every morning, by caressing their foreheads before they fall asleep, by telling them that they're grounded when they become lazy with their school work because I love them and want the best for them. I also apologize when I know I've been unfair. I basically try to live with the thought, ''if something happened to me or one of my kids in the next hour, they would truly know that I loved them dearly and only wanted for them to make the right decisions based on their own individual personalities.'' Because I have that fear, I think I am a pretty good mom. If you can keep it under control, you can use it. I guess I see it like my fear of losing my kids keeps me in line. I doubt I'll ever hurt them deeply with words of anger. They haven't hit the teen years yet, so I hope it keeps me in line for a lot longer. Good luck. Trying to treasure every moment.
You are not alone! I think all of us imagine the worst sometimes. I remember being a kid worrying that my parents would die, being a young married and worrying that my husband would die, and now being a mother and worrying that my child would die. I also worry that I might die before my child! It's sort of part of being human--we know love and we also know loss. And to really love someone is to acknowledge on some level that you are made terribly vulnerable by that love.

What do I do? I practice meditation (I find that the metta meditation, or meditation of loving kindness to be especially helpful with this kind of worry), I exercise to reduce anxiety in general, and I try my best to take care of my whole family.

You might also look at past points in your life for times when you have had losses and how you worked through them. Finding your own resilience might help more than you think.

And go ahead and talk with a therapist--it might be helpful. You may not end your fears and worries, but you might find more strategies to stop them before they start, or to deal with them more effectively. remember to be kind to yourself


Well, you are not alone. I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder so I worry about everything, but my top worry is that something will happen to my son, too. It's just awful, but I am working on it. He's also healthy and happy but anxiety is NOT rational. I would suggest a few things: check out some books on anxiety. They have lots of different ideas on how to get worry and anxiety under control, and it's work because you have to retrain your brain to not think anxious thoughts. Two I recommend are: ''The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook'' http://tinyurl.com/6h2c74 and ''Worry'' http://tinyurl.com/5ray23 Meditation is also good for anxiety. You can join a group or take a class somewhere. Keep busy when you aren't with your son. Do work, socialize, take a class, whatever keeps you occupied and not worrying. Avoid TV news and newspapers if they stress you out too much. (Life is getting safer and safer but you wouldn't know it from the media!!) Lastly, if it's more than you can handle, see a psychologist and get counseling and perhaps medication if that seems right for you. You can deal with this! Good luck!
Dear Trying, I struggle -- not as severely as you -- with the same awfulizing fears. I lie in bed at night imagining all sorts of horrible things that could happen to my children and then imagine the feeling of not knowing what to do with myself because of the enormity of the pain. I have always imagined that which I fear, I figured as a coping mechanism, kind of like practice so I could feel that I would be strong enough if I needed to be, but it doesn't work with this one. My strategy is two-fold: 1. A conscious, meditative effort to think about other, more realistic futures (if you need to imagine hardship, imagine comforting him after his first heartbreak or flunking his driving test) and 2. Analyzing the source of the impulse to think about these fears in the first place. It sounds like you're already doing that, I'm glad you have professional support. Good luck! Naomi
Something I didn't see the other posters mention was that mild anxiety is a very common side effect of hormonal birth control. When I was taking the pill (even a mini pill during nursing) I had a lot of anxiety that I chalked up to being a nervous first-time parent. I used to walk with my baby in a stroller around lake merritt and I was terrified that somehow I would trip and the baby would fall into the lake and drown! A girlfriend tipped me off about the anxiety/BC connection and I just stopped taking the pills in mid cycle and in 48 hours the anxiety was gone. I was mad that my gyn. never told me! Alternately, another girlfriend who had anxiety issues found out by working with her doctor that she needed progesterine cream and that really helped her. See your doctor. That being said, I think it's very common to feel that your life couldn't possibly go on without your beloved child and I don't think it's a bad thing to love your kid that much. Don't be to hard on yourself, you sound like a great mom. anon
You raise 2 important issues. The first is your fear. If your anxiety is interfering with your ability to relax and enjoy life, then by all means go to a professional for assistance. I have a friend whose life was transformed by anti-anxiety medication. If it is just an annoyance or an occasional feeling, then my strategy may help. First I will say that I mainly get anxious when my husband travels. And at these times I can also be very superstitious. (I am otherwise highly rational & practical.) Once when my husband was flying home from a trip, my then 2 yr old said something like ''I just saw Daddy. He came to say good night.'' I immediately thought that his plane had gone down and his spirit had come to say good bye. And if his plane had crashed I would have sworn that his spirit had come to her. Of course, he came home safely, so from then I realized that even the most ominous omen is likely to be meaningless. So what I decided to do, since my anxiety was not subject to rationality (I couldn't argue my way out of it) was to make my superstition work *for* me. Now whenever I start to worry, I picture the energy of love of my children and me coming out of our bodies like ropes or force fields and joining together and going out to him to protect him. And I absolutely convince myself that nothing terrible can happen to him while our love energy is protecting him. Crazy huh? But it does get me over my anxiety. Maybe something similar can work for you when you worry about your child is to picture your love actually coming out of your body and creating a protective force field for him.

The second issue that springs from your post is your feeling that the only really meaningful reason for you to exist is for your son, and the main reason for you to ''keep going'' if something were to happen to him is the people who really need you, or who wouldn't be able to handle another loss. This is a terribly instrumental way to think about your own life. I don't know the solution for you, but I definitely think you need to re-connect with your own enjoyment of life, apart from your son, and the benefits of your life to *you*. I don't know whether you are suffering from depression and would benefit from professional help (therapy, medication), or if you can somehow get yourself to a place where you are enjoying life and invested in it for your own sake. But somehow you should address that issue as well. Wishing you all the best!


Premonitions about child being harmed

Oct 2007

OK, this sounds crazy. But I keep having premonitions about my son Ė like something bad is going to happen to him. For example, if I come home tired and my husband suggests going and picking up dinner and he takes our son, I get a feeling like Ďwhat if they are in a terrible accident because I was too tired to cook dinner?í Or sometimes Iím afraid something will be wrong with my son when I check on him at night. Iím not asking for a medical diagnosis, but wonder if this is common and what could I do? It has been going on for a while, over 2 years, and Iíve explained it away with hormones, strong bond, extra worry, stress, guilt. This happens almost every day, some flash of dread, sometimes far in the future, that he will be significantly injured or hurt. I tell myself it is just my over active imagination, every parent worries, and I immediate replace the thought with positive ones, but these flashes are starting to disturb me and I donít want to believe that they are real, none have been so far, and so I donít know what my intuition is trying to tell me. Is this normal? It sounds so crazy I am hesitant to discuss it with my medical doctor. Anon


I wonder if there is anyone on this list who HASN'T had those ''premonitions.'' They may be more difficult to handle for some people or more vivid, but I'll bet just about all of us have them. Worse yet (and I hesitate to even write this anonymously, but here goes) are fantasies of harming your child that flash into your brain. This happened to me when I was so sleep-deprived that I was hallucinating, and I never even came close to acting on them (I was horrified and guilt-stricken) but our brains act sometimes before we exercise conscious control. As long as these flashes are not keeping you from having a normal life, allowing your child normal activities, etc., I would continue just pressing myself to think positively. And you'll grow more confident in your child's ability to move through the world as he gets older (hopefully). But if you start wanting to make him wear a bike helmet to go down the slide, you might want to talk to a therapist or doctor. Or if it keeps you awake or keeps you from enjoying normal activities. totally anonymous
I have that same problem and have for many years. It is worse now that I have a 5 month old to worry about. Before her it was my dogs, friends, family or self that I would imagine about. The only person that I ever shared these imaginings with was my husband and then only after several years of marriage. I also suffer from depression. I decided to talk to my dr. about the depression and through the discussion the other problem came up. She said it was a form of anxiety. I began taking Lexapro at that time and not only did it stop my depression, but those awful scenarios became less and less. I have been off the meds since last summer when we started trying to get pregnant and I have more and more elaborate fantasies all the time about harm to my daughter. I am awaiting the time when I am no longer breastfeeding to go back on the Lexapro. I know it will mean that I will be able to relax more. I would definitly talk to your dr. about the problem. It made a big difference for me and even though it meant that I had to take something each day, it was totally worth it to give me peace of mind. Good luck. worried too
I have seriously scary premonitions that play out in my head all the time regarding my one year old, and it's been that way since before his birth...from the every day occurance (like tripping and falling with him in my arms and he gets a serious brain trauma injury), to completely random (like a fire that gets started while cooking that consumes him). I agree that this kind of thinking is not rational and needs to be addressed. Possibly seeing a therapist can help find the root cause of all this worry. Right now I am seeing a homeopathist that is treating me for various health issues, but during our appointments, this unreasonable worry has come up, and she hopes that the constitutional remedy we are working with will help it, too. If I don't see some improvement over the next 6 months or so, I think it will be time to find a therapist because this kind of worry is so troubling that I think it could start to affect other parts of my life. I am definitely interested to see what others have to say about this. Worrier, too.
I know you are not looking for a diagnosis but I was having similar thoughts and others that were causing me GREAT anxiety and distress. It was starting to interupt my life so severly that upon recommendation I went to a doctor at The Cognitive Center for Behavior Therapy. I saw Dr. Tompkins and within 3 months my life was changed. I was diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), which was such a relief because it meant I wasn't going crazy, and it is VERY treatable. I can't say enough good things about Dr. Tompkins, he is such a kind and compassionate man and an expert in the field of anxiety disorders. He isn't cheap, but worth every penny!! Good luck! Dr. Michael Tompkins 510-652-4455 Anon
I have often had these thougths too....NOTHING has ever happened to my children. I believe that we are hard wired to protect our kids and that having little 'premonitions' of terrible things that could happen is mother natures way of keeping us cautious and watchful over our children. As goulish as it may seem to imagine that your babycarriage rollis into traffic and gets schmooshed, you do pull back from the curb and look both ways one more time before you cross. I had these thoughts a lot more when my children were still small and capable of getting hurt at every turn...now I just worry about someone else hurting them....I'm sure I will worry until my last breath, it's the job mother nature gave me! barb
I have premonitions like this all the time, and what I've figured out mine are about, anyway, is anxiety. I know you said you don't want a diagnosis, but I think it's really common for anxiety to manifest that way. It's a horrible feeling, and of course it makes perfect sense that you should be worried about your child's safety, and then your brain tricks you into thinking it's more than just worrying, but instead a true vision of the future. And then you worry more. What I do when I feel like I'm having premonitions of future horrors is I try to deal with my feelings of anxiety. Then those premonitions usually go away. Good luck. I know it's a horrible feeling. --been there
I have them too, it's normal. I allow them to come, but quickly dismiss them and think about all the great things I love about my child. Try to think about the positive for at least double the time that you've worried about the bad. You may think that's weird, But you don't to spent too much time on the negative or you might make it happen. anon
I could have written your post. Those are not premonitions. It really sounds like anxiety. Please discuss it with your doctor or a therapist, it is really a miserable way to live. Many of us moms suffer from anxiety, it is very common, but I find that not a lot of people talk about it unless I bring up the fact that I have it first. And then I am floored by how many other moms have it.

Mine got so bad that I developed OCD and was chanting and ritualizing to deal with the visions in my head of my children being hurt that occured on a daily basis. Then, later I developed panic disorder and had to be medicated because my anxiety made me feel like I was having a stroke mulitple times a day. I'm in therapy, too, to deal with the underlying causes of these thoughts. And my 4.5 year old son is also in therapy, because he has picked up on the panic and the ritualizing and now he has anxiety because ''something is wrong with mom''.

It's been a 7-year battle in my case, but I finally feel like I can enjoy life, let my kids go on field trips without worrying that they will die. The good news is that there is a wide variety of help you can get, from individual therapy to group therapy and support groups, cognative behavioral therapy, pyschotherapy and if you need it, medication.

Please don't let it go unchecked. Feel free to contact me if you like. You are not alone. pg


Try EFT. It is a form of energy therapy based on acupressure that can completely free you from anxieties, phobias, past psychological trauma, etc., and does not require months and years of talk therapy. In many cases, results are instantaneous. I've been using it myself for the past 9 months or so, and have had unbelievable results. The information on the website is entirely free. www.emofree.com anon
I think what feels like a preminition can really be an expression of anxiety--especially in the situation you described of feeling this way when your husband takes your child in the car, etc. I know you are not looking for a diagnosis, but perhaps when these feelings come over you, you can take a moment to let the anxiety wave go through you and then proceed. In fact, you may want to talk to your doctor about it if you feel like these feelings are really inhibiting you in some way. Also, I think all of us parents have rational and irrational worries about our children and probably will even as our children reach adulthood! anon
Hello, I am a local therapist and to me, it sounds like you have an anxiety issue. Cognitive behavioral therapy would really help you-- it is about restructuring your schemas and learning to challenge your own irrational beliefs. There are meds too but I would go the cog. beh. therapy route first. Take care of yourself. anon
These painful worries are so natural when you love someone so completely like you love your child. And oh how you want to protect them...and what if you didn't act on your ''premonition'' and something terrible happened? But since you asked, here is some advice. These are not premonitions. They just aren't. This is not how the world works. These are pangs of guilt. Think about how guilt feels, and then think about how these ''premonitions'' feel. You feel guilty you didn't put dinner on, and feel even guiltier if your spouse would go get the dinner with your child giving you a break. This pang of guilt just gets mixed up in your brain with deep fears and voila -- a vivid image of something terrible happening to your child pops into your mind. It's just emotional associations. Try to take a step back and evaluate whether this fear is reasonable or unreasonable. Protect your child by all means when there is a clear danger (jumping off the table, running with scissors), but let these other fears go if you can. Let your spouse take your child to go get dinner, you will see nothing terrible happens, and can be reassured that these fears are not premonitions, just a normal part of being a human. A final word, you deserve to take care of YOU too! Let other people help you. Trust that everything is going to be just fine. We moms have so many responsibilities and deserve to rely on others sometimes. Scared sometimes too
I have so been in your shoes! Especially when my kids were small, I suffered terribly with worries about impending catastrophe! I also had this awful reinforcing anxiety that if I didnt actively worry, then something really would happen!

The truth of the matter is that when we are so bonded to another person, we become completly vunerable, and the loss of the person would murder a part of ourselves. I think this is even more of an issue if you have experienced personal loss, or abandonment. Maybe you have?

What I have done to cope with this is the very minute that anxiety producing thought comes into my mind I banish it, refuse to elaborate on it mentally and instead I envision a golden bubble around the person I am worried about, protecting them from all harm. I focus on that visualization until my anxiety goes away.

Try it, it really works! visualize safety


Just wanted to say you are not alone! I do the exact same things you mentioned. Sometimes when I have decided to stay home while my husband and child go on an errand, I have to run out to the car and go with them b/c I am overcome with the thoughts of ''what if something happens''. I have always felt this way even before I had my child. I attribute it to the fact that my husband and I have always been very close - ie we worked at the same company, offices next door to each other, drove to and from work together everyday, all meals together, etc. So, being apart from each other was very out of the norm and always made me afraid something bad was going to happen. Now, of course, I am doing the same thing with my child. Many nights I just HAVE to go check on him even though I know it will wake him up b/c I am so overcome with worry. Even more than the worry, it is the thought of what if I don't check on him and then something really does happen, then it will be all my fault that I didn't check on him when I felt I should have. And it just goes on and on... So, I don't know if this is ''normal'' or not, but you are not alone! obsessive worrier
I do it too...I have 3 kids, and find myself thinking ''oh no, what if...?'' every once in a while. I do it with my husband too; if he stays an hour late at work, I wonder if a cop will ring the doorbell and tell me there's been a terrible accident... I don't think this is abnormal, as long as these thoughts don't overtake your entire day every day. I have lots of happy thoughts too, and fun times with my family. But sure, I worry, and I think about how I can't keep my family safe all the time. As time goes on, as the kids started preschool, then school, swim classes, etc., I realized they CAN be safe even though I'm not watching them all the time. But life must go on. We try to be as careful as we can, within reason, and try not to worry about ''what if?'' Focus on the positive, and see your son graduating from high school, holding his first child, sitting with you on the porch in your rocking chair... If you can't get these negative feelings out of your head, or they're just too bothersome, TELL your doctor! He or she might have some solutions for you that you didn't know about. Berkeley mom of 3
Hi, I'm not sure what kind of advice you'd be open to, but based on the language you're using (''premonitions''), I'm going to go out on a limb and refer you to the Berkeley Psychic Institute. It seems that you're holding onto a lot negative energy, real or imagined, and the folks at that intitute may be able to allay your fears and help you get control over it. I'm sure you'll get a lot of advice saying get (traditional) counseling, but I sense that you're looking for a somewhat different advice. Kim
I, too, have suffered with this ''premonition'' thing for years. Now that my son is grown and moved out, I have them less, but even now if he tells me about his doing something I feel is even remotely risky, I have that overwhelming feeling of dread again. Mental health people as well as my G.P. tell me it's likely related to my panic disorder (result of post traumatic stress disorder), and losses I have suffered earlier in life. Is it possible you may have some deep-seated issues in your own life that contribute to these unusual feelings? Perhaps deaths of people you have loved in the past or even abandonment issues? I know you don't want diagnoses, but sometimes if you try to find the root of your fears, it helps to be more rational when those premonitions come on. It has been so bad with me, however, that I have been prescribed Xanax to alleviate the anxiety. Trying to stay rational and keep the positive thoughts flowing -- and taking deep breaths when the premonitions come on -- also do help a great deal. Don't know what else there is to do about it, really. -- Also Anxious
I know you don't want a medical diagnosis but since I have one for my problem and it is similar to what you are describing I will let you know.

I have Obessive Compulsive Disorder. To give a very simple explanation you have a thought, you give that thought a lot of importance (obsession), you feel anxious and you do something to relieve the anxiety (compulsion). What struck me is that you feel this is a problem, that you are giving these thoughts a lot of importance by calling them premonitions and that you immediately replace the thoughts with positive ones. That sounds a lot like me. The more you think about the thoughts, question their importance the more you reinforce them and the pattern. But you can't just not think them or force them to go away. That doesn't work, I've tried that. What works is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It is a process to retrain your brain to react in a different way to your thoughts. It really works.

I'm not a doctor and I don't want to pathologize what could be perfectly normal behavior in the context of your life. All I know is that what you wrote was familiar to me and I have OCD. If you look in the archives under OCD there are names of local therapists who specialize in anxiety disorders (OCD is one). Don't bother with regular therapists. I have seem many and did not get the proper diagnosis or treatment until I saw a CBT.

Good luck. Mom with OCD


I too sometimes have such thoughts, and they used to be more frequent and more powerful before I spent a chunk of time talking with a good therapist. I highly recommend this route for you. With the proper help, you can be a lot happier and less anxious than you are now. I don't think these are ''premonitions'' or ''intuition,'' I think they are spells of terrible anxiety, and a good therapist can help you get to the root of what is causing them. I too have the tendency to picture the worst thing that could happen, and I've come to realize what a sad misuse of my life energy this is. I wish you all the best! A Fellow Worrier
This sounds like something you should be discussing with a counselor especially since it's been going on for over two years. Worry, especially when it is unwarranted and overwhelming, is often a sign that something inside of us is unresolved. I would make an appointment to see a therapist right away. Anon
I also get those same feelings you are talking about. I think they are quite normal. Yes, sometimes I have to get out of my comfortable bed late at night to check on the kids because of those feelings or call them when they are with their Dad to make sure all is well. I even have horrific visions sometimes besides just the feelings. However, I do not dwell on it. I just tell myself to stop worrying because my children are fine and will myself to think about something else. I think this is just part of being a parent and loving your family with everything you have inside. As long as you don't dwell on it and realize the feelings for what they are and why you are having them, it's absolutely okay and normal. I am sure there will be many posts from other parents who get these thoughts as well. Nicole
I have and had these same thoughts etc. however I learned that this is a sympton or a kind of anxiety issue. I had some anxiety attacks a few years ago and have some instances when I can be more prone to them...(medication never advised for me but a class was) at Kaiser they had a class of six or so weeks that teaches folks about anxiety/panic disorders etc. and this was one of the things that does happen to people this is also related to OCD etc. people can have certain extremes of this. I had a very mild tendancy towrd panic attacks and they usually occur when I am particulary stressed, hungry and/or situational (at first it was riding BART was freaking me out) and a variety of other facotrs can contrubute to it. I would just google some info. on it and read about it...I highly doubt that your ''premonitions'' are really that...it's more of an anxiety and it is common...If by chance you do have kaiser I highly recommend their clas sthat is done in Oakland it was very informative and very very helpfula nd I could understand why I felt this way and learned techniques that I could use to fight them. Good luck p.s. you are not crazy know how you feel
I have had times in the past where I felt strongly that something bad was going to happen to my son. I think that part of me feels a bit guilty when I do something frivolous for myself, and this can trigger this response. Sometimes I have to try to differentiate a true premonition vs. codependent behaviour, look at what is healthy mothering and nurturing, and what is fear based control. Fear is such a powerful thing. I try my best not to let it consume me and allow my son to live his life fully, have his own experiences and know that he has his own higher power watching over him. I also have recently reminded myself that I needed to continue to do the things that I love to recharge my own soul and spirit so that I can be a better mother.

Anyhow, I wanted to share this with you as sometimes I have huge fears about something happening to my son. I am not sure if other mothers experience this type of thing, but I do on occasion and do my best not to let them consume me and shelter my son based on what ''might'' happen. Oakland Mom


This does not mean you are crazy, so don't worry there. My husband had similar worries the whole time our girls were growing up. He had, sadly, experienced the sudden, unexpected loss of someone young and close to him. This turned upside down his ability to assume that the world was a predictable place that wouldn't rip away the ones he loved. This tragedy happened several years before our daughters were born. It was another 20 years before he made the connection. Now it would be called a post-traumatic reaction. Of course, I don't know why you are so frightened- did you experience something, hear something, or were you raised by someone who worried? It sounds as if you handle it, and if you aren't passing on your fears, they harm no one but you. But you deserve to worry less if you can. Worries don't prevent harm, and few children come to harm. Our ''worried over'' daughters fell on their heads a time or two, broke an occasional bone, and still grew up to be healthy, happy campers. Relaxed Grandma
I think cognitive behavioral therapy might help you. Anon
At some level, I think what you are going through is normal. I have certainly felt that way. In no way do I think you have some sort of actual premonition. But if it is as disruptive and truly disabling as it seems, you may want to see a psychiastrist about some kind of anxiety disorder. Jeny
You are having what are called ''invasive thoughts'', and they are not unusual for moms, especially new moms. Here are some specific strategies that will help you deal with them: First of all, stop calling them ''premonitions''. That word alone is flavoring the way you are coping with them. It suggests that you are envisioning real things that have not yet come to pass. Call them ''invasive thoughts'', because that's what they are - They are invading your peace. Second, you need to create a series of thoughts in your mind that override the invasive thoughts. For example, the second you have a vision of something violent happening to your son, right away start thinking about that dream house you would design if you won the lottery. Practice the good visions (whatever they are) during a time you are not having invasive thinking. It will be easier to slip into the good thoughts when the bad ones hit you. Just try not to think about those bad thoughts. Also, try not to ''discuss'' those thoughts to the point where the thought exists outside of you head. That only makes them seem more real. I hope you are not too worried that there is something very wrong with your head and that you need ''help'', as some might suggest. You are totally normal. anon
Dear catastrophic thinking mom, I look forward to what others write about this subject, because I have catastrophic like thinking too and I am not even a mom yet, soon, but not yet. I do not have advice, but I feel your fear and anxiety. For me, I realized it was the fear, of ''thinking'' something bad was going to happen, then it went into ''anxiety,'' that it could happen, then it would spiral back into fear, so my husband calls me the ''catastrophic thinker''. The best thing for me is to recognize and say out loud, ''oh, there you go again, thinking the worst.'' Usually I am able to snap out of it, but the important thing for me, is that I call myself on it, and name it as ''fear'' or ''anxiety'' recognizing that what I am thinking is unnecessary and unwarranted. Good luck! thinking what if...
I am SO glad you posted this! The exact same thing has been happening to me for the past three years (when my first child was born) and got worse a year and a half ago when my second child was born. Even when my husband leaves the house for a short errand, I think ''What if he gets into an accident and this is the last time I see him?''

I think part of is that, as parents, we DO need to be more vigilant. We need to watch our children and make sure they don't get into accidents, so we develop a habit of thinking a few moments into the future at all times(''what will happen if I let her climb on that chair?'' or even ''what will happen if I tell her that she can't have ice cream for dessert?''). On top of that, everything we read as parents is about danger to our children: product recalls (and stories about how many kids were harmed or killed by the products), diseases, accidents, etc. It seems like every time I read a story pertaining to children, it is about how a child is being harmed in some way (otherwise it wouldn't be news, would it?). So I think it's perfectly NORMAL that we end up developing these fears!

Basically, I think the problem is that I am living too much in the future. Yes, it is only a few moments in the future, but it means that I am not being present with my family right now - I am in some future scenario that may or may not ever happen, but that is definitely not helpful in any way. So my solution is to be fully present, to live mindfully, i.e. feeling the ground under my feet, hearing the background noises that I usually tune out, and being vividly present with my kids as they are right now. Go to this websites for simple lessons on how to do this: http://www.mindfulnessclasses.com/

The other thing is, there is a part of me that thinks ''If I don't imagine this disastrous possible future scenario, then how will I ever prevent it?'' That may be the core issue here: as responsible parents we feel we must prevent all possible bad things from happening to our children. But we can't foresee every disaster. And by distracting ourselves with these scenarios, we are taking away from the pleasure of being present with our children right now. I spent most of my twenties worried about my parents dying (they are 40 years older than me). Well, they are still alive, and I still remember that horrible feeling of fear and dread that pervaded my life back then. So I am determined to beat this current feeling of fear and dread and stay focused on the present! C.L.


I thought I was crazy too until I started talking to other parents- most of my friends with kids said they had to train themselves to willingly ''not go there''. Still, I do the exact same thing- in fact I am always pleasantly suprised that when my husband takes my son somewhere, they actually come back safe. At night, the house is bolted up tight because I am sure someone will take my son and have imagined all the horrendous scenarios. I think about these bad things many times a day but less so now that I out of the house and working more. I went to a therapist who told me to try biofeedback. perhaps you could try that. For now, I try to stop my imagination from running wild all the time. If you tried that and found it doesn't work for you than I would consult someone- just for the peace of mind. -A mom who ''goes there'' a lot, too!
Hi, I don't have any advice really, but I do share the same sort of worries and visions of something terrible happening to my kids. I have been reluctant to share this with anyone and like you have figured it's hormones/stress/lack of sleep. I also think it has a lot to do with the media and all the negativity and fear raising we are exposed to constantly, without hearing much of the good that occurs daily. I don't know if you are spiritual in any way, but for myself whenever I find myself getting worked up..which is often, especially in regards to someone kidnapping or trying to molest my kids, I really try to let it go and pray for our protection and move on. But honestly sometimes it's hard to do that and the worries will consume me..feel free to email..if we can somehow support each other I'd be willing to.
I think this is normal, to a degree. It's likely some left over evolutionary hard-wiring from when we really did need to act like mama bears in order for our young ones to survive. I do this too, and so does my husband, actually. It doesn't interfere with our lives at all, it just makes us more cautious parents. We check on our baby a lot when she's sleeping (we co-sleep, but she naps and goes to bed earlier than we do). If these thoughts are worrying you or if you feel like they're taking over your life and negatively affecting your parenting, you might want to talk to someone about it. I think sometimes we work things out in our thought patterns, especially things we fear. Constant worries are another issue, though. You want to make sure you aren't verging on OCD, which is much more common than people realize. meg
I totally have the same thing -- it's no premonition, it's anxiety disorder.

That ''flash of dread,'' as you put it, like a mini-panic attack -- I know it well, and it's terrible. It feels so *real* and it's hard to believe that it doesn't mean a thing. But it isn't real, it isn't your intuition, and it doesn't signify any harm that might befall your loved one. It's just your brain and body misfiring -- just because your brain and body tell you something, doesn't mean it's true!

I know you didn't want a medical diagnosis, but the good news is that anxiety and phobia is the *easiest* mental illness to treat. I saw Mark Balabanis at the San Francisco - Bay Area Center for Cognitive Therapy (http://www.sfbacct.com/; also see the archives). I was feeling a lot better after two sessions, and much, much better after four. You can quickly learn practical strategies to deal with it. anon


I'm glad you got so many responses to your question and I hope you will find them to be helpful. I also had very similar feelings and thoughts for about a year after my child was born, and I agree with the other posters that it was related to anxiety. However, my anxiety was a side effect of hormonal birth control I was using. Apparently this is a common side effect and I was very upset that my doctor never made the connection despite my complaints about anxiety. I discovered the connection myself through my own research, immediately stopped taking the pill and the thoughts went away in a few days. It was quite miraculous. I hope you find a soution that works for you too. anon
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