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Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It


Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It

I've already decided that, when my blond-haired, blue-eyed, most adorable five-year-old in the world hits 12 or so, she's going into a Carmelite nunnery. I mentioned this to a friend of mine a few days ago, who pshawed, "Oh, but you'll miss her!" to which I said, "Yeah, but I'll be able to talk to her through a screen!" There are days when I really mean this, but only on those days that end in 'y'.

I never really thought I was the only parent who felt this way, and now that I've read WORRIED ALL THE TIME, I know I'm not. In fact, if David Anderegg's reports are to be believed, I'm probably at the low end of the anxiety scale. Anderegg reports that one dad was concerned about his son's self-esteem because the lad told a joke at school and nobody laughed. Dad actually went to the teacher to see how this could be remedied. My advice would have been to encourage sonny boy to find better material, or a better audience, and faghettaboutit. And that basically is what Anderegg's advice was, in addition to gently telling the parent to butt out.

Anderegg has some interesting ideas and raises some interesting points. He looks at over-scheduling activities (what I call "Camp Runamuck"), daycare centers, school shootings, the influence of the media, and the potential for drug and alcohol use among children. His basic message can be condensed to "Lighten up, Mom and Dad." While WORRIED ALL THE TIME isn't a "Don't Worry, Be Happy" book, Anderegg's conclusion is that things aren't quite as bad as they seem to be.

Anderegg is a soothing voice of reason, and I have recommended this book to a couple of sets of parents already, just because of the issues it raises. Anderegg isn't totally convincing, but he does an excellent job of discerning issues of concern and discussing them. He has a balanced take on daycare centers, raising some interesting points pro and con, and makes some obvious but overlooked comments about au pairs. Anderegg's evaluation of the media reveals that he does not know much about how popular entertainment finds its way to the market, but his conclusion as to how much --- or how little --- movies, television and music affect children seems, in the end, on the mark. Similarly, he avoids the hysteria that surrounded the wave of school shootings a couple of years ago, demonstrating fairly conclusively that the safest place for most children continues to be in school. Anderegg even gets into the biological whys and wherefores about why we are more worried and why the world seems to be a more dangerous place for children than it used to be.

Statistics and the like do not help when your child is one of them, obviously, and possibly this point of understanding isn't stressed enough in WORRIED ALL THE TIME. There is also not much that WORRIED ALL THE TIME has to offer to parents of less than modest economic means, who are raising their children in dire situations. There may ultimately be no answers that fit every situation. However, WORRIED ALL THE TIME at least makes the attempt to identify those areas that may be of concern, and those that may be a source of unnecessary aggravation.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 5, 2003

Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It
by David Anderegg, Ph.D.

  • Publication Date: May 5, 2003
  • Genres: Psychiatry, Psychology
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • ISBN-10: 0743225686
  • ISBN-13: 9780743225687