When a car accident happens in Virginia, how can the fact that you know about it make any difference? If you knew the victims chances are you’ll be told all about the accident by the police, the victims’ family and friends, or by the victims themselves. Otherwise, such stories are really just gossip. Ditto for most other news stories, actually. The best way to take in news without being caught up in the news agencies’ attempts at fear-mongering? Ask yourself how the story affects you personally, and how your knowing about it impacts the story.
Is Ebola a threat to you personally? Do you know someone who has been diagnosed with Ebola, with whom you have been in direct contact while they were showing symptoms? If not, and if none of your household has been in direct physical contact with the body fluids of someone not just infected but actually showing symptoms of Ebola, just be sure not to skimp on handwashing, showers, safe meat prep standards, etc. Ebola has been around for decades, and chances are it has reaced the US before, but active outbreaks are rare, and chances are good that even if you take no extra precautions, you’ll never meet anyone with Ebola, let alone experience this disease yourself. And, if the disease does reach and kill you, do you want to have spent your last months crippled with fear? You could be hit by a drunk driver, or choke on a piece of meat, or die by any number of other more likely methods long before Ebola will likely reach you, and this is going to be true no matter how much fear you accept to control your life.
Are you afraid your kids will be kidnapped because you saw a story on the news about a kid who was kidnapped? Did you know most kids are kidnapped by people they know? Keeping your kids from playing outside without supervison because they might be nabbed by strangers is like refusing to step outside when there are clouds in the sky because you might be struck by a freak lightning bolt. Both are fears of things that really happen, but both are silly and keep you and your family from living productively. If there are people in your family who might take your children, those are the real threats to your kids- the estranged parent, angry grandparents, jealous nanny, or whoever. Rather than hypermanaging your kids’ lives, focus on paying attention to them and taking them seriously so that if something is bothering them they might feel comfortable talking to you about it. Rather than preventing kids from playing on ‘unsafe’ play equipment, be sure your kids get ample active play time from the start so that their bodies can learn the coordination and skills that make ‘bigger kid’ equipment safer. Teach your kids some basic first aid and give them the tools and knowledge to protect themselves, and they won’t need parents hovering over them. Enroll them in Boy Scouts, Pathfinders, Campfire Boys & Girls, or some other organization that can teach them the skills they need to be healthy independent people. And above all else, talk to your kids, and listen to them. Treat them as if their ideas, interests and concerns matter, and give them the assurance that they are capable of more than they know, rather than teaching them to fear and avoid the unknown and the risky.
And while we’re at it, do the same for yourself. Tell yourself that you are capable of more than you now know. Treat yourself as if your ideas, interests, and concerns matter, and give yourself the tools, skills and information you need to make informed decisions and take care of your self. Listen to yourself when you want something or need something, and if it is something that makes sense for you, go for it- life is short, and we cheat ourselves out of so much of it when we ignore these impulses. But, make sure not to screw yourself over- get the skills and knowledge you need, and seek out whatever information you can get that will make whatever you are trying more successful. If you are afraid of something, the same principle applies- seek out information, from reliable sources and as many different sources as you can, so that you can make an informed decision about whatever threat you fear. There are things that threaten us, always, but fear just cripples us if we use it as anything more than a beacon to draw our attention to threats we need to learn more about.