Someone sent me a link to a very nice video the other day, where mothers are holding up signs that give a statement they would tell themselves before they actually had children. There were things like "Sleep Now" and "You are the expert" and a couple of my favourites were "This too shall pass" and "Nobody really knows what they are doing." And then there was this one..."Google doesn't have children." It made me think.
A couple of weeks ago I typed this sentence into the Google search bar. "Why is my 9 year old son so angry?" What came up was not of list of so-called experts with lists of possible disorders that require my immediate attention and hospitalization. (I was half expecting that, actually.) Instead, I found sites and forums and blogs with parents asking the same question, and other parents offering encouragement and support, with story after story of children in this age group having similar "growing pains." I breathed a sigh of relief.
Now, the statement "Google doesn't have children." is absolutely correct. But what Google (and the internet in general) does have is parents. Parents who have experience. Parents who have ideas. Parents who have been there. And, although I am not suggesting we throw away all common sense and believe every bit of child rearing information we find online, I do think that sometimes all a worried parent needs is to know their child is okay. That what they are going through is in the normal range, and that there are things the parent can do to help. To know they are not the only one.
What the internet gives you is not just the parents you know, who can be a great source, but limited to their own experiences, which may be very different from yours. Google gives you access to the whole world of parents, as well as doctors and nurses and "experts." One giant community of parenting support.
Of course, the flip side of that is that you can find online a disorder for just about any set of descriptors. Runny nose, itchy hands, slight limp. Polio! (I totally made that up so please don't take your child to the doctor based on it.) Just like any source of information, you need to use your own judgment when deciding what to act on, and always look for multiple sources. Even doctors sometimes need a second, and third opinion.
I use the internet as my immediate source of information. (You don't type the above sentence into a search bar unless you are at the end of your rope.) Usually, what I see and read calms me down, assures me that things are as they should be and I just need to deal. I will, in this case, still watch for signs of bigger issues, use all my faculties to teach coping mechanisms, and wait for the day when I will type into Google "Why is my 10 year old son so quiet?" I know the Google Parents will have some suggestions.
(Note: I re-posted this from my previous blog, Small Wonder.)