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5 tips to combat “FOMO”

Does your child stare at their smartphone and keep scrolling indefinitely? He doesn't really seem to take pleasure in it. In fact, his face almost expresses discontent. You're trying to get into dialogue with him, but he's not able to take his eyes off the screen. Do you know the reason for such behaviour? Your child may suffer from the fear of missing something (called FOMO syndrome in English for Fear of Missing Out).

The Internet can help us in the areas of entertainment, education, communication, creativity and much more. But sometimes the emotions we feel online are far from pleasing: envy, anxiety, even self-pnect. The fear of missing something is an endless cycle: spending time on social media makes us panic by making us think we are missing life, but when we put our phones, we fear that the online world will evolve too fast so that we can catch it later. The unpleasant feelings evoked by the fear of missing something affect both adults and children, and are often evoking a lack of trust and even some form of frustration in our lives. Do you know how to combat this problem? Here are some advice for family advice.

1) Increase your child's confidence

When a child observes his or her friends online, he or she may feel excluded from the entertaining activities that his or her classmates engage in. Following certain influencers can also impact your child’s perception that they would need more money or material goods to be accomplished. These emotions can stem from the child’s general vision of himself and his or her life. How can we combat such a state of mind and this lack of esteem?

Help your child to develop his or her self-confidence, let him or her choose his or her interests and encourage them to join leisure groups. Children can then engage in face-to-face communication with their friends and overcome the fear of being sidelined.

Encouraging younger generations to focus on the process rather than results can also help them boost their self-esteem. For example, they may love art, but they may not like the results of their artistic creations: reassure them and try to explain to them that what matters most is the activity itself. This can help them enjoy the process and value the little moments of joy that are often not visible in social media feeds.

2) Re-enhability to their vision of “normality”

When we only see the “best” of other people’s lives online, our perception of normality can change. Our daily existence may seem boring and dull to us. Even as adults, we often have to remember that moments captured online are just picked pieces of a more nuanced, much more complex reality, in which everything is not perfect or even glamorous, and punctuated by sometimes more difficult or ordinary episodes.

For children who spend a lot of time online, this concept can be even more difficult to comprehend. How can we remind our children and ourselves of the ambivalent nature of social media? Here's an experience that could help you:

With your children, use your phones to document your life for a given period (this can be a day, a week or even a month). After that, get together and discuss the pictures you took. Why did you take them? Were you really happy in those moments? Compare your seemingly happy pictures with reality and discuss what happened behind the scenes.

Do the photos really reflect the emotions you felt? Were there any memorable moments that you didn't photograph? The aim of the experiment is to remind children that while photos are an excellent way to remember certain elements of one’s life, they cannot capture reality as a whole.

3) Make social networking a positive space

Some people think that in order to combat fear of missing something, you have to leave social media, but such a radical decision is not necessarily necessary. Abandoning your online life can be unrealistic, even unreasonable. Instead, our children should focus on the aspect they can quite easily influence, namely the content they consume. The online world in which they enter via their networks depends largely on their own choices.

Therefore, if social networks make them unhappy, they should not just give up and accept their negative emotions: they can act. Ask your child if there is anything online that makes him uncomfortable. You can both browse your profiles and talk about how some of the people you follow affect you. This can help the child to understand his or her emotions. Many of them may feel a fear of missing something, but they are not aware of it because they do not know how to put words on their emotions.

When you share your own experiences, you show him that the problem can also affect adults, but also allow for dialogue. If you or your child are following someone who evokes unpleasant emotions, such as anger, sadness or feeling excluded, discuss the possibilities of eliminating these influences.

You can either stop tracking the accounts or muzzling them, in which case the person in question will not even be aware of your actions. Emphasize that, while some accounts may arouse negative feelings, it is always better not to follow these profiles than to write hate or negative comments on their posts.

4) Give yourself to activities without a telephone 

Phones are not our enemies, but from time to time putting them aside can help us exist in the present moment. Find an activity that your child likes, turn off your phones and just enjoy this moment together. Ideally, involve your child in the preparation and let him/her present some of his/her ideas on how to spend your time together. As psychologist Jarmila Tomkova explains: “Children who are the creators or co-creators of an activity are much more motivated and involved. Being a co-creator also contributes to their sense of competence and autonomy, which can increase their esteem and thus help prevent or eliminate the risk of triggering this fear of missing something.” You can go on a hike or sports, visit a museum or play board games. During the activity, discuss this experience. Does your child like this activity? If not, what can be done differently?

These moments are also perfect for increasing attention. Take stock with your senses: What do you see? What do you feel? Can you name five things you can touch right now? You can include a game in which each of you will try to guess what you touch while keeping your eyes closed. Talking about one's feelings and practicing mindfulness can help to actively experience offline reality. Finally, don't just focus on family activities.

You can also organise an event where your child can meet his or her friends and feel included. Some parents tend to bring their children home immediately after classes, which may limit the time they share with their peers, and strengthen their sense of isolation and loneliness. Community activities can directly help your child to prevent or overcome the fear of missing something.

5) Teach your child to take care of him

A child who looks at the seemingly perfect lifes on the line can easily forget about their own happiness. Working on gratitude can help them reconsider their perception of themselves and appreciate their reality a little bit more. How can you encourage your child to show gratitude? Every evening you can discuss the things you are grateful for that day, whether it is great achievements or simple realities (such as a nice walk with the dog or a sunny afternoon). You can also encourage your child to write a diary in which he or she notes the highlights of each day.

Older children can do this alone, while younger children will enjoy creating a newspaper with their parents or siblings. If your child decides to write his or her diary in the evening, this activity can be an excellent tool to avoid the use of smartphones just before going to bed. Children can also, on occasion, create a list of things that have made them feel negative emotions, whether it is sadness, fear, nervousness, etc.

Family activity: helping young children cope with their difficulties 

Gather with your children and prepare a few sheets of paper, a pen and a box or a basket. In a circle, each person takes a sheet of paper and writes what is problematic at the moment. After that, participants can either put their sheets silently in the box, or share their difficulties openly. Others should listen to and support the person who speaks, or even propose possible solutions if they are asked. Parents should also be involved, sharing some simple problems in their lives. This activity helps families create a safe cocoon, learn to listen and recognise that everyone can have difficulties, but also that others are there to help them when needed.

When listing negative emotions, parents can help their children in this activity so that they do not feel that the burden is entirely their responsibility. Ideally, children should also include the steps that followed their negative feelings, note how they behaved in response to the situation, and what helped them overcome those unpleasant moments.  

After a while, you can browse the list together and see if there are any repetitive patterns. If the triggers are repeated, you can try to avoid them in the future, and if the coping mechanisms are repeated (and are in no way unhealthy or harmful), the newspaper can help your children overcome various psychological problems in the future, including the fear of missing something.



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