This post was originally published in Techealthiest.
Your child seems like he or she is coming down with something, but it's like nothing you've seen before. You have no idea what to call the problem, how to deal with it and how nervous you should be.
As your panic swells, you start googling for answers.
Your search yields two million websites containing conflicting information.
Most sites say call a doctor, but one trusted site says, "Ehh, not a big deal." Another online authority states, "Panic now!" Yet another site suggests that you should consider becoming famous by allowing your child to be studied by science with such a rare symptom profile.
The confusion builds. If you call a trusted friend or relative who represents a calming influence, you'll either believe that he or she is just trying to calm you down or you'll share information from a forum that contradicts what he or she is suggesting.
We've all been there. It sucks and it's super scary.
The internet is designed to numb your instincts unless you train yourself to look inward for the answers.
Your gut instinct is one of your strongest allies in the face of uncertainty.
After all, YOU are the biggest expert of YOU and YOUR child, and YOUR instincts can speak to YOU as fast as google spits out results. All you have to do is build the habit of searching inward.
Google doesn't really know you. It might know what you like to shop for or your general search tendencies, but it doesn't know your essence. Your instincts do.
Unlike your instincts, Google isn't wired to help you survive. And rarely will Google help you calm down.
In fact, your online search results will only spike your anxiety and confuse you.
As humans, we've been given the gift of instincts. Our mind and body speak to us when there's danger. They assess a threat deeper than the rapid recommendation to fight, flee or freeze. Our instincts can assess complicated situations and give a valuable and succinct opinion.
Google can't do this, but we usually trust Google more than we trust ourselves.
(Google needs to add a "filter all alarming results" button for the times when we know we need calming information.)
When you're presented with a problem that scares you and you hunger for information, I recommend the following steps:
The fatherhood instinct ranks a very, very, very distant second in almost all cases.
But don't underestimate the power of the paternal instinct, or the BFF instinct, or the pet owner instinct.
They're all so amazingly strong if you respect their power and listen. Trust your experience. Trust to your gut. And most of all, if you're doubting a mother's instincts, just know that you're going to pay for it.
Since not everyone's instincts are as strong as the maternal instinct (and some mothers haven't yet learned to trust their own gift,) all we can do is know what to look for when it comes to listening to our gut.
The gut doesn't provide a detailed explanation. It doesn't use commas or semicolons in its assessment. It's opinion is quick and unpolished.
I wish I had listened to my own advice when our daughter was nine months old.
I'll never forget the evening I chose to use only one of two straps to secure her in her automatic swing.
As I looked over at her to make sure she wasn't trying to get out of the swing (a habit she was starting to develop), sure enough she was leaning a bit farther than usual and she fell out, banging her head on the floor.
To make matters worse, one of her legs was still strapped in as she swung upside down, sweeping the floor with her head like a human pendulum. She let out a scream that I still hear in my mind to this day.
I thought it was all over in that moment. My guilt was almost as strong as my anxiety, and when she continued to cry in her mother's arms, my guilt spiked through the roof.
I jumped onto Google to search for the signs of a concussion in an infant. Frantically, I read and cross-referenced symptoms on 10 different sites.
My wife stayed calm, enveloped our daughter in hugs and kisses, and breastfed her (the miracle cure for most problems, so I've learned.) She called the emergency phone number for our pediatrician. I continued to google like a madman.
"She's fine!", my wife reassured me. I wouldn't accept that for an answer. I paced around the room, with the type of guilt that makes you feel like life is pointless if you make this kind of mistake.
Then the words came...."Greg, I can tell. She's fine. I know her. I'm her mother. We'll ask the doctor, but I'm telling you she's ok."
Wow, those were calming words. My guilt dropped a solid 30 percent. Thankfully, my daughter was fine and just had a nasty bump on her head.
Since that horrible night, I have respected my wife's maternal instincts like it's the word of God.
We locate the answers outside of ourselves.
Search engines make this all too easy. When there's a problem and you begin to panic, remember the steps I listed above. Force yourself to close your eyes for a few seconds and look inward for a quick and priceless opinion.
If you have to google the problem, just know that you can practically find any symptom for any problem, so you'll find whatever you fear and whatever you wish to be true.
Of course, there's a wealth of information on the internet that saves many people, but at least give your instincts more weight than your Google search results when you're coming to conclusions about the issue at hand.
A combination of search results and instincts can work in many situations.
Please share your thoughts and stories below. I'd love to hear from parents who have an opinion on this hugely important topic.
Dr. Greg Kushnick, the Founder of Techealthiest, strives to offer readers the most actionable tips on the web for living powerfully. He is on a mission to teach the world the technology of health and happiness.
You'll also find amazing tips for living a healthy lifestyle with your personal technology.
Dr. Greg is also a clinical psychologist with a private practice in Manhattan.