Spoilt for choice: how to manage your daughter’s FOMO

With so many choices, how can you help your daughter make the right ones for her?

By Diana Vernon


What shall I wear, what shall I eat? What electives shall I choose, what co-curricular activity should I do? What course do I want to study, what uni shall I apply to? What career should I pursue? Who should I hang out with this Saturday?

Choices at school, choices at home, choices in the holidays and choices for life!

Making good choices and indeed good decisions, is a complex process that can take years to master. What’s more, in our 21st century – an age of intense and inescapable exposure to advertising and media messaging about what we could or should be doing, watching, buying, enjoying, achieving etc – it can be challenging for us all to make choices that resonate personally, and that fulfil our own needs and desires, not the needs and desires of others.
This is particularly true for adolescents, who keenly feel the pressure to do as their peers are doing and are particularly susceptible to the social media phenomenon: FOMO (fear of missing out).

FOMO can be especially challenging for teenagers, who are still developing the maturity to think and act for themselves and who require continual encouragement to make and evaluate their own choices, while developing the confidence to do what they think is right for them instead of simply following the herd.

hub-AdobeStock_70854705_Preview_preview.jpegIn an era of rampant consumerism, it can also be challenging to teach children and teenagers about making good choices in the face of the incredible array of options we have before us in virtually every aspect of our lives – from what to watch (and on which device/platform!) to what to eat to which shoes to buy.

Such a plethora of choices can, in fact, have negative consequences. As one academic notes: “As the number of options increases, the costs, in time and effort, of gathering the information needed to make a good choice also increase. The level of certainty people have about their choice decreases. And the anticipation that they will regret their choice increases.”

So how can we help young people to make wise choices most of the time – choices they can be proud of and that they will not regret in future – understanding that no one can make the ‘right’ choice 100 per cent of the time and that making some poor or unwise choices is an important part of learning and growing up?

One way is by focusing on personal health and wellbeing. We make poor decisions when we are tired, for example. Helping your children maintain a healthy routine that includes adequate sleep and a balance between academic study, socialising, family time and physical activity is vital.

Likewise, we can help students cope better with decision-making by setting boundaries and resisting the temptation to hand responsibility for every decision over to them. Recognising that making decisions is exhausting (hence the prevalence today of ‘decision fatigue’), parents can support their daughters by continuing to play an active role in her choices – around what time she goes to bed, how much snack food she consumes, or how much time she spends on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat for instance.

Encourage your daughter too, to think about which of her choices really matter, given that some choices are trivial while others have long-term outcomes and even serious consequences.

As students move through their secondary education in particular, a sense that the ‘right’ choices must be made gathers momentum. Keeping lines of communication open, consulting with experts such as careers advisors and helping your daughter honestly evaluate her own goals, hopes and dreams is the best way to help her navigate the array of choices to be made as she moves towards the end of her school education.