FOMO and Coping skills for Children

There’s an epidemic raging in the community, and it isn’t a variant of Corona.

It’s FOMO – otherwise known as the Feeling of Missing Out.

What is FOMO – the Fear of Missing Out

FOMO is the feeling that you are missing out on something fundamentally important that others are experiencing right now. It can be anything from a party on a Friday night to a promotion at work, a new purchase, possession or relationship, but it always involves a sense of helplessness that you are missing out on something big.

First coined in 1996, by Dan Herman, a Marketing strategist, the term refers to that uncomfortable but normal emotion that creates negative feelings. Interestingly, studies reveal the information source, (friend, social media etc) isn’t as relevant, in triggering a negative emotional response, as the actual content of the information.

We can all experience FOMO and in some cases, it isn’t a bad thing.

Our brains are geared to sensing that not having vital information, that not being a part of the “in” group, is a threat to our survival. Thus, FOMO may trigger a stress response or “fight or flight” protective response. Fear of missing out was found to be associated with a lower sense of having one’s needs met as well as a lower feeling of life satisfaction in general.

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Evolutionary Reasons for FOMO

Before modern times, [that sense of] belonging used to be essential to a person’s safety and physiological needs. If a person didn’t have a tribe or a hunting group, they might not get food or be protected from predators. Nowadays, if a person feels isolated, they may find themselves at higher risk of anxiety, depression, and even obesity or stroke. ~

The survival of humans has always hinged on communication. It’s been helpful for us to be in the know and being included has made survival easier. Today, information on both threats and resources is received by way of television, newspapers, the internet, and social media platforms. We are very well informed.

But being in the know can be a double-edged sword.

Social media has made FOMO – an inbuilt mechanism to aid our continued survival, more pervasive, obvious and pathological as it intensifies the comparisons of regular life to the highlights of others’.

Social media and constant comparisons to others skew our sense of “normal” and we may judge ourselves negatively, or perceive that we are doing worse than our peers. Detailed photos of your friends enjoying fun times without you, is something that people were not so readily aware of in the past. But it isn’t new in a physiological sense. It’s FOMO.

Self-soothing Strategies and Parenting Styles

In the Western World, children lead, for the most part, privileged lives, (historically speaking). Lives where parents seek to give their offspring everything they didn’t have or get to experience themselves.

Parents naturally want to smooth the way for their kids, so they’ll grow up happy, and comfortable, with their needs met. Who would not want to bring a smile to a child and make them feel comfortable and loved? Children are usually very much wanted.

But is this desire to meet their wants and needs, killing them with kindness?

Danish citizens call it “curling parents.” (Smoothing the way forward like the broom in the sport of curling). When these kids become adults, they may have to face a difficult chink in the ice, on their own, without the parent smoothing out any snags. Some rise to the challenge and others might stumble and fail.

I was recently heard about a family who were about to close a sale on an affordable second-hand minivan for use on family holidays. When their five-year-old complained that the minivan smelt bad and refused to set foot in it, the parents passed up the sale and instead, bought a different style of caravan, a new one. I do hope the five-year-old’s olfactory senses were not the overriding consideration. I can’t help thinking: What message was this decision sending to the five-year-old?

My son was around 8 years old when he developed an intense interest in Pokémon. All the boys were into it. Around that time, his school friend went on a trip to the United States with his family and the family visited Disneyland. Naturally, the friend returned to school spruiking wondrous tales of the Pokémon exhibit.

Soon after, my son would beg us to take him to see the Pokémon exhibit in Disneyland. A family trip to America was not within our means as we lived in Australia, nor was it on our list of priorities. I certainly wasn’t going to plan an expensive overseas trip, based on a child’s whim. Instead, I explained how expensive it was to travel to the United States, how each family was different and had different priorities, and how it was okay and lucky for the other family that they got to visit Disneyland but it was not right for our family at that time.

And then I mentioned how some other toy/hobby/fascination would most likely take his interest in time, and his response I have to say, was mildly shocking:

“But Mum, that’s why we have to go to Disneyland NOW!”

His amygdala was certainly interpreting this FOMO as a threat to his survival!

Yet, clearly, it wasn’t.

We didn’t visit Disneyland and in time, the Pokémon fad disappeared and my son’s interests changed. However, I wonder if well-meaning parents who wish to indulge a child inadvertently miss promoting patience, perseverance or self-control when their child experiences some degree of FOMO?

How many kids of today learn to sit out their dreams waiting, hoping or saving their pocket money for years for a special toy or the latest video game? Or just til the next Christmas/birthday/parental payday rolls around?

Because we all want them to be happy, fulfilled and blessed? Right?

Crucial ‘teachable,’ moments in a child’s life are opportunities for carers and parents to nurture or promote emotional self-soothing strategies. Strategies that may help them cope with strongly felt emotions – i.e. how to live with disappointment and sadness, envy, or how to persevere despite setbacks, how to cope with delayed gratification, to show restraint or self-control.

Giving children what they want isn’t necessarily going to give them any more than temporary satisfaction. Giving them what they need might be preferable, in the long term and afford them an opportunity to develop some self-soothing strategies in the face of discomfort AND some coping strategies in the face of perceived threats of FOMO.

Especially if the item they want is something insignificant, such as Pokémon.

We can’t yet fully grasp how new technologies affect our psyches. Therefore, it is up to us as users to figure out where, when, and how often to use these products and services.”

How to Deal with FOMO

  • Relish feeling out of the loop. Accept that things are indeed happening in society and sometimes you’re not invited. Embrace the fact. Blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash wrote about the “Joy of Missing Out,” in which he learned to find pleasure in JOMO after the birth of his son when he discovered the simple joy of getting home in time to give his son a bath and put him to bed.

  • Use software apps to help you get started: Apps such as Forest for iOS, Space for Android, RescueTime for Windows, or SelfControl for Mac generate reports to help users see just how much time they spend online and set time limits. For those who need more: Internet-blocking software Freedom or browser extensions such as Website Blocker or WasteNoTime block sites that cause unwanted distractions.

Despite our ancient tendency to feel the negative emotion of FOMO, the feelings can be reversed or mitigated and there is even evidence to suggest FOMO reduces with age.

There is hope if you can resist!

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31 thoughts on “FOMO and Coping skills for Children”

  1. I think you’re completely right that over-indulging children, while it may make them happy in the short term, sets unrealistic expectations for the future. There will inevitably be times when they can’t have what they want and it’s not helpful if they haven’t learned to deal with that emotionally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad to hear that you reinforce my thoughts, Sarah. To me, that is just logical. I suppose many parents tend to live in the short term in their heads and if they have that paradigm, all seems well, until the child grows up and the poo hits the fan…


    1. Maybe the fact that parents have arguably more disposable income than in previous generations and a higher standard of living/expectations of what is provided for a child as he grows, make a difference to the way parents deal with it. Would depression era parents have indulged their kids in the same manner if money wasn’t short?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this with a lot of interest but equally with a lot of my mind going, “seriously???”. I am, it would seem, not, and never have been, a FOMO sufferer…I must have a bit of something missing in that respect, hence my reaction reading this interesting piece. Regarding indulging children and giving instant gratification, I was often amazed when bringing up my three at the level of pandering and what we used to call spoiling, by other parents. I remember reading once, years ago (I don’t remember where, probably a song lyric): “a dream come true, no matter how good, is still the end of a dream”.


    1. You sound like you have very balanced and calm amgydalas, Phil and Michaela! And I think that is evidenced by your travels throughout the world despite the pandemic when many other would-be travellers elect to play it safe and stay home. Please note I am not saying you sound like a high risk taker, but rather, it indicates a very calm demeanour that doesn’t panic. I wish my own family was more like that! It would have made things a lot easier! Each community is different, but it seems to me that FOMO may be a driver of behaviour that triggers negative emotional responses, particularly in younger people and bolstered by social media. And I wanted to explore the reasons for this.
      Spoiling is something I heard a lot about growing up. Children in the sixties and early seventies and earlier, were definitely NOT to be spoiled according to many families I knew! Spare the rod and spoil the child was a saying I remember hearing.
      Some time later in Australia perhaps from the eighties onwards, there was a definite shift away from the concept of spoiling and punishment, (smacking) for bad behaviour in children. I don’t approve of physical punishment of children but I do note the community pendulum has definitely swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. I rarely hear much about spoiling children now but I do hear a lot of winging about missing out, very little tolerance of delayed gratification and about FOMO.
      It is probable many parents don’t ever gets the balance between the extremes of indulging (spoiling) and neglecting perfectly right, but I think good doses of real and natural consequences can be helpful in modifying behaviour and preparing children for what happens out there in the community.
      Thanks for mentioning the saying or song lyric about the end of the dream. It is one I haven’t heard before and does make me think that it is encouraging a child/person to enjoy the journey, not the destination! Keep that motivation alive!
      Great comment, guys! Thank you! I love comments that prompt discussion and thinking more deeply about our perspectives and paradigms.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well thank you – that’s very complimentary and we are flattered! For clarity, this is Phil, though the views could just as easily be Michaela as we share philosophies. I do the words on our posts, Michaela does everything else – photographs, the IT bit, laying out the pages etc. Because I have it so easy I also do the communications with other bloggers – answering comments and making comments on others.
        You’re right about negative responses, we are both blessed with a positive outlook – not carefree (which indicates vacuous!) but I think we’re both capable of keeping negatives in perspective and not letting them get out of proportion. We know we are lucky to be that way and not have to work at it.
        And on the “spoiling” subject, I think it’s a great shame. Explaining the need to work for things, the relationship between effort and reward, is teaching an essential life skill. There are few things in life more fulfilling than achieving a long term aim. Having dreams and ambitions is a positive influence, not negative, surely.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. “keeping negatives in perspective and not letting them get out of proportion.” A great skill and attitude and also to have the similar viewpoint as your partner is lucky, Phil. You mentioned the relationship between effort and reward, and how it is something that most of us worked out by osmosis. It is weird that we have to deliberately “teach” and spell out about how life is more fulfilling if there are challenges to be overcome, for modern kids. I wonder if we aren’t saving them from early difficulties so much that they don’t realize that for themselves?

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thanks Donna. I am no expert, just a bit of a sticky beak and curious about the drivers of behaviour!
      Do you notice an increase in FOMO amongst any particular group?


  3. Interesting post Amanda. I’d never heard of FOMO or JOMO but can easily see how television and social media promote it. While everyone appreciates the connectedness that technology promotes, its very isolating too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess there is always a yin-yang, Sandy. There is upside and downsides to everything. Technology has developed so fast and human behavior adapts much more slowly. Perhaps FOMO is not a term used in Canada? A friend who is around my age had not heard of it either!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Aha! Lawnmower parents, Jane. I can see where that might allude to what it is going on. Love it. And definitely more relatable for the southern hemispheric countries than curling! Lol.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, Ineke. Good poitn about parents giving in to kids because they are tired, stressed out, can’t cope and just want happy, occupied kids so that they can relax. That is a really important point that needs to sit alongside a discussion of delayed gratification. A short term fix for bad behaviour, due to the parents’ economic obligations and perhaps limited support. I can definitely remember giving in on occasions when I was so tired, but it was more likely a ball or a $5 lego toy and not a trip to Disneyland!


  4. I’ll have to remember that term. Yes, children in todays western society are extremely privileged, and sadly, miss out on very little. Your post made me think of my own grandchildren who live a very much over-privileged life. They are lovely boys, full of well meaning thoughts and talks for the issues the world faces today. We shake our heads in despair at how much they talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, with no real life experience. However, I suspect the western world is coming to the end of having the means to indulge it’s children’s FOMO behaviours soon. My grandchildren are grown in age, but they’ve never had to wait for any possessions in their lives – well not longer than the next birthday or Christmas. They’ve never had to grow up, 15 year olds in 25 year olds bodies. Definitely over-indulged from parents who succumbed to their childrens FOMO. They are far from being alone.


    1. It is a bit sad for the kids isn’t it, Chris? Who knows in years to come, we may be judged harshly by future parents who think we damaged children by indulging them so much. Children can be so demanding and stressed out parents so tired it is easier to give in, but everyone pays the price in the long term. Again, I think this issue comes down to short term quick fixes as opposed to doing the hard yard for gains in the longer term.
      On the flip side, we are reminded to live every day as if it is our last and enjoy the present moment. Perhaps they are adhering to this adage. The longer term matters little.
      If I can be truthful, I think grandparents can indulge without too many consequences and it is the primary parents or carers that have to be the strong ones who adhere more to the rules. What do you think?


  5. I suffered from intense FOMO most of my life – primarily due to my shyness and insecurity. It extended into adulthood. I finally had to make myself realize I’m pretty much in control of my fate and certainly in how I deal with my daily existence. If I don’t catch onto the latest trend, then that’s just what happens. I’m too much of an individual to fit in with what others expect of me.


    1. Alejandro – I have not come across anyone else so certain of their own fate and life as you sound. What a great headspace you are in – going with the flow, being an individual and totally comfortable with that. I suspect it took those years of shyness and insecurity to instigate and work out what you wanted in life. So they were not wasted at all. Good on you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Amanda. Yes, it’s been a rough and painful ride sometimes. But my father encouraged me years ago to reflect on the better times of my life as I get older. As someone who had the tendency to hold grudges and constantly relive the past, that’s helped me cope with everything.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m decidedly a person who leans toward JOMO over FOMO. But I’m an adult who grew up always saving for something to be had later. Your observations of how kids today react to FOMO is interesting. I know I’d be hardwired differently if I was growing up now with social media showing me what I was missing.


    1. Somehow I am not surprised that you lean toward Jomo over Fomo, Ally. Always positive and bubbly but with the underlying introversion! A sign of a balanced and well-matured amygdala that manages threats well!
      It is curious to contemplate what kind of adults we might have been if we grew up in the era of social media. I doubt my social skills would be as good but I definitely would have travelled much more. Would I be spoilt? My Dad was too obsessive about saving dollars for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi – enjoyed this post and the book by Anil Dash, “Joy of Missing Out,” sounds so good.
    Also, there are many little tidbits layered here.
    Kind of ties in to our recent comment chat about the filters humans have – and posts like this keep raising awareness about them – in this case – the FOMO – although the example with the child smelling something funny in the van does have another angle – because if it was a family purchase it sounds empowering to consider how the child felt – and sometimes “raising a leader” means they get to weigh in on things – and again – that is if it was a family choice and he would be spending time back there – I guess it is a gray area – and yes, too often we have this over indulgence or cater too much to children who need boundaries and need to hear “no” (it truly is good for them) but sometimes I see such firmness and stunted growth from some actions – where children never have a voice – never have a say – etc –
    and I might have mentioned this before – but have you seen Lauren Greenfield’s “Generation Wealth”? It is so good and your post reminds me of some of her excellent points about certain culture changes today


  8. I agree that saying no to a child too often can result in stunted growth. It is as we often say a matter of treading the middle path but that mid area is different for each family and each child. I love your pov that the child can be seen as having a role in the family decision making. That indeed could be very empowering! What points did Greenfield make about the changes to culture?


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