What is parental anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal part of life, especially for parents. We get anxious about our finances, work, our kids, their health and a hundred other large and small things.
However, sometimes we get so busy being anxious and worrying about the minutiae of life that we forget our kids are watching us. Our children look to us for information about how to interpret ambiguous situations, and if they see us constantly fearful and anxious, they conclude that different scenarios are unsafe.
There’s even evidence suggesting that parents can unwittingly pass on their anxieties to their kids. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that parental anxiety can increase anxious behaviors in kids.
Seeing as anxiety can be transmitted, it’s up to you as a parent to do everything you can to avoid transferring your anxiety to your children. With teen anxiety on the rise, perhaps it’s time to turn the light on ourselves and find ways to mitigate the transmission of anxious behaviors.
Know your own parental anxiety triggers
- You can’t hope to help your kids if you don’t know yourself. In order to learn what your triggers are, you’ll have to jot down every time you feel an anxiety attack coming on. This includes taking note of the places, events, fears, and stressors that bring on anxiety.
- With time, you’ll see a pattern emerge, and you’ll be able to identify your trigger points.
Model effective coping skills
- As mentioned earlier, your kids take their cue from you. If you model healthy ways of dealing with stress and anxiety, your kids also learn that they can cope with their own stressors and triggers.
- The right coping skill deployed at the right time can go a long way towards calming your child. For instance, if your kid has test anxiety, teaching them deep breathing techniques can help them calm down before an exam.
- Other effective coping skills include taking daily walks together, journaling, yoga or progressive muscle relaxation.
Encourage kids to take healthy risks
- Many of us parents spend an inordinate amount of time trying to shield our children from harm. It’s instinctive. However, kids need to learn how to take reasonable risks as they find their way in the world, otherwise, they’ll never grow into independent adults.
- Giving them frequent unnecessary warnings or limiting their play only reinforces the idea that the world is a scary place and makes your kids doubt their abilities.
- Instead, encourage them to leave their comfort zones and try new things once in a while. That way, they’ll develop confidence in their ability to conquer whatever they come across instead of being anxious and fearful about it.
Know when to disengage
- Once you’ve learned your triggers, you can plan ahead and avoid some situations, so your kids don’t interpret them as being unsafe.
- For instance, if you suffer from separation anxiety when taking your kid to school, ask your spouse to take over sometimes.
- If seeing your kids rock climbing in the playground triggers your anxiety, bring along a friend so they can distract you.
- Crippling anxiety can keep you from living your best life, but you don’t have to give in.
With a few changes, you can get your anxiety under control and teach your kids that they too can overcome their fears to live full, rich lives.
Tyler enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative designs. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on:Twitter | LinkedIn
I am always thankful to have Tyler Jacobson write for my blog because he covers a topic that I am not yet familiar with: teenagers.
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