For many of us, parenting is a role that dominates a large chunk of our thoughts and, consumes a major part of our working day, irrespective of whether we go out to work or stay at home. As a parent, I feel the topic is something that we can neither ignore nor escape from. My own experience in this issue has not only given me sleepless nights but has also made it imperative to learn to diffuse my own anxiety about the child without letting him get affected with it. There have been times when I’ve been able to do this effectively and days when I haven’t. Have you had a similar experience?
Of all the things that are probably the hardest to get away from, the element of unpredictability in life is surely the one that almost certainly knocks us down every time we think our life is working according to a plan. Murphy’s Law at work, you see!
As parents, many of us already juggle with the pressures of balancing work and home, household chores, finances, health issues, relationships alongside a host of related duties and responsibilities that leaves us exhausted, burnt out and depressed but more than anything else, our worries about our children seem to be nagging us constantly, through all of it, as we remain wary of rising crimes against children, their health issues, their school performances, their development milestones, online friendships, gadget addictions, bullying, their changing diets and their lack of exercise and well, the list can go on and on.
It does sound familiar, doesn’t it? In all this, it is hard for us not to feel constantly anxious and even more importantly, to ensure that we don’t pass this on to our children who have a lot on their plate already and are still learning to cope with their own problems. As a mom to a teen, I still find that I have days when I struggle to keep my stresses at bay and often forget that the child at the receiving end of my angst/temper is only 13 years old and still learning to devise his own coping mechanisms to resolve issues of his own. Do I wish to burden him further when he has worries of his own? No. But, truth be told, I do. Even if that is unintentional.
Because, inspite of the best of intentions behind our love for our children, we often forget that we are only human and instead of helping children to unburden their stresses, and feel relieved, we often end up responding with our own distress and anxiety. Children are often unable to articulate their thoughts and feeling that stem from such parental anxieties and this causes a host of problems that parents often struggle to resolve.
Parental anxiety not only paralyses both the parent and the child, but also stifles the child’s natural curiosity and development, creating more anxiety and thwarting their progress in the long run.
I know there are many ways of tackling this. Today, I’m sharing some of the tried and tested ways that work for me in diffusing this parental anxiety and although I have a long way to go on this journey, I feel acknowledging that there is a problem certainly helps. I keep my stressors at bay and my thoughts in check, something that is helping me get better as a parent. None of us are perfect but we can be the better versions of our selves than we were yesterday, can’t we? So, with that in mind here here are a few tips that usually work for me.
Avoid negative reactions
Parental anxiety can often result in parents reacting negatively to their children’s anxiety who may already be overwhelmed with the weight they are carrying on their tender shoulders. This results in a cycle in which the child and parent feed into each other’s fears, worries, and anxieties. A story, as we all know, that is not unusual in the current scenario where stress and anxiety are an inseparable part of our lives.
Do not be overprotective
At a time when incidences of crimes against children are on the rise, it is but natural for most parents to be anxious and a bit overprotective, as we tend to believe that it’s all for our child’s well-being. I have been the same and have realised over time how that can often hinder a child’s natural development in the long run and thwart their learning. And yet, we do it, time and again! This isn’t coming from me— there is research-backed evidence to indicate that parental influences have a very significant role to play in the child’s journey into adulthood. But, surprisingly, we often seem to overlook the fact and needlessly create more angst within us.
A common mistake we often make as parents — this stems from our tendency to get over-involved in a child’s life, and start controlling their environment too, by stressing safety and dependence over autonomy. Our anxiety passes on to them through our everyday conversations and despite being well-intentioned, our behaviours often work as responses that maintain and heighten this anxiety. We teach our children to avoid anxiety-provoking situations because we feel they are not capable of handling them—a step that leaves the child feeling that they lack in confidence and self-esteem, something they could potentially carry into their future lives as well. In the case of children who are already anxious, this often leads to a string of psychosomatic disorders like abdominal pain, headaches, chest pain, fatigue, back pain and difficulty breathing—something that most teachers are familiar with in the classroom setting.
So, as parents, the question to ask is—where do we begin?
Begin with Increased Awareness
As a rule, raising our own awareness as a parent, first and foremost, makes for a great start. We’ve all been there and we’ve all seen how rather than run to the therapists, the resolution of dealing with anxiety lies in how we as parents deal with these demons in the confines of the home first —our own anxieties and those of our children. Stress always exacerbates situations beyond measure and anxiety feeds onto this and worsens it. Increased awareness is the starting point from where we can begin to take all the necessary steps to avoid passing on our stresses and anxieties to our children—a small but significant step, that can lead to mutually enriching lives in the long run.
Of course, every parent knows instinctively what is best for their child but perhaps, every once in a while, it might be a good idea for all of us to pause and refocus our priorities so we know what we are doing is really important for the wellbeing of the child.
As a parent, I cannot emphasise more on how both partners need to be on the same page with regard to this. I know that is not easy but we can all make a beginning somewhere. After all, as the child grows, so do the parents—their learning continues even when the child has flown the nest. As parents, we can either make or mar the situation, depending on how we play it. We’d better play it well.
What are your thoughts on this? Would you like to share some tips for parents? As a parent, how do you deal with your own anxiety vis-a-vis that of your child? Do share in the comments below.
Linking to #mondaymusings hosted by Corinne
and #mg hosted by Mackenzie Glanville