Parental anxiety is normal and nothing to be embarrassed about. Worrying about your child to an excessive degree can be crippling for you and the child. Parents who worry too much tend to want to control every possible outcome. An anxious parent might think that maybe if I don’t let the child mingle too much, they are less at risk of meeting a child predator. This type of thinking limits the child’s ability to explore the world around them. There’s also the possibility of the child taking on their parent’s fear as their own, especially when such a parent is continually verbalizing those fears within the child’s earshot.
There is an excellent saying in professional sport, only worry about the things you can control. Here we discuss about how to support your child in sport.
For the parent, for every minor thing that goes wrong, they end up feeling completely overwhelmed and clueless about parenting in general, even though that is not the case. The thing that went wrong might have had nothing to do with their parenting ability. As a parent, you need to remember that an unexpected outcome is not always an indicator of your parenting ability. You probably made a decision based on the information available to you at the time. That’s the best you could’ve done.
How to Know if You Have Parental Anxiety
A study conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Lice Clinics of America found that the average parent spends five hours and 18 minutes a day worrying about their kids. Does this mean that all those parents have parental anxiety? There’s a fine line between worrying about your child a bit too much and full-blown parental anxiety. Most parents find it a bit difficult to know where that line is. One way to make that distinction is to check if your worry controls you or if it’s the other way round. Below are a few signs that you might have parental anxiety:
- Viewing unlikely scenarios not as a mere possibility but as a probability. From time to time, a worrying parent might imagine scenarios where their child is faced with danger. The difference between such a parent and one with parental anxiety is that they may dismiss these scenarios because they think of them only as a possibility. But the one with parental anxiety views them as a probability and might go-ahead to take preventive measures.
- Your child’s problems have taken over your life. Every parent wants their child to be happy, but a small argument between your child and their best friend is probably just that. Being entirely consumed by little occurrences like these in your child’s life might be a sign of parental anxiety.
- Micromanaging every part of your child’s life as a result of extreme fear. Parenthood comes with the instinct to protect your child. That instinct is sharpened by the fear of possible scenarios and outcomes. That fear is normal and can be productive. It drives you to do your best to protect your child. But in its extreme form, it forces you to shield your child continually, micromanaging every part of their life in the hopes of protecting them from harm.
- Always researching questions on parenting. Seeking knowledge on parenting is good, but there’s a point it gets, and it becomes a sign of parental anxiety. For example, finding yourself staying up late researching one thing or the other, like whether your child could get cancer from their favorite drinks bottle. Or agonizing over what the child eats, wanting to know the nutritional content of everything.
Effects of Parental Anxiety on Children
According to research led by Marcy Burstein, a clinical psychologist and employee of the National Institute of Mental Health, parental modeling of anxiety and avoidance account for the observed association between parent and child anxiety. This is evidence that constant worrying about your child can pass to the child. Below are other effects parental anxiety can have on your child:
- Poor development of resilience. Parental anxiety prompts parents to be overprotective. This usually comes from a place of love, but it can affect your child’s resilience in the long run. Overprotection manifests in parents in different forms. One parent may develop the habit of following their child around to be always present to protect the child. Such a child would end up being averse to risk-taking, which is needed to help a child build resilience. Another parent might be more focused on shielding the child from experiencing negative emotions. This parent hides the child from the harsh realities of life like failing, competing, upsetting information like job loss, the death or unfortunate accident of a family member. In this way, a child who’s been sheltered may find it very difficult in adulthood as they are bound to experience all of these things in life. But they won’t be equipped to handle them.
- Taking the parent’s worry as their own. Parental anxiety can manifest through parents’ actions or speech. Parents who don’t directly tell their child of their constant concern might show it through their jumpy actions in certain situations. The child can take on their parent’s worry, even when it’s baseless, which can cause the child to avoid those situations so as not to get their parents worried. Remember that we are our child’s biggest role model.
- Poor development of independence. Every parent aims for that time when their child is no longer dependent on them. A child with an over-controlling parent would find it difficult to get to that point of independence. Such a parent constantly checks in when the child is away from them, takes over school responsibilities, unnecessarily chaperons, and controls the child’s social circle. This excess control limits the child in several ways. The big one is the freedom to make mistakes. There are lessons one learns only through life experiences. An over-controlling parent takes away that freedom. Here we have an article on steps to independence.
Tips to Ease your Parental Anxiety
A parent with parental anxiety can bring it under control with the help of some of the tips below.
- Understand what is within your control and what isn’t. Parental anxiety stems from the need to control outcomes and possibilities to steer the child from danger. Understanding and accepting the things you can and can’t control would help you know which battles to fight and which ones to let go of. It is within your control to teach your child how to deal with some of the dangers kids face, but it’s not within your control when or where some of these dangers surface.
- Turn some of that attention to yourself. That you have a child doesn’t automatically mean that the child must command all your attention. If you find yourself fussing over your child to the point of anxiety, check to see the areas of your life you’ve been neglecting and then turn some of your attention to it. This way, you would have less time to worry so much about your child.
- Differentiate your fears and facts. Because some of the fears that cause parental anxiety are usually baseless, interrogating yourself for the evidence of those fears can help you know what is true and what isn’t. Are you worrying that your child is eating less and that it might be a symptom of something more serious? First, sit down and determine how much he used to eat to know if he’s actually eating less in the present to warrant your worry.
- Bring your focus back to the present. Whenever you find yourself obsessing about all the things that could go wrong in the near or distant future, pull yourself back to the present. Focus on something you can do for your child to help them in the present. Most of the time, what you do in the present can positively influence the future you’re worried about. Here we discuss about Helping a Child With Anxiety
Final Thoughts on Parental Anxiety
Many parents will tell you that they worry a lot about their children, though to different degrees. So it’s not a reflection of your overall parenting ability. More importantly, parental anxiety isn’t the end of the road. With good management and maybe professional help, you can go about your parenting duties in a relaxed and calmer way.