Parental Anxiety

Sometimes, as parents, we may find ourselves being overly protective of our children due to our own anxieties. We might be afraid to let them take on responsibilities or explore new adventures because we worry that something bad might happen. However, by denying them these opportunities, we are actually hindering their ability to handle challenges in the future. Life is full of obstacles and difficult situations, and the best way to prepare our children for them is by allowing them to face some challenges early on.

Now, let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that parents should throw their children into dangerous situations. What I’m saying is that we should not shy away from situations that are within our child’s capabilities and reasonable for them to handle. If you find yourself avoiding certain situations out of your own worries rather than your child’s, it might be a sign that you are an anxious parent at that moment.

Parental anxiety can also lead us to constantly compare our children to others. We might become anxious if our child is not reaching the same milestones as their peers. It’s important to remember that every child develops at their own pace, and just because they might be falling behind in one area doesn’t mean they’re not excelling in another. Some children are natural all-rounders, but for most, they have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. So, instead of fixating on what they’re not doing well, let’s focus on nurturing their individual talents and celebrating their achievements in all areas of life.

Comparing your child to others and obsessing over the differences in milestones is never a fair or productive thing to do. It only fuels parental anxiety and makes you question if your child is falling behind because of something you did or didn’t do. Instead, let go of all those worries and trust that your child is on the right track and progressing in their own unique way.

If you or someone you know is an anxious parent, the key to overcoming this problem is to gradually chip away at the wall of anxiety that you’ve built up. It’s not something that can be demolished with a bulldozer; it requires a more delicate approach. Start by taking a small, simple step that feels safe and comfortable, even if you experience some anxious feelings about it.

For instance, let’s say you’re anxious about letting your child have a sleepover at someone else’s house, even though you know the house is safe and the family is trustworthy. Deep down, you may have been making excuses to yourself that aren’t true, such as being worried about their dog. Take the first step by being honest with yourself. What are your genuine reasons for not wanting the sleepover? If the issue is more internal than external, proceed to the next step.

Remember, it’s important to trust your instincts as a parent but also to challenge yourself and gradually let go of unnecessary anxieties. Your child deserves the opportunity to grow and experience new things, and by taking small steps, you can begin to overcome your parental anxiety.

If you’re hesitant about letting your child stay overnight at a friend’s house, you could consider suggesting they stay at their grandparent’s house instead. It might be a small step towards changing your feelings about them sleeping over elsewhere in the future. By gradually exposing yourself to situations that make you anxious, you can start to overcome your parental anxiety without overwhelming yourself. Rather than diving headfirst into the things that trigger you the most, it’s about taking small steps and pushing the boundaries little by little.

Another important aspect to explore is where these anxieties originated from. It’s possible that not all of them are your own. Sometimes, anxieties can be inherited from the parenting styles you observed when you were younger. If you had anxious or angry parents, it’s likely that you may have inherited some of those tendencies as well. It’s worth taking the time to reflect on where your anxieties truly stem from. Sometimes, anxieties arise naturally when you become a parent because your brain switches into a protective mode for your child. However, there are instances where these fears and worries are not your own, but rather passed down through generations. In such cases, it’s important to do the necessary work within your own mind to correct and recognise these inherited anxieties, so that you can break the cycle and become the parent you truly want to be.

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By Gemma Bailey

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