Sometimes, it seems like our kids aren’t learning
anything from us–but that’s simply not the case. Kids absorb all the
information around them and learn by example. While that can be a good thing,
it can also be a problem if you don’t want to pass on certain behaviors you’re
modeling for them, like anxiety.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, first remember
that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Lots of people have trouble controlling
their anxiety. But it’s also important to realize that your behavior is bound
to transfer to your child and could cause them to develop anxiety problems of
With that in mind, it’s essential to address
problems with your emotional health as soon as you possibly can. According to a
pew research study, 70% of teens struggle with anxiety and depression, which can start when children are much younger.
So how can you avoid passing on the anxiety that’s
causing you nothing but distress? Here’s what you need to know.
How Does Anxiety Affect
shouldn’t be too surprising that children are sensitive to the emotions their
parents may be experiencing. They pick up on even subtle cues and shape their
world view of what’s “normal” by watching their parents. Kids can pick up on
anxiety in the home and may be more prone to developing an anxiety disorder if
one or both of their parents struggle with anxiety.
isn’t one main cause of anxiety in children, but both the child’s environment
and genetics come into play. Parents can’t change their children’s genetics,
but factors like modeling
anxiety-promoting behaviors can make the risk go up. Parents who have an anxiety
disorder will need to work hard to reduce the impact of their own anxiety on
their children, which may include measures like behavior modification and
Anxiety in America
you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you’re far from alone. Many Americans have
dealt with anxiety or depression at some point during their lives. Pressure
from school and work are common triggers for racing thoughts, anxiety, stress,
young adults, who should be enjoying their college years and focusing on
learning and growing, often struggle with anxiety. In fact, anxiety and depression are the top two reasons that college students seek
mental health services, according to the Center for
Collegiate Mental Health.
Across America, anxiety disorders affect 18.1% of the population–40 million adults–making them the most common mental health disorder in
the country. Although the problem is so common, many people never get a
diagnosis or seek out treatment for the issue. Instead, they suffer for years
in silence and often transfer the problem to the next generation.
Anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder (PD)
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Brain chemistry, environment, upbringing, genetics,
and life experiences all have an impact on the development of anxiety disorders.
Not all of these factors can be controlled, but most people who have an anxiety
disorder can benefit from treatment and find some relief with talk therapy,
medications, and other therapies. Many people with anxiety have also struggled
with depression one or more times.
Putting a Stop to
If you think that your anxiety is starting to rub
off on your child, then it’s time to take steps and put a stop to anxiety
transference in your home.
The first step is to understand which behaviors
might be putting your child at risk for developing an anxiety disorder. Do you
talk about things that scare you in front of them repeatedly, like spiders or
merging onto the freeway? Do you react poorly to being startled or when you’re
stressed out by changing plans or situations you weren’t expecting? Do you avoid
situations that scare you and explain to your child why you’re not comfortable
in those situations?
These are all small, subtle ways you may be transferring your own anxiety to your child.
Other signals you may not even have considered is
warning your child over and over to be careful when playing or limiting how
high they can climb or jump. By repeatedly warning them about hazards in their
everyday life, you may think that you’re teaching them to be safe, but you may
just be teaching them to be anxious.
Of course, it’s important to keep your children
safe. But it’s also important for them to take a few risks and to have the
freedom to explore the world around them. Play should be playful, not cause
anxiety. A few cuts and scrapes along the way are to be expected. You should
absolutely warn your children about truly dangerous activities, but when it
comes to normal “kid stuff” it’s important to keep your own worries to
Using a journal to note your triggers can be helpful
in modifying your behavior. You can also practice mindfulness and breathing
exercises to start minimizing your anxiety for a more peaceful life.
It can be very helpful to work with a mental health
professional both in getting treatment for your own anxiety and for learning
strategies you can use to avoid transferring your worries and fears. Sometimes,
therapy for your child may be necessary if they’re showing signs of anxiety
themselves. There is no shame in reaching out for help and it can make your
efforts much more successful.
Putting Your Own
Feelings (and Fears) Aside
doesn’t serve you, and it’s definitely not something that will serve your kids.
The key is learning to put your own feelings and fears aside for the sake of
your kids’ mental health. You may be terrified that they’ll injure themselves
or have the same fears that you do, but by hovering over them, this is actually
more likely to happen.
Kids need to face their fears. If they don’t, they
may become much more worried and prone to anxiety in the long run. Protecting
your kids with your own anxiety just doesn’t work. For a happy, healthy family,
you need to let go (just a little bit) and face your own fears.
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