When your child struggles with anxiety, you wonder, do I add to their anxiety? What could I be doing differently to calm them? We often overlook the power of the parent and the effect they have on the mental health of their child. Look no further as we explore your child’s anxiety, and what you can do to alleviate it.
There are two main areas that you can improve to help your child’s anxiety. First are the connections or relationship that you have built with your child. And the other is how you handle your own anxiety as a parent.
Connections With Your Child
Relationships are key to the mental well being of your child. You want to build solid positive connections over time. You do this through engagement with your child and communication.
Spending Quality Time With Your Child
Engagement is the time you spend with your child, interacting with them. Parents often become overwhelmed with the management of the family, running kids to activities, making dinners, and setting appointments. You need to focus on the time spent together enjoying each other, sharing interests, and developing a healthy relationship.
When was the last time that you spent 10 minutes one on one with your child. Time spent without focussing on “getting something done” or “running an errand”. I challenge you to participate in the One on One challenge. You will be challenged to spend 10 minutes with your child every day, with just each other. IF you sign up here, we send you an email every day for 4 weeks with options for how to spend that time together.
There are so many benefits to this time, such as learning about each other’s interests, having time to talk without distractions, and having fun together. This builds that solid foundation. It builds time for you and your child to have deeper discussions about many topics including their emotional health.
Communicating With Your Child
Along with engagement, to create that strong connection with your child, you need to communicate in a way to show them that you care about them, and understand them. Communication with your child who struggles with anxiety comes down to three points, listen, validate and relate.
- Listen – Listen more, talk less. Ask your child open ended question to get them to talk more about what they are thinking or feeling.
- Validate – Children who struggle with anxiety often feel that they need to hide their feelings, or that others don’t have the same concerns they do. Instead of saying, “it will be fine, you don’t have to worry” try saying “I understand. It’s normal to feel worried (stressed, anxious, etc.)”
- Relate – Your child needs to hear stores of others that have felt the same as they do, or who have struggled with emotions. Share stories of your own experiences or stories of others who have had similar experiences. This helps children feel like they are not alone.
Parents and Their Own Anxiety
If you are anxious, it can lead to your own child mirroring your feelings and feeling anxious about the same things. If parents cope with their own anxiety in healthy ways, it will have a positive affect on their own children. First of all, when parents take care of themselves and are healthy, they will show up to be a better parent. Take care of yourself — you and your family deserve it.
Remember that you are a role model for your child. If you are able to use coping strategies in front of your child, they will notice and follow your example. You can even talk through your emotions as they happen. For example, my son can tell when I am feeling stressed or anxious, sometimes before I have even recognized it in myself. He has responded positively when I talk about how I am feeling and describe the coping strategies I am going to use. It validates your child when you share this, and they can relate to you.
Parents do have a direct impact on their child’s mental health. If you build strong relationships whether they are young or teenagers, it keeps communication strong to handle tough situations. And if you keep yourself healthy, it makes you a better parent that is focused, confident and intentional. Show your child that anxiety is normal, validate their feels and share your own stories. You will be amazed at the difference it makes.
Am I Causing Anxiety In My Child?
By Lisa Edwards, M.Ed., Parent Coach