Of course, we’re all doing the best that we can for our kids. In a recent Wonderful World Survey, over 70% of members that are part of this community shared that they regularly help their kids with homework, that they cook dinner and that they sit down as a family to enjoy it together. That’s a lot of really big wins right there!
Yet despite all this support at home, the number of kids and teens dealing with anxiety has been on the drastic rise – with up to 25% of teens now suffering from diagnosable anxiety disorders*.
Our child’s anxiety is not our fault, but it’s still possible that some of our parenting practices can hurt rather than help – even those practices we’re most proud of.
In an article written in the Washington Post by fellow-Mum Karen Bane, she suggests a few common Mum-habits you may want to reconsider for the sake of everyone’s anxiety levels…
Caring too much and advocating too hard
Often called ‘helicopter’ parenting, this is our tendency to swoop in and rescue our kids when they face any kind of difficulty or setback. “When my daughter communicates her worries to me, only to have me start worrying too, it makes things worse,” Karen writes, continuing “… I inadvertantly send the message that anxiety is the ‘right’ reaction to her problems.”
And while there are legitimate moments when we need to stand up for our kids, sometimes our eagerness to advocate on their behalf only raises their anxiety levels. Think about it… if Mum is always marching into the classroom to take on the teacher, that child will quickly learn that they don’t have what it takes to fix their problems without Mum’s intervention.
When our kids face setbacks, and have the courage to share them with us, our first priority should be to remain calm, to show empathy and then, to work with them to try and find a solution they can implement without our help. Also keep in mind that just like us adults, sometimes just having a safe space to process difficult situations is enough in itself. We’re not always looking for a solution, just a listening ear.
Compensating weaknesses and overplaying strengths
These are two opposite (but equally dangerous) sides of the parenting spectrum. On the one hand, we can tend to over-focus on our child’s weaknesses – expecting them to be brilliant all-rounders – forgetting that in our own lives as adults, we have generally learnt to do the things we’re good at and delegate the rest.
Here’s a practical example: when your child comes home with his/her school report, do you focus more on their worst result, or their best one? If a child excels in English and is weak at Maths – do you employ an English or Maths tutor? Although we can’t avoid our weaknesses altogether, by focusing on our natural strengths, we build self-confidence. And self-confidence is like cryptonite to crippling anxiety!
Now, on the other hand, be careful that your positive affirmations and praise of your child’s strengths don’t turn into undue pressure on them to continually excel in that area. By all means, compliment your child when they excel, but according to Karen, “Overly high expectations can create performance anxiety where there used to be joy and fulfillment.
Hiding your troubles
Most parents tend to want to shield their kids from their own issues. If we’re struggling financially or locked in a relational crisis, we think our kids are better off not knowing. But most of the time, they do know. Little sponges that they are, they pick up far more than we tend to give them credit for. Too often, the unintended effect of us not communicating clearly with them, means they pick up half the story and blow it out of proportion, masking their anxiety about it so as to not add more to their parent’s problems. Depending on the age of your children, why not consider being honest about some of your own concerns and what you’re doing about them? Never as a means of burdening your kids with your issues, but as a means of modelling to them the value of honesty and the liberating power of communicating our anxieties, instead of bottling them up and hiding them inside.
What about you? Have you got a child prone to anxiety? What tips resonate with you the most from this article? Join the mumversation here or below!
Written by Julie Williams – Lifestyle Editor