Now, I am not entirely blaming my parents for my anxiety, but they did have a major role in my condition. I realize I am the one that allows it to happen.
I thought I would share a list with you of what you can do as a parent to help a child avoid anxiety. It is closely based off of a list of the exact opposite of what my parents did as a child.
- No matter what, keep your stress, your worry, and your problems away from your children. Cry behind closed doors. Don’t fight in front of them. Don’t consume their days with your money problems. That is weight a child does not know how to carry. It also promotes worry and negative feelings towards obstacles in life.
- Show nothing but absolute confidence in everything you do. Don’t complain about your looks or your weight in front of your children. Doing so will make them doubt who they are as people, and will effect their confidence as they age.
- Don’t promote anxiety. Never ask your child if they are nervous for the first day of school, if they are worried they will forget their lines in the school play, if they are afraid no one will play with them at their new school. By doing so, you can easily turn an excited child into a nervous one.
- Never judge your children. And at the same time, never judge others in front of your children. This will make them view you as someone who is not approachable or accepting. As a result, your children will choose to eat their emotions and keep their problems to themselves rather than seeking help or compassion in a hard situation.
- Worry about them, but don’t stifle their growth. This means, simply put, don’t be over-cautious. Don’t make them fear the outdoors by warning them of snakes and bugs. Don’t make them fear germs, and weather, and driving. This is breeding ground for phobic anxiety.
And if your child does develop anxiety:
- Never plan around their anxiety. But at the same time, never force them into an anxiety-prone situation. This means, if your child panics when crossing bridges- never plan a trip over a bridge to ‘face our fears’ but also don’t plan routes around them. Allow your child to approach their fear, don’t force them to overcome it. Provide support and plan an exit strategy just in case panic arises.
- Respect their feelings, but don’t empower them. Always provide empathy and understanding but never agree with or enforce and unrealistic worry.
- Don’t force elimination of anxiety, encourage management of anxiety. Anxiety never truly goes away. It is always harbored deep inside the anxious, waiting for a situation to arise. This is simply fact. Over time it can be managed, but there is a possibility of revisiting those emotions. If you teach a child to eliminate something, they never learn how to work through it. So, if anxiety reared its ugly head in the future you want your child to know how to face it and beat it.
- Take part in your child’s process. Encourage them to share with you how they feel, what you can do to help them, and ask to join. This doesn’t mean push your way into their routine and cause havoc. This means ask to be a part of it, and respect their answer. Personally, I always felt that my parents never really took the time to learn how to handle me when I am anxious. They researched basic anxiety facts on WebMD, but they never went to family therapy, or sat down with me and asked how I felt, or read a book on how to parent an anxious child. I can say first hand that this is a terrible thing to neglect. My parents constantly provoke my anxiety by reminding me of how unsafe the neighborhood is, asking if I think I will be nervous about something, or simply joking about it at the wrong times. Things like that can be very damaging to someone that’s trying to cope.
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