Parental anxiety: Turning worries into positive actions
February 07, 2022
In this blog, Carey Ann Dodah talks about turning parental anxiety into positive actions…
By Carey Ann Dodah
Let’s talk about worry as a parent. With children comes great responsibility – without doubt it feels like a lot can go wrong.
When the stakes are high it’s natural to worry about whether you’re getting it right and if your child is going to be okay at the end of it all.
We worry about their health, their development, their safety, their education and the list goes on. Whilst it might be natural, worry can at best be a waste of time and at worst a dangerous, toxic thing for all involved.
In this blog I’d like to share my attempts at turning parental worries into positive actions and regaining a little peace and sanity along the way.
Causes of parent anxiety
Concern for our children is an obvious cause for anxiety but worrying about our role as a parent is natural too. We worry about whether we’re doing it right, whether we’re overprotective, too controlling, not there enough. Society also adds a layer of pressure of how we are seen to parent.
As with all types of anxiety, the causes can be complex and multi-layered. For example, underlying mental illness can exacerbate this worry. We should take time to understand it and treat it seriously.
Is it normal to have parental anxiety?
It is natural for us to worry about our responsibilities as parents and there may be days that we feel this pressure and stress at much higher levels. However, living with parental anxiety every day is a sign that your mental health is under strain and could indicate an anxiety disorder.
If you are concerned, please seek help from a mental health professional for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. There are some amazing talking therapies available through health services that can help bring some balance back into your life.
Parental anxiety symptoms
- Do you find yourself awake at night with an endless list of things running through your head?
- Do you snap at your children about the littlest things?
- Do you feel that life is getting out of control?
There are many questions you could ask to assess whether you’re feeling anxious and if you’re ever at a point of overwhelm it’s good to have some resources to help yourself cope.
Parental anxiety scale
For many of us parental anxiety can bubble away in the background without us really being aware of it. I find it helpful to check in once in a while and use a gauge to identify where I am on the scale. Anywhere other than green is a sign that you need to take a step back and prioritise your wellbeing. Find ways to reduce stress and tell loved ones that you’re in need of some support.
You might find it helpful to keep this checklist to hand. Download and print here.
Can my anxiety affect my child?
As the chart above highlights, anxiety can have profound effects on your moods and your relationships. Children are definitely affected by anxious parents which is why it’s important that we are aware of the signs and find ways to do something about it. In finding solutions for ourselves we also teach our children the importance of self-care.
How do you calm parental anxiety?
There are two things to consider – firstly your level of anxiety and what the appropriate course of action is for how you are feeling.
Action is the key here though. Worry and anxiety occur within the mind and will continue to whirl away up there unless we release them. The best way I have found is to act on them.
How to deal with parental anxiety
- Write all your worries down – everything that is going on in your head right now.
- Look at your list and decide are they happening right now or are they imagined fears (something that might happen in the future).
- What action can you take to address the problems that are happening right now? Prioritise those actions.
- If the threat is not happening right now you need to find a way of letting the unhelpful thoughts go. Meditation and exercise are both great, healthy ways of helping you to be present and focus on the things you can control right now.
- Share your worries. You don’t need to shoulder all the burdens on your own. Talk with other parents and carers. They may suggest solutions that you haven’t considered before.
Turning parental worries into actions: tips
Often the thoughts that give us the most grief are about things that we fear might happen. For example, we might start worrying that our child is failing at school and think of all the worst case scenarios that might occur as a result of this. How can you act on this worry?
Is it actually happening?
Do you have evidence from school that this is the case? If not then your action would be to arrange an appointment with the class teacher and raise your concerns and clarify whether your child is falling behind.
Plan your first step
If you have had a report or conversation with a teacher confirming that your child is struggling your action would be to identify the type of support they need. Is it motivation, a problem in the classroom, is the material too tricky? Plan your first step e.g. making time to support them at home or getting a tutor.
Approach the problem from your child’s perspective
Perhaps they are unwilling to engage with their homework and you have nightly battles over it. Your action might be to discuss your concerns with them at a calm time.
Explain the outcome that you’re looking for and why it’s important. Discuss the consequences e.g. that you’re worried they’ll get into trouble at school. Ask your child how they want to approach the problem and try to see it from their perspective.
What’s the worst that can happen?
Having tried all the techniques, if you still find your child unwilling, ask yourself what is the worst that can happen? At some point, as a parent, we have to make the difficult transition to realising that our child will need to grow up, make their own choices and own their life (welcome to the teenage years!) They will make mistakes and they might not do things the way we think they should be done.
The art of letting go
Can we separate our own feelings of parental pride from their choices? Can we love them unconditionally and support them even if after giving our worldly wisdom they choose a different path? If you can then you will have found the key to letting go.
My Mum always said she never worried when I first started driving. She waved me off and called ‘drive carefully’ and closed the door. She said she had done what she could to keep me safe, I had the right training, a safe vehicle and she would be available at the end of the phone if I needed her. So many aspects of parenting can be applied to this.
Give your children the training that you can, support them to be safe and let them know you will always be there should they need you. Then take a deep breath, put on a big smile and enjoy all that life has to offer.
Whilst we can’t help with all your parental concerns, we are here to support your child’s academic journey in any way that we can. Get in touch to discuss any challenges you are facing and we will create a tailored tuition programme to support your child’s individual needs.
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