“Together, may we give our children, the roots to grow and the wings to fly.”
Today’s blog deals with why parents become or feel anxious and what anxiety does, in turn, to parents and to their children. But let’s first understand what anxiety means.
Anxiety is a result of fear – fear of what has gone in the past and fear of the future, which is yet to come.
As parents we carry worry around with us everywhere we go, like our own shadows. From whether the new born has burped, to whether the adult children are back home safely from the discotheque in the night and the trillion other things that happen along the way, the list seems to be growing exponentially. Add to it the worry about a possible terrorist attack in the neighborhood mall, a possible kidnapping, lack of future jobs, and a parent can quite literally be exhausted with the amount of worrying that fills all waking and sleeping hours.
But first, to bring in a little more clarity, let me begin with briefly listing out the stuff that parents generally worry about.
This, in a practical sense, would mean looking at worry inducing events which happen to children, from the time they are born till they are ready to fly the nest.
So, when kids are very small, parents are worried about vaccinations, feeding and sleeping patterns and other milestones of the growing baby and then as they approach school they are worried about adjusting to new friends, new teachers, discipline, travel to and from school, bullying, temper tantrums, finicky eating, stomach upsets and the like.
As the journey progresses and kids who were little, grow into teenagers, the challenges and the associated anxieties become greater. Parents now face different behavioral issues like defiance, attention seeking, meltdowns, poor academic records, addictions, and the like. Another growing concern and a very prominent reason of constant conflictbetween parents and kids is when kids cannot strike a balance between being dependent on technology and being connected to the real world with its attendant problems.
Having dealt with this, the issues related to adult children staying with parents or dealing with children with special needs, too, comes with its own set of cumbersome and prolonged periods of anxiety.
In any case, normal worrying is an integral part of being a parent. But when worrying makes one feel overwhelmed and drained, and begins to affect all aspects of life, then this can be termed as an anxiety disorder.
As we all are well aware, this pervasive anxiety is what leads parents to hover over their children, irrespective of what age they are, what they do or where they are. This of course stems from the fact that parents do not want their children to be hurt or experience painful things. This constant unnecessary presence of parents in the lives of children, which stems from fear and worry, has been rightfully called over-parenting or helicopter parenting. Over parenting can also be caused by the non-fulfillment of their personal goals and /or their unrealized ambitions.
The journalist Richard Louv, in his book ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children form Nature –Deficit Disorder’, says that, “Fear is the most potent force that prevents parents from allowing their children the freedom they enjoyed while they were young.”
This could cause undesirable, long term repercussions on growing children that seriously hamper their development and their ability to cope with the vagaries of life.
So, if it’s a given, that for a parent, worry is inevitable, then it’s essential to take steps to mitigate the effects of worry on themselves and hence on their children.
There is a school of thought that says, anxious parents have anxious kids and calm parents have calm ones. And this is, in essence, the mainstay of all therapeutic goals for parents who are ridden with anxiety.
Here are a few steps which could be useful to reduce anxiety and worry. This is not to claim that these are the ultimate remedies, as every parent is unique and has his/her own set of circumstances to deal with which come with their own unique solutions. And hence, these can, at best, be treated as useful guidelines.
1). To stay calm as calm parents raise calm children. To try and be at peace with one self, and try not to feel upset or unwanted. To definitely have what is called as ‘ME TIME”
2).Try to look at issues from the perspective of children, lend a loving, patient ear to their problems which baffle them, stop the blame game and offer them unconditional support.
3). To take a step back and take on the role of an active observer, intervening only when necessary, rather than getting overly involved in finding solutions to kids problems.
4). Empower kids to figure out creative solutions for themselves and teach them the necessary life skills for survival which will go a long way in turning them into balanced adults.
I would like to end this blog with a quote by one Alexis Stewart which says,
“A child is your legacy. What better thing can you do in life than put a really good person in the world who’s going to make it a better place?”
J Bye-bye and take care. J