As adults, most of us struggle with anxiety at one point or another. For some of us, anxiety has a much stronger presence in our lives. Parenting with anxiety can be difficult to navigate.
Today I’m going to get a bit candid. This is an aspect of my life I don’t talk about much… probably because it gives me anxiety, haha! But seriously…
Although I have never been officially diagnosed, I’m pretty positive I have a mild form of OCD. I obsess over germs, but I must admit, having children has eased this a bit, even though those who know me might not agree!
I obsess over touching anything in public. Depending on what it is and how “germy” my mind deems the object, my thoughts are clouded with the need to wash my hands until the very minute I am able to wash my hands. It’s something I’ve gotten quite good at hiding.
I drive my husband crazy as I lose myself in thought while he’s working with raw meat in the kitchen. It’s not something I realize I’m doing until he gives me a look like I’m nutty. I realize I’m watching everything he is touching just so I can go back and disinfect everything. When I know he’s cooked, but I couldn’t or didn’t watch, I sanitize everything. Even the sink faucet.
I also compulsively count in my mind. Most of the time it’s steps, clothes I’m folding, or anything in my day that’s repetitious.
I need a plan and organization, even if it’s organized chaos. Some days, we have no appointments or no need to do things in a certain order, still, if the smallest thing changes the plan I’ve made in my head, I experience anxiety to the point that I’m visibly frustrated with myself or others.
For some reason, I avoid making phone calls too. I have no idea why. Maybe a fear of the unknown, being wrong, or being told no. It’s not like the pizza place is going to tell me I’m making the wrong choice by choosing pepperoni.
Anxiety doesn’t make sense!
The older I get, it seems, the worse it gets. Lately, I’ve been experiencing (maybe panic attacks?) anxiety that radiates to my arms and gives me the sensation that my bones are hurting and my chest is 100 pounds.
All of these feelings have been present in my life since my early 20’s. Although it sounds bad, my life is definitely not bad! Every person has their own personal obstacles, and I have learned to recognize that this is one of mine.
Parenting With Anxiety
So, the million dollar question…
Is my anxiety affecting my children?
Nature or nurture?! Those in the field of psychology typically argue that behaviors are formed through a combination of genetics and environment.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t make us feel any better in this situation!
If we have anxiety, it’s possible we have an “anxiety gene,” which means our kiddos could do. That part is out of our control.
On the other hand, psychologists also argue that a child’s environment has just as much impact on their behaviors. This is something we can control.
If you are parenting with anxiety, your kids are going to pick up on it. Kids are intuitive. They sense when something is wrong or different. It’s our job as parents to help them understand. Children learn from our actions, making it incredibly important that they see us managing our anxiety rather than an unnamed secret that isn’t really a secret.
What should we do?
We control what takes place in the environment our children are in.
Learning to respond to anxiety differently takes time and work. I definitely don’t get it right 100% of the time, and that’s okay. Here are some ways I have been working on responding to my anxiety…
Say it Out Loud
When something is causing you stress or anxiety, say it out loud. Tell your kids you’re frustrated because you are running late. Tell them you’re feeling anxious because you’re meeting their new teacher and want it to go well. Speaking your feelings out loud takes away some of it’s power. It also shows your children that is okay and you’re willing to talk about it.
It’s common for someone who is experiencing anxiety to react out of emotion. This is something I am guilty of more than I’d like to admit. Instead of reacting, take a minute to step back and see the entirety of the situation. Give yourself ample opportunity to think with a clear head and respond to the situation rather than react to it. Reacting to a situation by yelling or breathing loudly sends an obvious message and doesn’t leave the lines of communication open. Responding to the situation sets a good example for your children and encourages communication.
Learn Stress Management
This can be so important for any parent, even those who do not experience anxiety. Daily our children see how we respond to stressful situations, and whether we admit it or not, they are picking up on how we respond to stress. Learning how to manage stress will turn into a system that your children will see as well. Since we are models for their actions, it is important to model healthy ways to pass through a stressful situation.
Ask For Help
I’ve used this tip in many other posts regarding many other aspects of motherhood. Asking for help isn’t always easy, but it is something you should do. Last weekend at the beach, I needed to call the restaurant we were planning to eat dinner at to ask if we could bring a cookie cake. BOOM! Anxiety. It’s silly, I know, but that’s just how it goes for me. Instead of avoiding or postponing the situation causing my anxiety grew more, I asked a friend to give them a call for me. It was no problem for her and it allowed me to keep stress out of my day. (Thanks R!) Ask for help. Big or small. Let others know how you’re feeling.
Parenting With Anxiety
While anxiety seems like such a huge part of my life, it’s really not. I refuse to let it be. Still, it’s something that affects some of my days and it is something I continuously work on. Some days I don’t do a good job. Other days, I totally crush it!
Regardless of how great we are at all of the things, I totally believe that as long as our children see us trying, the outcome will be positive.
No parent is perfect, and you definitely shouldn’t feel guilty about experiencing anxiety. Although most of the time you feel like you’re the only one feeling these feelings, there are so many of us out there that are parenting with anxiety! It’s important for us not to bottle it up. It’s important for us to talk, learn from others, and share what we’ve learned with others. We are a community, and it’s our job to support each other!