We all want to pass the “good genes” on to our kids; patience, brains, wit, intelligence, social skills and passion for life. What if you struggle with anxiety and don’t want to pass it on?
You can reduce your child's susceptibility to anxiety!
By you working on your anxiety + practicing skills, you’ll reduce your family’s susceptibility to anxiety. Want to make some changes + model healthier ways of living, read on!
Fact One: Research + Genetics
2013 research findings at University of Würzburg in Germany proved a strong genetic components in the development of anxiety disorders. The study proved a heritability rate of 30-67% in anxiety disorders. If you have anxiety, here’s your boost to start addressing it now so you reduce the possibility of passing it on.
Fact Two: Is my anxiety contagious?
The American Journal of Psychiatry studied nearly 900 families to assess if environmental transmission of anxiety is possible. The study proved the affirmative. Anxious behaviors are often learned and children may develop similar symptoms of anxious adults around them.
Though anxiety ain’t fun, there are ways to make life + stress incredibly more manageable.
Want to lessen the anxiety in the home? 6 Tips
Children are intuitive and pick up on your energy based on your tone of voice. Notice the volume of your speech? The speed of your speech? Regardless if you’re saying “Pick up your socks” or “Get the cucumbers from the fridge”, the tone communicates if you’re calm or if you’re pressured. If you’re pressured, take a breath and slow down. Your kids are picking up on your nonverbal signs and may be internalizing the messages you don’t even realize you’re sending.
I used to be called “elephant ears” as a child because my ears always perked up at the right times. I always knew what was going on with a sick grandparent or the birthday surprise party that was coming up (even my own!)
My sense is that most kids have “elephant ears”. Though it can feel like sometimes you’re saying “brush your teeth” for the tenth time, children are masterful listeners, when they want to be.
Are you chatting on the phone to your best buddy about a frightening piece of news, and think your kids can’t tell it’s distressing?
Are you whispering to your partner about a health scare, arguing about something that got you upset or discussing a heavy topic?
Are you talking in front of a sleeping baby or toddler and think they “can’t hear”.
Children’s’ brains are digesting the information and the energy + tone even while asleep.
The best thing to do? Shelve anxiety provoking conversations and have them when the kids aren’t around.
Children can sense when something is wrong and when there’s something different “in the air”. Though you might want to shelter you child(ren), there are times where it’s important to share with them what is going on, especially if they’ll hear about it at school or from friends. If there’s a specific topic that impacts them, DO bring it up in a calm tone. Provide them the space to process and make sense of what happened ( a family matter, shooting, an assault or a loss). Empty spaces get filled with worry, so it’s preferred to answer questions (based on their age + maturity level) so they can feel at ease.
Don’t Share the Fear
Do you know the things that get you scared or worried? Do you have a hard time in social situations and shun away from socializing? Do you get panicky in noisy environments or before business meetings? Have a fear of heights, afraid of dogs or get insecure around your in laws? Kids “borrow” our traits in new situations. Do your best to track your triggers so you can prepare ahead of time.
In some instances have your partner, friend or another family member take your child out if you’re not ready to go there ( a dog park if you’re still terrified). At the same time, identify important aspects of parenting and prioritize finding ways to desensitize or work through triggers that are related to elements your child will need you involved in as he/she develops.
Are you the fearful mom who won’t let her child run or swing too high because you don’t want your child to scrape his/her knees? Are you the mom who won’t let her child go on a playdate with the new friendly child in class? I’m all about being attentive and protective of our children, and at the same time, you don’t want to instill fear and panic.
The scrapes eventually heal and your child will learn to have better balance when they ride or swing. There may be bad playdates, but your child will learn when to say “I want to go home” or “I like this group of friends and not those”. As children grow up, they learn that life isn’t predictable, but that we can challenge ourselves, try new things and expand our coping capacities. There’s no way to avoid the pains of growth, but it’s best that your child gets to practice boundaries, say “no” and process this with you as they develop + learn. The developing years are the platform to practice so there will be less fear when confronting dynamics later on, as an adult in the “big world”.
When you’re using a coping skills, explain it to your child. Let them see the workings of your brain as you process events of daily life and how to use coping in realtime.
“ That driver just sped ahead of me and I got upset. But then I thought, it’s not worth staying upset because I want to have good day, so I’m going to let it go”.
“I’m going for a walk to clear my head, then we can discuss the party you want to host. I want to think it through and be fully focused when I hear you out”.
“I didn’t plan my schedule well and that’s why I was rushed. Now I know to plan ahead of time. It’s ok. We live and we learn for a better next choice”.
Less anxiety means more focus + productivity at work, at school, increased attentiveness in relationships and added flexibility in life.
Using skills allows for a shift on many levels. You begin seeing challenges are possibilities for growth, anxieties as a signal to slow down and turn inward, and struggles as opportunities to learn something new.
Happy parent + happy kids = happy home!
Read here for more tips to coping for anxiety relief + to build emotional endurance.
Want one on one support to help you map out a plan? Reach out to a local therapist! If you're in Long Island, I'd be happy to be a resource and help you find the right therapist for you.
Esther Goldstein LCSW Is An Anxiety and Trauma Specialist With A Private Practice In Cedarhurst, NY. Esther Specializes In Treating Professionals With Anxiety, Survivors of Trauma And Individuals Who Want To Have More Meaningful Relationships. Specialty Areas Include: Family-of-Origin Work, Inner-Child/Ego State work, Trauma Treatment, Attachment Traumas, Complex Ptsd And Dissociative Disorder Treatment. As Well, Esther Provides Trauma Informed Consultation To Therapists Committed To Improving Their Trauma-Informed Practice And Attachment Focused EMDR Consultation To Therapist Attaining Hours Towards EMDRIA Certification. Esther's Website Is Integrativepsych.Co