Kids have it hard these days.
It doesn’t seem like it when they’re playing on their $500 tech gadgets, but they do. Twenty-first century living is taking its toll, and many kids are finding it hard to cope.
The number of children dealing with anxiety has been increasing steadily for decades, with up to 25 per cent of teenagers now suffering from diagnosable anxiety disorders.
I know as a parent I can be part of the problem or part of the solution. And more often than I care to admit, I’m in the wrong camp.
Your child’s anxiety is not your fault, but it’s possible that some of the parenting practices you’re most proud of are actually making things worse.
1. Caring too much
When your child comes home from school with tales of mean girls, aggressive boys and insensitive teachers, you feel for her, and often you let it show, but maybe you shouldn’t.
Our kids feed off our emotions and get more distressed when we’re distressed. When my daughter communicates her worries to me, only to have me start worrying too, it definitely makes things worse. She needs me to be strong, but instead I inadvertently send the message that anxiety is the “right” reaction to her problems.
Difficult though it is, we need to keep our own anxiety in check while sympathising with theirs. We have to be the emotional rock: the person who understands, supports and (if asked) advises, without ever showing that their problems make us feel anxious too.
2. Advocating too hard
We all want to stand up for our kids, but our eagerness to advocate can sometimes actually raise anxiety levels.
If your child shares a school problem with you, your first instinct is often to march into the school and try and resolve it. This tells your child two things. Firstly he can’t tell you something in confidence, and secondly you don’t have faith in him to fix his own problems.
Make sure your children know you will only advocate on their behalf with their full knowledge and consent. Your first priority should be to help them find a solution they can implement without your help, every time.
– Karen Banes