I’ve just finished reading an article in The Atlantic by Kate Julian about anxious parenting and how it affects our kids. It was really interesting and thought-provoking, it starts by highlighting how rates of mental illness are increasing among young people and starting in younger and younger kids. Most worryingly suicides and suicidal ideation in American children aged 5-11 have almost doubled in recent years (luckily rates of child suicide is relatively low in the UK).
She argues that problems start very early in childhood through anxiety – it is the ‘gateway problem’ to a host of other disorders. It’s not surprising when you think about how anxiety is becoming a way of life for many. However, instead of protecting our children from experiencing anxiety, it is a natural response to uncertainty after all, we should help them learn to live with it.
Children who try and avoid any feelings of anxiety cut themselves off from many experiences that allow them to grow and develop. If we as parents try and protect our children from ever feeling discomfort and stress we are adding to this problem – our anxiety becomes their anxiety. Exposing our kids to the things that make them (and us) anxious challenges the belief that these things are unsurmountable and help us realise we can cope with whatever life throws at us.
Often, we as parents, want to protect our children from their fears. It’s only natural. But this never teaches them the valuable lesson of self-reliance and it can quickly spiral to our kids thinking they can’t cope because they’re never challenged to overcome what worries them. If we show our kids we are confident in their abilities to overcome their fears, they too will become confident they can cope and with every success that confidence will grow. And to do that, we have to get over our own anxiety of seeing our child in distress.
You can read her article here