Parents sometimes claim that worrying about their child is in their job description. Even as a child gets older, they continue to worry, sometimes excessively. When parents verbalize their worries about their teen’s anxiety or otherwise make their concerns known, it can increase the child’s anxiety levels as well. Learning to manage your own anxiety without fueling your child’s fears can help the entire family function better.
The Ripple Effects of Anxiety in the Family
Anxiety tends to feed anxiety. Studies have shown that when parents, especially the mother, have an anxiety disorder, children are far more likely to develop an anxiety disorder as well. It is not only the biological impact, however. Children can sense a parent’s anxiety levels. When a parent is anxious, the child becomes more anxious as well. A child’s anxiety can then raise the anxiety levels of the parents, and so on. The ripple effects of anxiety in the family can create a never-ending environment of anxiety.
The best way to stop this ripple effect is for the parent to manage their own anxiety, whether it is simply worrying about your child or an actual anxiety disorder that escalates based on your child’s anxiety. When you learn to control your fears and manage your anxiety disorder, you stop that ripple effect and create a buffer for your child’s anxiety that helps to minimize their own levels as well.
Learning the Difference Between Concern and Fear
Parents are biologically wired to be concerned about their children’s welfare, including both emotional and physical health. Watching your teen for signs of distress or illness is a natural part of parenting. However, allowing your concerns to turn to fears and potentially supersede all other thoughts, or perhaps even impact rational thoughts and behaviors, is when parental concern becomes anxiety.
Chances are good that if your child has an anxiety disorder, you as a parent may have an anxiety disorder as well, as both genetics and environment play a part in the development of child anxiety. However, as the parent, with a fully developed brain, it is your responsibility to learn to manage your anxiety.
Managing Your Anxiety for Your Child’s Benefit
Learning to manage your own anxiety or anxiety disorder has multiple benefits for your child. Immediately, it changes the home environment from one of stress and anxiety to one of peace and tranquility, thus helping your teen to feel safer and more comfortable. You, as a parent, are also more available to help your child manage their own symptoms.
As a parent, you also set an example of mental wellness when you make the effort to manage your own anxiety. Normalizing the use of therapy, as well as wellness techniques like meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep hygiene, sets the expectation for your teen on how to live well and prioritize mental wellness in their own lives. Giving them this gift of living by example can be priceless to their long-term well-being.
Why Learning to Manage Your Anxiety Helps You
Managing your own anxiety helps you to live your life without fear, to live in the moment, and live a more fulfilling life. You will be more effective not only as a parent but also in your personal, work, and social life.
Learning to manage your own anxiety also gives you a new skill set that can be applied daily throughout your life. You can use those skills to help resolve conflicts in relationships, solve problems that arise, and manage crisis situations that may affect you. You become a better person when your anxiety is managed well, and more specifically, a better functioning parent.
Why Families Function Better When Parents Aren’t Anxious
Families can function better when parents are not anxious because the element of fear is removed from day-to-day living. This frees up not only the parent to function better but also the entire family. Imagine if you, as a parent, were literally walking on eggshells when you were manifesting anxiety. Your entire family would also be walking on eggshells with you because you are the driving force in the family dynamic.
Now imagine removing all the eggshells and how much better your family would function. Sure, you still have a teen that may be functioning by walking on eggshells, but the rest of the family can help them remove those eggshells because they are all on a steady, calm, solid surface. That is the difference when parents are not anxious. Families can navigate more successfully through the storms of life when they themselves are at peace.
When parents do not worry about their child’s anxiety, the benefits extend to the child, to the parents, and to the entire family. Learning the difference between parental concern and fear will help you to avoid fears and learn to manage your own anxiety. The benefits of managing your anxiety will help you function better, as well as the entire family. Sustain Recovery understands the importance that parents and the family play in the mental wellness of teens. Our extended residential program in Irvine, California, is designed to help teens gradually transition back into the family after treatment for addiction and mental health diagnoses. As a parent, your commitment to your own mental wellness can be instrumental in your child’s recovery. Contact Sustain today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is right for you and your family.