5 Ways to Shield Your Kids From Your Anxiety

The more anxious you are, the more likely your children are to suffer from anxiety-related disorders.

Our kids are like us in more ways than one, that’s just the way it is. In spite of ourselves, we act as models: we teach our kids to talk in a certain way, think in a certain way, and act in a certain way. We also pass on our anxiety.

Everyone experiences anxiety. There is proof that our performance is driven and enhanced by anxiety, without which much would be left unaccomplished. However, too much anxiety can poison your life. And you’ve probably heard that the more anxious you are, the more likely your children are to suffer from anxiety-related disorders.

Anxiety is one of the most common issues children and adolescents struggle with. If ignored, anxiety can have a negative impact on the emotional and social development of a child and can even lead to severe depression in adulthood.

The good news is that parental anxiety doesn’t have to be a death sentence. According to a new study, there are ways in which parents can help reduce their children’s level of anxiety. The study found that parents of anxious children often make a few mistakes in their attempts to protect their children from anxiety.

How to help your anxious child

1 | Step into the fear.

The desire to protect their children is innate to most parents. Your daughter is scared of swimming, you make her do dance instead. Your son is shy, you avoid situations in which he has to express himself or make new friends. This is one of the greatest mistakes you can make when dealing with an anxious child. Overprotection increases anxiety rather than decreases it.

Research suggests that to help overcome anxiety, you should avoid constantly shielding your child. However, it is important to only try age-appropriate activities and keep your child’s level of fear in mind. Taking baby steps one day at a time can teach your child that he has the necessary resources to overcome his fears. Focus on solutions and explore multiple options. Reflecting on “what’s the worst that could happen” helps arm you with necessary coping tools. Teach your anxious child to explore his environment and develop skills to address difficult or unexpected challenges.

2 | Put on your “rose-colored glasses”

Children’s perception of anxiety-provoking situations is largely determined by how you perceive and speak of those situations yourself. Your child will interpret her environment based on your interpretation. So analyze your explanatory style and consciously choose to adopt more optimistic interpretations.

Your child’s anxiety will increase if you present situations as dangerous and irresolvable. Talk about dangerous situations by all means but, more importantly, teach her how to overcome or avoid them. For example, yes, cars can be dangerous but they’re also great. Practices such as always using zebra crossings increase safety.

3 | Let go

If you’re over-controlling and critical of your child, chances are high that your child will suffer from high levels of anxiety. Encouraging your child to participate in decision-making can help reduce his anxiety. Ask questions. What do you think would happen if…? What do you think you can do if…? What would you do?

4 | Work on yourself first

You know how they say that teaching your child about emotional regulation is one of the greatest lessons you can teach her? The same applies to adults.

Anxiety disorder in adulthood can often be traced to childhood anxiety disorders and often requires parents to address the issues underlying their own anxiety. What drives your anxiety? If you’re unable to handle your own anxiety, you’re bound to pass it on to your child rather than help her handle her anxiety.

Talking about situations that made you anxious and how you handled them will help teach your child that anxiety is normal and can be overcome. Ask her to let you know if she thinks you’re acting anxious. Your anxiety is reflected in your actions and in your words so choose your words carefully. Remember that kids’ fears are sometimes driven by what they overhear. There are books and courses to help anxious parents deal with their anxiety in order to avoid passing it onto their kids. If you’re struggling with anxiety, seeking help will help both you and your children.

When you’ve worked on yourself, encourage your child to talk about her anxiety and, more importantly, what she can do to manage anxiety. Explore possible options that prevent you from stepping in too quickly and options that encourage your child to manage her feelings by herself (calm-down jars, calm-down boxes, power cards, etc.).

5 | Choose flight over fight

Sometimes, try as you might, you just can’t get over your anxiety. In such cases, it’s better to flee. If you have an irrational fear of dentists, don’t take your child to his dental visit – ask someone else to do it. You won’t be able to hide your anxiety if it’s an anxiety-provoking situation for you.

Anxiety is a normal part of life. You’re anxious when you start a new job, or when your kids start school, or when you’re unsure of the outcome of a situation. Your children will always face anxiety. Addressing anxiety is not about suppressing it, it’s about teaching your child to identify the feeling and manage it in an appropriate way.

The Upsides of Having a Partner Who Travels for Work

It’s not always easy but there are benefits.

My husband has been traveling a lot for work over the past two years. And it’s interesting, especially when you have a kid. It would be interesting if we didn’t have a kid, but of course in that case, I wouldn’t be nearly so homebound. (It’s also a real reminder to all of us who usually have a co-parent how hard single parents work EVERY DAMN DAY.)
So, yeah, I’m psyched for my partner and the helpful opportunities his work travel brings and the intellectually stimulating times he gets to have in other cities around the country and the uninterrupted nights of sleep in hotel rooms and the uninterrupted meals with other writers and the long quiet plane flights during which he can read an entire New Yorker or just watch “Moana” (again) on the free TV.
On the other hand, see everything in the previous sentence. He was gone last summer for five weeks and I know it wasn’t easy for him – the job he was doing was tough and he missed us – but it definitely felt less easy for the person back at home, (me!) But work puts food on the table and travel is often inevitable, so, in that spirit, I give you some of the upsides, if, like me, you need a little help spinning it:

You can watch whatever TV you want at night.

After the requisite 75 minute toddler bedtime routine/relay-for-one, involving demands for water, admonishments about how there will be no more water, an explanation of why sleep is necessary, ten additional hugs, a long silence during which sleep seems imminent, followed immediately by the declaration that someone has been cutting up a storybook and just wants to let you know, then it’s time to PARTY ALONE IN YOUR SILENT APARTMENT.
You can watch whatever you want, if you still have the fortitude and interest in staying awake. I sometimes make it through half of the Season 2 Pie episode of the Great British Baking Show before collapsing on top of a heap of unfolded laundry. It’s really liberating.

Dinner is a snap.

So is breakfast and lunch, if your partner happens to travel on weekends and you’ve got no babysitter or childcare provider to help with a meal or two. Instead of trying to provide a big wholesome meal for two adults and however many children, you can simply eat the remains of your children’s noodles with butter and peas and feel superb about your carbon footprint.
Who hasn’t let ease beat nutrition for 24 hours or 48 or however many hours one’s blood sugar stays stable enough to make decisions for? Who doesn’t love to eat all of the olives and spinach and broccoli off someone’s slice of pizza because they otherwise will not consume it? Who doesn’t love making a breakfast smoothie out of frozen strawberries, a lot of ice, and a little ice cream because someone forgot to go to the grocery store in advance?

You get to showcase your super-parent skills during meltdowns.

No matter how many family members, friends, and neighbors offer and provide help during your partner’s trips away, a meltdown can often only be handled by the parent who has not left town: you. This serves as a fun opportunity to show yourself and the whole world and the whole block or the whole coffee shop or the whole YMCA how great you are at being patient but firm in times of minor crisis.
Perhaps he’ll beg desperately for a cookie immediately after he’s eaten a chocolate croissant. Perhaps, when you refuse to give him quarters for those toy machines outside the bodega, he will fall to the pavement and then call out to a stranger on the street, “Can you help me?” Perhaps, if you’re especially lucky, your kid will go totally limp and scream for the parent who isn’t there. No matter what fun he has in store, you will handle it because you have to because, as you know, no one else can do it for you.

You and your kid might actually have a good time together.

If your partner travels enough, this will happen for sure. Cool things will happen, like your kid will devour half of your spinach omelet without asking you to remove the spinach and it will endear you so much, you’ll forget how hungry you were. You will get stuck in a thunderstorm together and your kid will grab onto your soaked legs and look up at you with so much hope and desperation, you will think, yes, I can protect you from absolutely anything and I will.
Maybe in the middle of the night, your kid will climb into your bed and, uncharacteristically, sleep until after 8, and when he wakes up, his first words will be, “Mommy, I saw a bird,” because there is a bird right outside your window. The world will feel quiet and fine, and, for a moment, simple – and yours and his for the enjoying.

Until He's Eight, Seven is the Best Age

At seven, we realize that we must let them grow up, much sooner than we’d like.

I remember when my son turned six last year like it was just yesterday. He was so excited to turn six, asking me “how many more days till my birthday?” and ticking days off the calendar.
Apparently, the excitement of six wears off really fast.
“Mommy, when will I be seven?” he asked me the day after his sixth birthday. I laughed.
“Slow your roll, kid. Enjoy being six.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because six is the best age,” I answered. I don’t know what logic went into my answer. Probably none. It seemed like the thing to say at the time.
That little boy who was so eager to be seven just had his seventh birthday. As I watched him blow out his candles, I remembered that moment the year before when I told him that six was the best age. I blinked and poof… that year was gone.
But maybe seven is the best age.
At seven, the baby stage is officially over, although I see fleeting glimpses of babyhood in my son. The way he rubs his eyes when he’s sleepy or asks to be picked up and carried. He doesn’t ask very often anymore and although it’s a strain on my back, I can still pick him up, so I do. I know one of those times he asks to be picked up will be the last time he asks. As the mom of a newly minted seven-year-old, I am acutely aware of the lasts.
“Mommy, can I set the table for breakfast?” he bursts into the kitchen where I frown in the direction of the Keurig, waiting for the “ready to brew” light to come on. Seven-year-olds are epic helpers. They’re eager to prove how strong and capable they are. See also: eager for approval. My son lights up when I smile and ruffle his head and praise him for helping me put glasses of milk and napkins on the table. What he lacks in precision, he makes up for in enthusiasm.
Yes, seven is the best age.
“Because I said so” nears the expiration date. I find myself (not so) patiently launching into lengthy explanations of why he can’t stay up late and play Minecraft and being kind of impressed with the logic of the arguments he presents. When I fuss at him because he’s left a Nerf gun, an empty juice box, and one dirty sock in the middle of the living room, I see the defiant scowl that will soon morph into full-blown tween attitude and I tell myself I am not ready for that shit yet.
But, I think seven is still the best age.
At seven, the memories my son makes today are the memories of childhood that he will carry throughout his life. Do you remember things that happened when you were seven? Chances are, you do. A seven-year-old misses nothing. At five, and six, my husband and I could “talk in code” in front of our kids. We could discuss current events, family issues or even our next date night and unless we used buzz words like ice cream, bedtime, or Disney, most of our chatter sailed right over their heads.
At seven, little ears hone in on words like racist, cancer, and debt. They want to be part of the conversation and it’s both a reminder to be more cognizant of the time and place for adults-only chats and an opportunity to talk about hard things. Most seven-year-olds may not fully realize the ugly in this world but the answers to the questions they ask chip away at their innocence. We struggle to find balance in helping them learn and keeping them wrapped in the cocoon of childhood for just a little bit longer.
A seven-year-old is starting to place more emphasis on the opinions of friends and peers. Although mom and dad are still the center of his universe, he is starting to look beyond the comfort and security of his family because he’s starting to fully realize that the world is a big, exciting (albeit sometimes scary) place.
At seven, farts, burps, and underpants are hysterically funny. Mickey Mouse is still magical, but super heroes and video games that go boom are starting to compete for top billing.
I still think seven is the best age.
Developmentally, seven is a transitional age. A child of seven can reason and pay attention longer than a child of six. A seven-year-old is learning that life has rules, structure, and consequences.
And, when the rules, structure, and consequences, get to be a little intense for seven?
We hold them tight… because they still let us. We inhale the smell of sweaty little kid head that always manages to smell like sweaty puppy head and we probably don’t stop to take enough time to appreciate this snippet of time when our kids don’t… well, don’t smell gross.
Seven is the best age. A seven-year-old can wipe their own butt – never estimate the power of butt wiping. They can follow complex directions, like get your shoes on, turn off the bathroom light and meet me by the door.
They can tell you what they’re thinking and feeling. See also: they’ll not hesitate to tell the cashier at your favorite grocery store that your blue underpants have a hole in the butt. That’s always fun.
I still think seven is the best age.
Seven makes us realize our mortality. Seven makes us wish time would stop, although time does not stop. At seven, we realize that we must let them grow up, much sooner than we’d like.
And we will sigh and release our hold on our seven-year-olds. We let them fly and stand in the wings and hope they will still need us when they are eight.
And, we live for the hope that our eight-year-olds will need us for just a little longer.
Because, perhaps eight is the best age.