Mental health can be as hereditary as physical health, which is often a cause for concern for parents with anxiety. Huffington Post offers six tips on how anxiety-prone parents can avoid projecting anxiety-driven behaviors.
- Avoid projection.
Parents want to protect their kids, especially from anything that caused them hardship when they were growing up. However, preemptively addressing a possible situation can cause your child to be stressed over something they weren’t worried about.For instance, if you were bullied as a child, don’t tell your kid before the first day of school to go to the teacher if anyone is mean to them. This will make them worry about it and possibly even handle the situation differently than they would have if you hadn’t said anything.
- Choose your descriptors carefully.
Try not to describe something as scary unless your child has already used that adjective.You should discuss emotions and be honest with your kid, but if you constantly describe everyday occurrences “scary,’ then you run the risk of attributing a more negative emotion to a situation than what your child felt.
Instead of saying, “That was scary!” try, “That was surprising!”
- Reframe your thinking with alternative words.
Negative words inspire negative thoughts, and vice versa. You can help your child and yourself by reframing your thinking to be less anxiety-centric. It’s especially helpful to say things that remind your child of their strengths or your confidence in them. For instance:- “Oh my God, that was so scary when you fell in the water!” à “I liked how you tried to paddle before I got you!”
– “Be careful, we are near the street!” à “Please walk nicely on the sidewalk without running.”
– “You don’t want to get sick, don’t touch that.” à “Have fun playing!” (Then wash your kid’s hands. This way you aren’t overly emphasizing germs and possible illness.)
– “Remember, if anyone bullies you, tell me.” à “I love to hear about everything that happens at school.”
- Speak kindly of yourself and your life.
Kids pick up on more cues than we realize, so be cognizant of how you treat yourself. Here are some examples on how to restructure the way you speak about yourself and your life:- “If I don’t get some sleep I won’t be able to function tomorrow.” à “Boy, I’m tired today, I’m looking forward to bedtime.”
– “That guy is driving like a lunatic! He’s going to kill someone!” à “That guy isn’t driving well. He must not be paying attention.”
– “Oh my God, we’re out of cereal and I don’t have time to get to the store.” à “Oh well, out of cereal! We’ll have bagels tomorrow.”
- Be positive.
Shift focus away from negative events and hone in on positive ones instead. Bond over positive events with your child instead of negative ones. For instance:- “I was in line at the grocery store for 15 minutes before someone finally told me the cash register didn’t work. What a waste of my time.” —> “In line at the grocery store, I checked Facebook and I saw my high school friend is pregnant! Want to see her sonogram picture?”
– “The traffic was awful, this commute is killing me.” —> “I was thinking, I need audiobooks or podcasts to listen to in the car. Want to help me find ones that might be interesting?”
– “Grandma is coming over, we better clean, this is a mess and we only have an hour.” —> “Let’s make everything look pretty for Grandma! You make her a card and I’ll vacuum.”
– “You’re so dirty! What did you do to your dress?” —> “Wow, someone had fun painting today.”
- Have a social life.
For the sake of your kids, make sure you set a solid example about social interaction. Approach other parents at school, go to the park and talk to moms and dads there. Set up play dates for them and build friendships with their friends’ parents. If they see you interacting with people, they will not think the world is too scary, even if they are already more inclined to feel anxious.