Anxious Parenting Series Week 2: Managing Your Anxiety as a Parent and Wanting the Best for Your Child (While Managing Your Stress and Theirs)

There is already so much to worry about as a parent.

Nutrition, fitness, academics, socializing. There’s a whole hierarchy of needs - food and water, shelter and safety, belonging and friendships, self-esteem. As a parent, you are charged with being responsible for helping your child meet all of these needs. And on top of that, you don’t want to just meet the needs, you want to exceed them.

You want your child to be fed, but fed the best version of homemade, organic, local and nutritious meals - and oh yeah, you have your own food blog to document this and help other families.

You want your child to have self-esteem, and you want that self-esteem built at a prestigious private school, which doesn’t come cheap. But you have to give your child every opportunity that you can!

You want your child to have friends, but the right friends - friends who are also considering top colleges, or looking at the peace corps, and you want your kid to be influenced by these very driven peers.

You set your child up for as much success as you can…

So what to you do when you give everything you can to your child, and they still end up with anxiety or anger management issues?

Here’s week 2 of our 8 week series on anxiety and parenting - and here’s what’s coming up on the docket:

  1. The Building Blocks of Anxiety

  2. Managing Your Own Anxiety as a Parent: Wanting the Best for Your Child (While Managing Your Stress and Theirs)

  3. Parenting Anxious Pre-Schoolers and Elementary Schoolers

  4. Anxiety and Parenting a Child with Anger Management Issues (spoiler: it’s probably anxiety related as well!)

  5. Perfectionism and Parenting Your Highschooler

  6. Preparing Your Highschooler for College

  7. Out of the Nest: How to Parent Your Anxiety-Driven College Student

  8. Moving Forward and Next Steps

Anxiety has a biological impact, and is often passed down from one generation to the next.

Which means, it’s likely that you experience some stress and anxiety as a parent. You probably have found ways to manage it, and because of your personal experience, you’re very aware of small signs of anxiety that your child shows, and that other parents might miss. This is a strength.

You have a unique opportunity as an anxious parent to really model anxiety management for your child.

When you have healthy coping skills that you regularly use, you can be a hugely influential model for your child. This is why managing your own anxiety as a parent is crucial. Not only for your mental health, but for your child’s as well.

Building your anxiety identification and management plan:

Even if you don’t experience a ton of anxiety or stress as a parent, you can still help with anxiety management for your child through demonstrating these skills and collaborating with them.

Step 1: Identify

Recognize your levels of anxiety, and check in with yourself throughout the day. Maybe your first anxiety or stress clue is heart palpitations. Maybe your first clue is tension around your shoulders. As soon as you notice this clue, point it out to your kid - “I’m noticing that my breathing is getting a little faster. I must be a stressed!”

Step 2: Calm Down

Follow up with a go to anxiety management strategy, and encourage your kid to join if they want - “I’m going to take a couple of deep breaths. Want to practice with me, too?”

Focus on calming down yourself, rather than trying to force your child to calm down. It’s easier to start with modeling, and often people are less receptive to being told to “calm down!” when they’re upset. Model over manage.

Step 3: Practice

Practice more intensive strategies on a regular basis. Set up a regular yoga practice, or meditation session, or incorporate a walk outside with your child every day. Report on how this strategy helps your body to calm down, and the specific signs that you notice. Help your child notice, too - “Aah, I love when we get to color together, it really helps my heart beat slow down, and it makes my muscles feel loosey-goosey. I must be pretty relaxed. What about you, how does coloring make you feel?”

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes progress.

It’s impossible to be perfect at anxiety management, as a parent, or as a child. So instead of focusing on stopping all anxious outbursts, or all temper tantrums, notice smaller improvements. Small changes can add up and add up to a bigger difference.

Homework for this week:

Last week we asked:

  1. How does your anxiety impact your parenting and stress response?

  2. What has worked well in shaping your child’s behavior, when you recognize their higher anxiety level?

  3. What hasn’t worked as well?

This week, ask yourself:

  1. What’s my plan for proactively managing my own stress or anxiety?

  2. What is one thing I can tweak to better help shape my child’s behavior?

Feel free to email me your journal responses for feedback! I read every email I get.

Curious to hear more? Reach out to me at kelsey@compassionatecounselingstl.com. As a child anxiety specialist, I work with kids, teens, college students and parents to help manage their anxiety, stress, and anger. Compassionate Counseling St. Louis is located in Clayton, MO and works with families throughout Creve Couer, Ballwin, Town and Country, Brentwood, and Ladue. You can set up your first free consult on this very website, on our consultation page.