As each new day passes by, many parents are experiencing significant emotions themselves and seeing them simultaneously within their children. Many of my clients ask me about the anxiety they are beginning to see come to light within their children.
Anxiety rates among children have been on the incline. The CDC reports that “7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety,” with an increase from “from 5.5% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2011–2012” among children aged 6-17 years (Anxiety and depression in children, 2020).
Anxiety, in its mildest form, is often a way to cope with life. Some of the anxiety we experience in our lives is simply just a part of life. Other times, anxiety can be a learned response. Children can adopt these learned responses when they are modeled for them. When you are raised in a family where there is an abundance of fear or anxiety, you learn, adapt, and become what presents itself in front of you, unless you cognitively and consciously make the choice not to do so.
Let’s take a closer look at anxiety as a learned response— A myriad of things happen in a child’s life that can cause stress. The largest influence for that child is how you, the parent in your child’s life, express frustration and worry. Modeling those emotions and coping mechanisms is precisely how our children learn to navigate this world and their own emotions. It is not simply about what you do and say, but also about what you do not say, non-verbal’s, facial expressions and body language, as well.
You know what they say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Well, that metaphor applies here, if we’re not conscious of our influence on our child’s emotion regulation. As parents, we actually teach our children anxiety-oriented responses and cues. We do this from our own actions, reactions and unresolved emotions. When a child witnesses a parent in a state of anxiety, they pick up on the unsettling energy and absorb it. They begin to unconsciously perceive and, therefore, learn, as they watch with wide eyes how we navigate our own lives.
For children, so many of life’s events are ambiguous. They look for cues from their parents to make sense of the world around them. Oftentimes we think we are hiding our feelings from others; children can see right through us and, as brilliant little human beings, pick up on our negative energy or discomfort.
If you notice that your child is displaying responses full of anxiety, stress, or worry, take a look at how your own behavior may be a model for them. First, support them through whatever emotions they may be experiencing, but don’t forget to spend some time with introspection. Managing your own response is the first step in teaching and demonstrating to your children how they can navigate difficult emotions in a positive and productive manner.
So, what can you do?
- Look at your response to stress, fear, and anxiety. Unpack those responses and try to understand their origin. Once we do this, we can try out new techniques to help ourselves manage stress in a different way, perhaps a more mindful way. If you need some help with this, please reach out to me. I can help you understand your fears in order to help you to process them differently, ultimately reducing your stress level. www.suedecaro.com
- Talk about stress – your own, and your children’s. It is so important to normalize these emotions. Stress and worry are part of life. Learning good techniques, skills and tools to move through stress are also crucial for us as well as our children. So, don’t be afraid to talk about what feels stressful for you, as well as how you are helping yourself overcome those difficult times. Admitting to your children what they know is already present (your stress) brings the conversation to the forefront.
- Be willing to share. Our kids are feeling it anyway, so let’s all learn from bringing it up and talking through it. Who knows, you might learn something from your child that will help you to navigate your own anxious feelings.
- Just as we teach our children and help them to grow and thrive, they also teach us where we need to grow.
For more information on this topic or any other parenting needs, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I am a worldwide life and parent coach.
Anxiety and depression in children: Get the facts. (2020, March 30). Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/anxiety-depression-children.html.