Are good parents contributing to the childhood anxiety epidemic?

Every generation raises their children with the idea of being a great parent. You remember what you didn’t like about your childhood and told yourself you wouldn’t do the same to your kids. But, you didn’t grow up in the society your kids are trying to survive in now. Social media, iPhones, and Snap Chat, along with school activities, homework and the lifestyle of many families are putting excessive stress on kids. In parent’s best efforts to make it easier and less stressful for their kids, anxiety has never been higher in children and teens. In fact, according to researchers, 25 to 30 percent of all teens in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder at some time before reaching adulthood, a number that has been steadily increasing.

As parents you cannot throw your hands up and resign yourself to do nothing to help your kids. There are things you can improve upon at home that will help calm your children down, and help them refocus, feeling stronger and stable as the world continues to become more complicated and ever changing.

  1. Control your own stress. Good parents are invested with their kids and may not realize their own anxiety level is high.  Children pick up on their parent’s emotions and resonate with them. When you get anxious your child’s anxiety increases as well. Learning to slow down, taking time for yourself and modeling positive thinking helps lower your children’s stress and teaches them how to handle daily stress.
  2. Give your kids space to work out their own problems when they can. Parents hear their child complaining about school policies, relationships with friends and homework, and become excessively involved in the problem. It’s better to strengthen your child by not allowing yourself to take over the situation. Be there for them, but at the same time remind them of other times they were successful. When kids feel confident that they can handle a situation they become more resilient to anxiety.
  3. Don’t enable your child’s weakness. Sometimes in your efforts to help your child excel you focus on their weaknesses, and this distracts from building confidence. No one is good at everything, so allowing your child to spend more time with the subjects or sports they are good at actually raises their confidence and helps them resist anxiety. It also teaches them humility.
  4. Be realistic with your expectations. It’s good to have high expectations, but when they become too high and you keep praising your child for what they accomplish, you actually become a primary stressor to your child. Performance anxiety is a result of overly high expectations.   
  5. Be honest with your own troubles. Parents who try to show their kids only the good put them at a disadvantage. You think you’re fooling them when you don’t talk about your own stressors with financial issues, a tough boss or a relationship conflict, but kids pick up on your tension and assume it’s their fault. So be honest when you’re struggling…they’ll begin understanding it’s okay to talk about your stress. It helps normalize them and understand they’re not the only ones who feel anxious at times.
  6. Don’t do for your kids what they can do for themselves. Parents take over their kids’ chores when the child is stressed and/or they don’t follow through doing them. This is unwise. Kids gain confidence being responsible for chores and deal with stress better when they manage their time and have a schedule. They can’t learn to do that if parents jump in and rescue them.

Good parents try to protect their children and that’s a good thing. But more and more life is difficult and families who remain united and accept everyone’s imperfections do better. Stress is a part of life. Building resistant children who don’t fear stress but learn to manage it, grow up more confident and anxiety free.