6 Ways to Manage Parenting Anxiety
Hopefully we all agree parenting is hard (if you disagree, please send me your secret). When I think of parenting, Coldplay's Hardest Part keep playing over and over in my head "nobody said it was easy..." So much of parenting is managing our own anxieties. There are many opportunities for us to insert our own past experiences and the anxiety related to those experiences into raising our own children. I’ve been in so many situations where I have to stop and remind myself that the anxiety I am feeling about a certain situation is not because of how my child is behaving, but moreso because of some baggage I may still be carrying from my own experiences. Here are a few tips on how to lessen anxiety when dealing with a parenting issue:
- Check your ego- We often get wrapped up in our children’s issues because we want an end goal for our children. In the healthiest sense, we want our children to be happy and healthy and live a full and productive life. In the unhealthiest sense, we want our children to be good at certain sports or go into a certain career, or compensate for the things we missed out on as children and teens. It is best to put aside our own egos and look at how we can support our children in their own successes (sometimes this means redefining success).
- Find a village- Parenting should not happen in isolation (you may be at risk of going crazy). If you are lucky enough to have a two-parent household, seeking out support from another mom (if you are a mom) or another dad (if you are a dad) can be hugely helpful in that moms and dads approach parenting differently. If you are feeling alone and don’t have friends to bounce ideas off of, or to validate that “this is a stage” or “this is normal” when your child is acting out, find an online community. There are plenty of parenting forums all over the web.
- Seek out non-judgmental help- Not everyone has all the answers and all the answers do not apply to everyone. Non-judgmental help, first and foremost, listens and understands that parenting is a journey and an extremely personal experience. If you are feeling criticized or end your day feeling dis-empowered, maybe consider changing the parenting voices in your world.
- Don’t play the comparison game- Because everyone’s journey is extremely personal, we should really refrain from comparing our own journey to someone else’s. When we get wrapped up in what is on social media, or how our children’s friends are conducting life, we spend very little time working on our own lives. We can often find ourselves accumulating more things or adopting an ungrateful attitude because everyone else’s circumstances look happier, more elaborate, more glamorous, more adventurous, more relaxing… more, more, more. Remember, everyone puts their BEST on social media. Very few people brag about the mundane or the ordinary happenings of the day, but it is the ordinary and mundane that provides predictability and consistency for our families.
- Seek professional help for your own issues- Our children are not therapists or counselors and so they should not be thrust into situations where they have to decipher what conflicts are actually ones they need to work through and which ones are their parent’s issues. A few counseling sessions can go a long way in helping us to identify what triggers send us into "anxious-mode" which almost always affects the people we support. Learning your triggers can help you better manage your own stress and anxiety without subjecting your children to the whole process.
- Make mistakes and own them- Parents make mistakes everyday and this is normal. I can’t stress this enough; take it easy on yourself and allow yourself to make mistakes. GIve yourself grace! For some reason we think that if we are smart humans, we should know how to parent from the day we are handed that little bundle of joy. Very quickly we learn this is hard (but rewarding) work. It sounds like a cliche, but parenting is probably the hardest job out there. Not only is it hard to know what decisions to make, just when we have a stage of life figured out, everything changes. Infancy is incredibly different than adolescence (and everything in between).
I am the first to admit that I am guilty of letting my own past history dictate how I want my children to behave, thus increasing their anxiety. This work takes time. Don’t be too hard on yourself, no one ever said you needed to have it all figured out by day 2 (or day 2,002 for that matter).
Written by: Josi Garcia is the Co-Founder of ZimZum Consulting Collaboration. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, holds a Masters degree in Special Education, and has experience working with schools and families supporting individuals with special needs.