School Anxiety in Parents? Is That Possible?
Thursday, September 3 2015 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
School anxiety in parents who don't go to school might seem like an odd concept. Children, adolescents, and young adults, who do go to school can absolutely experience school anxiety and stress. Sure, parents can experience anxiety, and they can worry about their kids. But school anxiety in parents? The writing on the marker board clearly states yes. Parents can have school anxiety, too.
Parenting and anxiety are a normal combination. Because as parents we want to keep our children safe, well, and happy, we sometimes worry about them. When it comes to sending our children off to school, parental worry can escalate into a serious anxiety disorder. School anxiety in parents can be difficult to deal with.
School Anxiety in Parents: Common Worries
When people are close, it's not unusual for them to share feelings or worries back and forth, sometimes without even realizing it (technically, this is known as transference). As parents, we tend to take on our children's worries; therefore, school anxiety is similar in kids and parents.
- Separation anxiety: My child is away from me; how can I keep him/her safe?
- What-ifs and imagined scenarios: What if something happens at school and I can't help my child?
- Bullying: Is someone harassing my son/daughter? What if I can't make it stop?
- Performance anxiety: Will my child learn to read as quickly as the other kids? Will he struggle at math? Will she have the exam scores needed for college?
- Existential anxiety: Will my child have friends? Will she be liked? Will he be happy?
Without a doubt, parents worry about their children. When it comes to school and all it encompasses, parents can have school anxiety. Should anything be done about it? When it comes to school anxiety in parents, doesn't it mean that we care and are helping our kids to do well?
Why It's Okay to Let Go of School Anxiety as a Parent
It's natural to worry about our children and how they're faring in school. We love them, and we wish the best for them. If we let go of some of the anxiety we feel about their school success, it can almost feel like we're letting them down, that we don't care as much. How do we as parents separate our anxiety about our children from our love for them?
Rather than excessive worry about our kids in school, one of the most helpful, loving thing we can do for them is to empower our children to take charge of their school life and to thrive.
- Remind your kids, and yourself in the process, that while they can't control others (such as kids, teachers, and other school people), they can control their own reaction and actions.
- Help them build resilience. We can't shelter them from all of the problems that could happen at school, but we can help them figure out how to bounce back.
When we push past our own anxiety and equip kids with skills, we send them an important message: I believe in you. I know you can handle the good and the bad. I'm here for you, not hovering over you to shelter you but supporting you gently from behind (Tools For Building Self-Esteem in Children). As an added benefit, remembering our goal to empower our kids helps school anxiety in parents disappear.