Ways We Make Parenting with Anxiety Even Harder
Parenting with anxiety turns our role of our children’s mom or dad into a burden. Living with anxiety before parenthood can at times be pretty terrible. Then we become parents. Parenting is challenging enough on its own, but parenting with an anxiety disorder intensifies how we think and feel about our very important job. With our anxious thoughts and emotions, we make parenting with anxiety even harder. As a result, we are present with our worries rather than our kids.
Identifying parenting-induced worries can help you minimize them. Further, understanding how parents can make parenting with an anxiety disorder even harder will help you identify your anxious thoughts and move them out of the way so you can enjoy your kids.
Parenting with Anxiety Makes Every Situation Seem Like a Disaster
Worrying about your kids is normal and can be a good thing because it helps you tune into them and their health, safety, and growth and development in all of the many facets of childhood. The problem isn’t concern or worry; instead, the problem begins when you have uncontrollable, wild worries.
Parental worries that can keep you and your child entangled in bubble wrap, seemingly protected but actually slowly suffocating involve fretting over things like:
- Their health. You heard coughing in the night; do they have a disease?
- Should you send them to daycare? There are so many drawbacks.
- Should you keep them out of daycare? There are so many drawbacks.
- Do they have enough friends? If they’re not accepted, they’ll be alone.
- Are they doing well enough in school? Oh, the implications for their future.
- Are they bullied? What if they’re the bully?
- Are they growing and developing the way they should? What if they have serious delays?
These and other anxieties that plague parents day and night quickly build and spiral out of control. Parents often begin to think that the worries they have about their children are true and won’t resolve. They question their own competence as parents.
This is one way people make parenting and anxiety even harder than they already are. They find themselves in the middle of a worry cycle from which they think they can’t escape. Worries continue to increase while self-efficacy (the belief in their ability to handle the task of parenting) decreases. Making parenting decisions becomes more difficult, which further increases anxiety and decreases self-efficacy.
In addition to becoming trapped in their worry cycle, there are other ways that people can worsen the experience of parenting with an anxiety disorder.
Automatic Negative Thoughts Make It Harder to Parent with Anxiety
Part of anxiety involves thoughts that people have about situations and people when social anxiety is involved. Parents with social anxiety have an especially hard time when they must talk with their child’s school, coaches and activity leaders, other parents, and sometimes even other children. Whether the anxiety is social or general, thoughts and emotions about the circumstances worsen the experience of parenting with anxiety.
The problematic thoughts are called automatic negative thoughts, or ANTs. Consider this scenario as we explore how ANTs interfere with parenting: Your child is upset after school because they weren’t invited to a classmate’s birthday party. It’s normal to be upset for your child and have some mild worries. When parents have anxiety, though, they can have negative thoughts patterns like these:
- Overgeneralization, or taking one problem and magnifying it to encompass every other situation. (“Everyone hates my child. Something must be wrong with my child. They’ll always be hated and left out of everything.”)
- Labeling, or using harsh words to describe yourself. (“I’m a bad parent. If I were better, I would have noticed that my child was hated and miserable.”)
- Personalization, or self-blame. (It’s my fault that my child wasn’t invited to the party. I haven’t done enough to help him socialize. Parenting with social anxiety makes me weak. I can’t arrange playdates or talk to the teacher about what’s happening because I’m a loser.”
These are but a few of the ANTs that parents have that make parenting with anxiety worse. Overthinking your children’s experiences, moods, situations—every aspect of their lives—perpetuates anxiety and affects your interactions with your kids.
Use the ANTs as a starting point. Catch yourself thinking anxiously, and self-check your thoughts: Are you engaging in an ANT, and if so, talk yourself down from it. Why is a particular anxious thought inaccurate? What makes more sense? What evidence do you have that’s more realistic and shows that your ANTs aren’t correct?
Making parenting with anxiety easier is a process that takes awareness, patience, and time. It is most definitely in your reach, and as you move forward, you’ll find that you can enjoy being present with your kids rather than with anxiety.
Peterson, T. (2019, July 22). Ways We Make Parenting with Anxiety Even Harder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/parents-with-mental-illness/ways-we-make-parenting-with-anxiety-even-harder