Look, we get it. Motherhood is the land of stress and anxiety. And frankly, it makes sense to feel worried about the health and well-being of your tiny minions — especially when you realize that all women enter the profession of motherhood with few qualifications or experience. But if you feel anxious more often than not, you need to rein in your worries a little bit. Even if it's well-intentioned, unchecked anxiety can produce undesirable outcomes in your kids. Consider the following facts.
Let's do a little experiment — of all the worries you've had in the last 24 hours, how many have actually been realized? Probably very few, if any at all. Anxiety requires a huge amount of mental energy for a very small positive outcome. Not only that, hyper-vigilance against perceived threats can actually reduce your mental and emotional energy when real threats and worries arise. Your kids need you to be on top of your game for the real concerns of life, rather than wasting your energy on anxiety.
Kids are crazy perceptive of emotions, believe it or not. Even if you keep your anxiety inside, your kids can pick up on when you're feeling worried and overwhelmed. The end result of this perception, unfortunately, is that they will grow to hide their feelings and experiences when they anticipate that their honesty will increase your anxiety. If you want to provide your children with an open-door policy, they need to intrinsically understand that their life experiences won't derail you.
Every good mom wants her children to have a fantastic childhood. Unfortunately, kids are unable to fully enjoy their youth if they're cast in a family caretaking role. If your kids understand that you're a perpetual worrier, they will start to worry about you and try to take care of you.
This may seem a little harsh, but ongoing anxiety compels people to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping the worries of the world at bay. For moms, this may translate into a constant stream of thoughts about what she needs to do, where she needs to go, and how she can quash her fears in the moment. Even if all these thoughts are technically related to the kids, they're really about mom and what she requires to survive the present. As a result, an overly-anxious mom may entirely miss her child's feelings and real needs while she remains busy with her anxious thoughts and actions.
According to John Hopkins psychologist Dr. Golda Ginsburg, nearly 65 percent of children who live with an anxious parent meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder. While genetics likely play a role, it's hard to discount the evidence that anxiety can be a learned behavior in the home environment. Try to keep your anxiety under control so your kids don't learn to cope with the world through worry.
First of all, moms, please don't feel guilty about your anxiety. Guilt will only produce more worry. If you're feeling anxious all the time, try self-care strategies like exercise, yoga, prayer or going out with friends. If, however, your anxiety doesn't respond to self-care, you may want to reach out to your physician. Your doctor can give you a referral to a counselor or behavioral therapist, and may even recommend medication to help reduce your anxiety. There's no shame in asking for help, and your kids will certainly benefit from your bravery.
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