About anxiety and parents
Anxiety is the feeling of worry, apprehension or dread that something bad is going to happen or that you can’t cope with a situation.
It’s also the physical reactions that go with the feeling, like a racing heart, ‘butterflies in the stomach’, tension, shakiness, nausea and sweatiness.
And it’s behaviour like avoiding what’s causing the anxiety, feeling restless, having trouble relaxing or sleeping, having trouble concentrating or wanting a lot of reassurance.
Anxiety can happen in response to a specific situation or event, but it continues after the situation has passed. It can happen without a specific situation or event too.
Most people experience anxiety from time to time. It’s also natural to sometimes feel anxious as a parent. After all, raising children is a big and important job.
Managing anxiety is good for your emotional and mental health and wellbeing. And when your anxiety is under control and you’re feeling well, you’re better able to navigate the challenges of family life. This helps your child grow, develop and thrive.
Dealing with anxiety: everyday tips
There are a few things you can do if you have a situation or problem that’s causing you anxiety:
- Break things into small tasks or steps. For example, ‘It’s the doctor’s job to check on my child’s health. Right now I just need to focus on getting a doctor’s appointment’.
- Give yourself time to calm down before responding to a situation. For example, if your child comes out of school and tells you someone is being mean, talk with your child when you get home. If you’re still worried the next day, make an appointment to see the teacher.
- Use positive self-talk. For example, ‘It’s natural to feel anxious at times’, ‘I can handle this. I’ve been in situations like this before’, or ‘It’s OK if I do this differently from the way other parents do it’.
You can also take simple steps to cope with anxiety more generally:
- Try breathing exercises, muscle relaxation or mindfulness.
- Do regular physical activity and eat healthy food. Exercise and a healthy diet are good for your overall wellbeing.
- Talk to someone about how you’re feeling – your partner, a family member or a trusted friend.
- Join a local parents group, an interest-based group or a sports club to connect with other people who might be in a similar situation and can share advice from their own experiences.
- Keep a diary or journal to record your feelings. You might be able to see a pattern in the things that upset you. Try to include all your feelings, not just your anxiety or worry.
When to get professional support for anxiety
It’s common to feel anxious sometimes. But it’s important to seek professional support as soon as you can if:
- The everyday tips above aren’t helping with your anxiety symptoms.
- You’re feeling a lot of anxiety symptoms.
- Your anxiety symptoms are interfering with your health, daily life or relationships.
Professional support can help you manage your anxiety before it becomes overwhelming.
Making an appointment with your GP or a local counsellor to talk about things is a great first step.
You might sometimes compare yourself with other parents and worry that you’re not doing a good job. It might help to know that if you’re raising your children in nurturing, warm, sensitive, responsive and flexible ways, you’re giving your children what they need to grow and thrive.