Since I learned to walk anxiety has followed me like a shadow. The pitter patter of baby feet could be too loud if I was not careful. I felt terrible when that shaky, wet, feeling of fear and pain twisted my family into promises I had yet to break, failures I had yet to make. I lived in fear of disappointing everyone. With support, understanding, and honesty my family has helped me to speak freely about my anxiety. Anxiety is the opposite of being free and sometimes this cage feels more like a bedroom, comfy and difficult to leave. For what more can there be in life, but fear?
Anxiety is not always a shadow just a step behind me but sometimes it is my home, my entire world. I was scared my family would be disappointed in me so I made a new home in my fears. My struggles seemed minuscule compared to those of my parents’. My mother lost both of her parents before graduating high school and my father’s household was a combination of joy and jealousy. I did not want to burden my parents with my ‘nerves.’ But anxiety is a debilitating burden for anyone who goes through it; I needed to think of myself first. Remind your child that no one is perfect; tell your daughter/son that, like your children, anxiety is not something you (or they) need be ashamed of and that you will always be proud of them. When my family first learned I had anxiety they told me loved me, that they would always love me. I had thought everyone was just waiting for me to inevitably fail so they could finally be rid of me. Tell your children that you love them and with this reassurance, they will stand taller, they will stand stronger. Love is essential to anyone with anxiety; support is the first step towards understanding.
Being a teenager means being uncertain. My time in high school was filled with questions: What job did I want? How could I lose weight? Could I really go the University of Michigan? When would I stop being so anxious? Do not belittle your children for having such worries, listen to them. Anxiety is debilitating and isolating, sharing your own fears/challenges could be the start of a more personal, honest relationship. Remember that vulnerability can be difficult and your child may not know how to explain their anxiety. Encourage an open relationship and tell your child you will always love and support them. Speak to your child from a place of compassion, not condescension. It can be frustrating when you want to help your child but cannot understand what they are experiencing. Silence is not rooted in obstinacy, it is rooted in fear. Everyone craves good relationships and the bond between a child and parent is one of the most important relationships. Speak honestly and kindly to your child; honesty is a crucial factor in any relationship and its progress shows in leaps and bounds.
When I was a freshman in high school my mother asked what I wanted to major in when I went to college and if I had any ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her I had no answer for her and that I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. My mother asked me what I was interested in and what jobs I admired and still I had no answer. She proceeded to ask me these questions, frustrated with every dismissal I gave her. What I did not tell my mother was that I refused to consider such questions because I knew I would mess everything up. I was dishonest and my mother did not ask why. Your child may not know why they feel a certain way. It is times like these in which leading by example is so important. Your child may feel alone in their uncertainty and it is so helpful when a parent says, ‘I have felt that way too. You are neither alone nor wrong.’ Your child may also benefit from honest questions such as, ‘what can I do to help?’ If they do not have an answer simply remain supportive and honest, spend time with them, have fun with your children, let them know your home is a safe and loving environment. Calming, mindful activities like soft music, going on walks, or watching a funny movie can help simulate a less stressful environment. Parents are not perfect and you may not always have the answers but your child does not always need answers, sometimes they just need reassurance.
In conclusion, I believe support, understanding, and honesty are key factors in building a relationship with your anxious child and will likely lead to progress in your relationship. It is okay not to have all the answers as life is not a search for answers it is a chance to ask questions. Instead of berating your parenting or being angry with your child you can learn more about them, find out what will help them feel more comfortable. Do they want to explain their feelings to you, go on a bike ride, or listen to calming music? Dealing with anxious children is not as complicated as people think. As a parent, continue doing what you have been all your child’s life: love them, support them, watch them grow and ask what you can do when they need help. You cannot go wrong when you listen to, and love, your child.
By: Rose Younglove, Anxiety In Teens Contributor