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How Do Parents Avoid Passing Anxiety to their Kids

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When we provide training to schools through our Neurologic training one of the issues that we focus on is co-regulation. We acknowledge that many students are anxious and dysregulated but we often ignore the fact that teachers are also dysregulated and struggling to cope with the stress of the classroom.

But what about parents? They too have had many life stressors during this pandemic. Parenting is a very hard job with all kinds of twists and turns as we manage the growth of our children.  When anxiety is present parents also need to regulate their anxiety so as to not pass it on to their children. 

This is the topic in an article by Brigit Katz in the Child Mind Institute. Here are some excerpts from this article:

Managing your own stress is the best way to keep your child from picking up your anxiety. You can try mindfulness techniques like deep breathing. Practicing mindfulness every day can help you feel calmer in general and make the techniques more effective when you are feeling anxious. You can also try to identify the things that make you anxious and set boundaries or come up with a plan for how to respond to them. Working with a therapist can help. 

Once you know how to manage your own stress, you can help kids learn those same skills. You don’t need to hide your anxiety. Instead, talk to kids about what you feel and how you cope with it. You might say, “I’m feeling scared right now, but I know it’s not that likely that the thing I’m scared of will actually happen.”  

If you do something you regret later, talk about that too, “I yelled at you this morning because I was anxious we would be late. But I know there are better ways to react when I feel that way.”

Family Conflict. Quarrel between black mother and daughter at home, sulky child ignoring her mom, copy space

Talking about anxiety sends kids the message that stress is normal and they can manage it. It can also help to plan for dealing with anxiety before it happens. Talk to kids about how you can work together to make life less stressful. For example, maybe they get points toward a little reward every time they get ready for school on time. But try to avoid putting kids in charge of managing your anxiety. If a certain thing causes you a lot of stress, find other adults to take over or give you support. Parenting while taking care of your own mental health is hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. 

The rest of the article suggests ways that parents can manage their own stress and anxiety so they can model those same skills to their children.  Here is the link to this helpful article:

We typically do not realize the impact of stress on kids but also on their parents. We need to bring as much support as possible to our parents and families as we face the stressors of life together.

Gerry Vassar

President/CEO

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