There are many things I want to share with my children, many things I want to teach them as they grow.
My anxiety is not one of those things.
If you’re a worrier like I am or have anxiety (I find they usually go hand-in-hand like a well-committed couple), it’s easy to unwittingly “share” your anxieties with your children which can inadvertently cause them to have anxiety issues!
My Mom was a chronic worrier. She wasn’t quiet about it either. Whenever we’d leave the house, she’d be calling out instructions as we went out the door:
“Don’t go in the bathroom alone!” (Danger!)
“Make your date wait right outside!”
“Put paper on the seat!” (Disease!)
“Call me when you get there!” (Okay, this is a good one and I shall use and practice it forever).
She worried about money. Having grown up in an affluent home, I don’t believe she had true money woes. However, she also grew up in the Depression Era which means she was well aware of the need to save, conserve, and ration. Having lost her father as a teenager, I also believe that may have contributed to her penchant for worry.
By the time I was 34, I had lost both of my parents and I can attest to the fact that it rips your security blanket right out of your hands. I’ve not worried so much as I have since being without my parents…the people who’d always have my back.
So maybe my Mom had some legitimate fears. The world is a scary place. But now I’m checking under the stalls for the feet of a knife-wielding bathroom assailant because Mom taught me you never know when one might be lurking. But kidding aside, we have some fears and worries, and even if someone else thinks they’re silly, they’re legitimate to us especially if we’ve suffered any sort of trauma that plays on them.
You (and me) have got to get a handle on your own fears and worries sooner rather than later. It’s not only the best thing for you, but it will soothe your anxieties and keep you from spreading them to your children. And spread they will if you don’t keep them at bay. When children are very little, they mimic what we do and say. As they get older, it’s not much different. They take their cues from us.
We’re our children’s rocks. We need to be stable, solid, and in control of ourselves. If we’re not, neither will they be. And that feeling of security we like so much and long for? They won’t have it either. Let’s stop that cycle and flip the script.
Set Aside Time to Worry: Each day set a timer for your worry time. Seriously. Go to your room or some place similar where you can be alone to fret and allow yourself a small increment of time, say, twenty minutes. You can fret all you want but only during that time. Then you have to make up your mind that you will push away any intrusive worrying and anxious thoughts the rest of the day. It will take an effort for sure, but you can do it.
Seek Biblical Counseling: Getting help with your anxiety is of course a great first step that will be helpful to you and your children. It will give you tools for managing your anxiety and get a handle on your worry.
Pray: I know it seems simple, but really pray. Throw all those worries and fears to God and actually visualize yourself doing that. Imagine your worries in a basket or box. In fact, write them down and put them in a basket or box. Then imagine yourself handing that box or basket to God himself. And here’s the key: Don’t take it back. Don’t go back and pick up the box and take back your worries! We are not meant to carry all these burdens. God has promised to help us and comes right out and tells us to trust Him. Look at what happens when we try to pretend we’re in control and we try to handle everything ourselves. Not so awesome, right? And it’s terribly heavy. But God sees everything that we don’t. He has power we don’t. He can move where we can’t. He’s able where we are not. Let Him.
Keep It to Yourself: Don’t worry in front of your children. Make sure they’re safe. You certainly want to prepare them for the world and how to be aware of their surroundings and ways to protect themselves. They probably shouldn’t go, even as adults, to a public bathroom alone, especially at a large event like a major sporting event or concert. We were taught the buddy system as young children because it’s a great practice. Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t talk to strangers or get in a car with them. We need to teach them these practical things.
What we don’t need to do is instill in them massive amounts of fear and anxiety so they’re in a constant state of fret. If you struggle with anxiety, you have probably been sitting relaxing one evening free of worry when suddenly it hits you. And you become anxious because you’re not anxious and you’re certain there must be something you’re supposed to be worrying about and you’ve forgotten. (As if worrying would fix it!)
Our children need us to be in control of ourselves. They look to us to know if everything is going to be alright. We set the tone for their security. We teach them to look to the Lord and they can also look to us to take care of them. It’s our job. If we’re freaking out, they’re freaking out at least double. Reassure them. Be their rock. Even if you’re experiencing internal chaos, don’t let them see it. Fake it ’til you make it, as they say. Once you’ve faked it enough and pretended you’re not worrying and can handle the situation, you will actually stop worrying and you will handle the situation with grace and without panic. Even if it’s out of your control and you stop and admit this, “Look, I can’t fix this but we are going to ask for help and also to turn this over to God and let Him handle it.” Imagine the amazing example that is for them to display what to do as they grow and experience situations.
You can do this. You are stronger than you realize. You are not a withering flower that crumbles at the slightest whiff of a stressful situation. I know sometimes it sure seems that everything is the straw that’s breaking your back. But you are stronger than that. Everything is not a crisis. Put it into perspective. Do what you can and relinquish to God everything you can’t.
Meet Melanie P. :
Melanie Pickett is a mom, wife, writer, blogger, and Jesus girl. Melanie spends most of her time at her own blog, melaniespickett.com where she writes about her domestic abuse survival, healthy relationships, life, and faith. She is busy with her work in progress, her first nonfiction book. Melanie has been featured on BlogHer.com and published on Splickety Magazine, Whole Magazine, Breathe Writers Conference blog, and various other blogs as a guest writer. She is a volunteer at Proverbs 31 Online Bible Studies. Having worked in the medical field for nearly two decades, Melanie recently “retired” so she could concentrate on her family and writing career. She is also a substitute teacher. Besides writing, Melanie loves to read, travel, enjoys hockey, playing piano, listening to music, helping and encouraging others, speaking on Periscope, volunteering, movies, and hanging out and cheering on her very favorite people: her family. Melanie lives in west Michigan with her husband, two teen children, and her pug Gracie and beabrador Lillie. Her favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11 and one of her favorite quotes is: “They call us the dreamers, but we’re the ones who never sleep.”