It is well known that anxiety disorders have a genetic component and children with parents that have anxiety are more at risk of also developing anxiety. I have read articles that stated that children with an anxious parent could be up to five times more likely to develop anxiety then there peers who do not have someone with anxiety in there home. Can these risk factors be lowered? I know that I hope so! I wanted to share my story and pass along some of the things we have been doing in our home to try to keep anxiety at bay.
I remember always being the child that shied away from things, avoided things and worried too much. I had test anxiety, separation anxiety and anxiety about illnesses. At about age 22 I was officially diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. My mom was always an anxious person as well. I have a son he is now four years old. He has a little bit higher levels of anxiety then his same age peers. He worries about crowds, about his family when we are gone longer then usual and a few other things. We are working hard break this cycle. I would love for my son to be calm, confident and much more care-free.
I realized some of my son’s anxiety had likely come from what he was seeing and hearing from me…with the same reflection I thought back to the many things my mom would say and do that may have held me back or enabled my anxiety. I desperately wanted this to stop in order to help my child become the best version of himself. Today I wanted to share some of the things we are doing in order to try and break the anxiety cycle.
- Doing it anyway — If something seems to scary yet exciting we are trying not to avoid it. For example – prior to my reflections if we went somewhere and my son seemed to scared – we would leave. Now my husband and I encourage my son to continue even if it means staying in the back for a concert or watching for awhile without joining. Sometimes we stop for a pep-talk about what will be happening or for some deep breathes. Often after we are at an event for awhile my son joins in and ends up having a grand time! My son is no longer worrying about the crowded museum or library. He also outgrew his fears of the movie theatre and puppet shows.
- We encourage risky play at the park of course with guidance. My son was behind his peers in gross motor skills. I discovered it was because I was not letting him climb or run in certain ways. As I stepped back he stepped up. He is no longer “behind” or below in motor skills and he loves to go to every park in the city!
- Modeling calm down techniques – My son and I practice mindfulness exercises or grounding techniques once or twice a day. Often we do this while spending time outdoors or before bed. We don’t need to be worried or scared to do this! Practicing regularly actually helps sleep and tends to keep the both of us calmer.
- Trying not to make mountains out of molehills/Avoiding catastrophic language — I try not to say the worst thing that could happen or project my worries on to my son. Sometimes this takes work! I often have to remind myself the “what ifs” and the “what could happen” often doesn’t happen and can be irrational.
- My last tip for today is being honest with your child’s teachers and doctors. I find my son is affected in his behaviors and sensitivity levels when I am “off”. I am honest about my behaviors as it can change test results at the doctor or behaviours at school.
I find it is hard work but definitely a huge goal to help my son be able to let go of things and be able to relax and reach his full potential. I avoided so much in life and stayed in a little shell. I don’t want that to happen to my son!