It’s natural to want to protect your children. To do anything in your power to keep bad things from happening to them. Sometimes we feel like if we worry enough, we gain some sort of control, and we can make things go the way we want them to.
Unfortunately, excessive fretting about what might happen is not only draining, but it can also stir up all sorts of projections:
- “My son isn’t able to go to sleep early, and he has trouble waking up in the morning. What if this means that he can’t pay attention in class, so his grades are going to slip? Maybe he’ll never get into college!”
- “I don’t like my daughter’s friends. Who knows what they’re doing when I’m not around? One mistake and she’ll be throwing away her entire future!”
- “My kids lie to me. This reminds me of that good-for-nothing cousin of mine that just wastes his life away. Is that what’s going to happen to my children?”
Most of the time, parents don’t even realize how anxious they are. We think anything below trembling in your boots is the expected level. Then we find ourselves spending more time lecturing, hovering, and nagging than we do bonding with our kids. We’re so busy trying to “fix” everything that we lose sight of the facts and of what’s important. We’re parenting more out of fear than love.
We don’t want our kids to make the same mistakes we did. We want them to have everything we didn’t have, and sometimes we want them to accomplish everything we couldn’t. But this mindset prevents us from seeing them clearly, from learning who they are and how to give them what they really need. Our anxieties can also rub off on them and stifle their development. In the end, calm parents raise calm children.
Acknowledge Your Anxiety and Accept It
The most counterproductive thing you can do is refusing to acknowledge your anxiety and trying to repress it. Then you become anxious about being anxious, and it increases your stress levels. The more you try not to think about something, the harder it is not to think about it. Although it’s an uncomfortable feeling, it’s a normal part of our fight-or-flight response. You see it in most animals trying to protect their young.
Without this automatic emotional response, we wouldn’t be able to quickly asses the consequences and react. The idea is to learn how to tolerate our anxiety. How to “cope” with it, rather than “get rid” of it. This way, it will have less power over us.
Separate Fear from Facts
Whatever it is you’re worried about, write down the evidence that backs up your beliefs. Facts help you gain clarity and, with it, a sense of calm. If your concerns turn out to be warranted, think of some useful steps you can take to address the problem and write them down. Then you can talk to your partner, your child, and/or their teachers.
If there’s not enough evidence to back up your worries, move to focus onto yourself. What’s triggering you? Does this situation remind you of someone or something from your childhood? Find the source of your anxiety, so you don’t confuse your kids with yourself.
What Are You Really Anxious About?
Many parents deal with negative emotions triggered by problems in their marriage or at work by focusing more on their children. Issues that barely exist become exaggerated in our minds. Now, instead of having uncomfortable conversations with our spouse or our boss, we can channel all our energy into “fixing” the lives of our kids.
This, however, serves only as a distraction and doesn’t do anything to solve the situation that made us anxious in the first place. The only way to reduce the intensity of our negative emotions is to deal with what really caused them.
Stop Punishing Yourself for Not Being Perfect
There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. We will inevitably make mistakes. As long as your actions weren’t intended to hurt your children, there’s no need to obsess about it and make yourself feel guilty. Just ask yourself what you can learn from this and move on. Staying up at night ruminating over what you can do to “make it right” will only cause you to miss out on your much needed rest.
Anxiety and stress already cause chemical changes that make us less rational. When you mix that with sleep deprivation, you’re slowly rewiring your brain and making it more sensitive to threats and less able to accomplish higher-order tasks like decision making.
If you’re having problems falling asleep or staying asleep, take a hot bath, practice meditation, read or listen to relaxing music. Lately, CBD products have gained a lot of popularity in the wellness industry, and many parents are using them as a natural sleep aid. There are also scientific studies showing that CBD can lower your blood pressure, help you relax, and improve the quality of your sleep.
You can get wholesale CBD isolate, which is a concentrated cannabidiol powder that you can mix with your tea, coffee, or orange juice. These products are extracted from hemp, a strain of Cannabis sativa with a very low concentration of THC – below 0.3%. You can rest assured that you won’t “get high,” and according to the World Health Organization, CBD is not addictive.
Know What You Can and Can’t Control
Anxiety makes us want to control everything. We want to decide what our children eat, what they wear, what classes they take, their hobbies and their friends. We tell ourselves we’re doing it for their own good even when they’re yelling, “You can’t control me!” and slamming the door to their room. Maybe we can, but is it worth it if it comes at the cost of our relationship with them?
You have to pick your battles. Prioritize. Some things matter, but others really don’t. Controlling them might make you feel calmer, but it’s also making your children more fearful and stifling their development. They also learn from mistakes, and they need space to discover who they are and gain a sense of responsibility for their choices.