Are you always worried about, well, almost everything? Afraid to take the stairs for fear of heights? Can’t take the elevator because you can’t stand being trapped in a small, closed space? These are manifestations of an anxiety disorder that you could pass on to your kids.
Yes, children of anxious parents are at an increased risk of developing anxiety. Almost 50 percent of children of anxious parents grow up to be anxious themselves. Well, now there’s something that can prevent that.
Researchers found that family therapy can help kids deal with anxiety better. They studied 136 families with at least one parent with an anxiety and at least one child between six to 13 years old. The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that only nine percent of the kids developed anxiety after a year of family-therapy intervention, compared to kids who only received written instructions and those who received none at all.
UConn health psychologist and lead study author Golda Ginsburg, explains in a press release, “Anxiety and fear are protective and adaptive. But in anxious kids they may not be, because these children have thoughts about danger and threat when there really isn’t one.” Family intervention teaches the kids how to identify those fears and analyze why there’s nothing to be afraid of.
The same idea behind family therapy intervention can be used to help kids handle pressure. Clinical psychologist Lyn Lyons, in her book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children, writes that anxiety is the number one reason parents bring kids to a mental health professional. He suggests that parents let their children know that some level of uncertainty is fine; it’s okay to not know what will happen next. Starting conversations about what might happen next can help them be prepared for the future.
Keep calm and carry on While it’s always an option to seek a counselor or a psychologist, for single mom Chary Lia, it’s important that she informs her son what to expect, and then talk to him in detail about the changes could happen. “We usually have a plan, and when something doesn’t go as planned – for example, his father suddenly wouldn’t be able to pick him up one weekend, even though he promised – I have to explain to him why. He can ask me questions, and I answer the best way I can to help him understand and process what happened, so he won’t be afraid,” she says.
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Communication is key when it comes to raising kids who can deal with anxieties. “You can’t just say ‘E ganun e.’ Yes, some things are out of our hands, but kids need the reassurance that everything will be okay, and that we parents can also roll with the changes,” Mary Uy, preschool teacher and mom of two, adds. She says that she has worries and anxieties, too, but as much as she can help it, she doesn’t show these to her kids. “If they see you panic, they’ll panic also. You have to compose yourself and do everything you can to help the kids,” she stresses.
In the same way, parents also have to learn let go, says Karen Santos, account executive and mom of four who is based in Singapore. “If you try to protect them all the time because you’re worried that this or that will happen, then in a way, you’re instilling that worrying and overprotective-ness is the way to go about life. And we can’t protect them all the time,” she says. We need to teach them to try and process worries and fears on their own, from the time they’re still young, so they can develop that skill and handle grown-up life with much ease.
September 29, 2015. “How Anxious Parents Can Raise Calmer Kids” (yahoo.com) September 25, 2015. “Therapy Can Prevent Anxiety In Children, Study Says” (uconn.edu) September 14, 2015. “How To Help Your Kids Handle Pressure” (time.com)