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Parents who have particular fears or are generally predisposed to anxiety are often concerned about passing their problems on to their children. For example, I am concerned about the mere thought of some type of needle, like the flu shot or a blood test. My fear of gunshots is almost as old as I am and I was deeply concerned that my children would pick up on my fear.
My colleague, Dr. Alice Boyes, author of the Anxiety Toolkit, and I shared our personal fears and how we can avoid passing them on to our children. Whether you’re scared of swimming, spinning, or exercising, here’s how to make sure your kids stay worry-free.
Our cheat sheet to keep you from passing on your fears
1. If you have persistent fear, let other adults model a lack of fear in your child’s life. For example, dogs and animals in general are a source of fear for Alice – partly because they are bitten, but also because of certain experiences such as visiting people with dogs and their furniture covered with animal hair, or by a dog being licked, unable to escape, or a cat rubbing its leg. Alice sees to ensuring that other adults expose their toddler to tapping and playing with dogs and teaching her child the skills of how to safely approach and be with dogs and other animals.
2. Pay attention to your language. Anxious parents can constantly remind their child to “be careful”. This phrase is too vague and often too repetitive to be useful in your child’s development. Instead, help the children look out for signs of safety and danger. For example:
- Safety Signs: Your child may be shy playing with children they don’t know. This position is remarkably similar to your attitude as a child. You might say, “Did you notice that the other children were smiling at you? I think they hope you come over and play with them. “
- Instead of always pointing out danger signs, e.g. B. “Did you notice that the wood looked shaky?” Try looking for security signs like “Did you notice how robust this protocol looks? Let’s test it out by standing on it before trying to go over it. “
Help your child solve problems when they encounter situations that create fear. This is a good resource for developing your own ideas on phrases that you can use as alternatives to “be careful” and encourage problem-solving without sacrificing risk-taking. This is how children explore and learn.
3. For young children, you can also create your own character bedtime stories by using strategies to deal with situations that make them feel upset or scared. Keep these stories light and to avoid exaggeration, include stories related to other lessons in life, such as: B. How to be patient or take care of something. Ask the school or local librarian for suggestions about books that teach you how to overcome fear, or that illustrate compassion or patience.
4. Don’t make your adult worry about your child’s worries. Sometimes we think children are more mature and able to deal with more problems or information than they actually can. Suppose you have money trouble. A child can’t help it, and some may think you’re going to lose the home or get a divorce. In other words, don’t burden children with concerns from adults that they cannot resolve. When they occur, you are helping your child understand that there are responsibilities and decisions that adults need to worry about.
5. Verbalize strategies that will make you less anxious. Hopefully your child learns to do the same. For example: “I’m nervous about the presentation I have to give at work. I will practice to make sure I know. “Or:” When I go to the dentist, I don’t think nervously about what he’s doing or about the noisy equipment, but rather about how shiny my teeth look or how much better my mouth feels when I go. “
6. Help your child understand and label certain emotions. A child who is predisposed to anxiety can more easily identify when they are feeling anxious than when they are experiencing other feelings such as anger, sadness, and guilt. Research shows that people who are able to detail their emotions tend to regulate them better, and this is true for children too. Encourage your child to tell you how they feel when they appear anxious or anxious, and listen to what they say.
7. Turn off the news. Understandably, you may be terrified of school shootings or child abduction. Your children may hear from a friend, at school, or on the news. When your children ask questions, answer them as best you can, reminding them that you will do whatever you can to protect them. Limit your children and your children’s exposure to media broadcasts. Overexposure only increases fears.
8. Look for evidence-based solutions. They will help you deal with your own fears and teach your children to do the same. For example, regarding needle phobia, Minnesota Children’s Hospital developed and implemented four strategies to reduce that fear and relieve pain. The techniques have proven successful and are being adopted by other children’s hospitals. In general, for your child’s routine health needs (such as the dentist), you should seek out health professionals who are good bedside manner and have positive and affirmative experiences.
9. While fear is uncomfortable, the better you can do to help your children navigate what they perceive to be fear-inducing, regardless of whether they are moderately fearful or prone to fear.
We’d love to hear how you address your fears to keep them from being picked up by your children. Please let us know in the comment section.