I remember how I would often ask my parents to stop worrying about me. As a young adult, I would find their questions and worries unsettling. Our arguments would always end with a standard reply from their side, “You will know when you have children of your own.”
Just two years into parenthood and I already know what they meant. A mother can never stop worrying about her children. It comes in her job description. I am an anxious parent and have cried at my daughter’s vaccinations and ear piercing. Just the sound of her coughing has been enough to give me sleepless nights.
I know a lot of parents, in their efforts to protect their children, go through tremendous anxiety. They start imagining the worse situations like their children tumbling down the staircase or getting bullied in school. Psychology says worrying helps the brain to comfort itself. We feel that by worrying excessively, we can somehow control things. However, when we can’t control this negative thought process, it results in anxiety. Not only it is unhealthy for you, but you also stop connecting with your children. Instead of spending quality time with them and being in the present, you start lecturing and nagging them.
What you need is a way to control your anxiety to become a calmer parent. Here are some tips that may help you.
Control your parental anxiety – become a calmer parent
Accept your anxiety
You are human and anxiety is a legit emotion. It is a natural human response to danger and thinking it is wrong to worry is only going to cause more stress. The first step in reducing your anxiety is accepting that there is a problem and that you need to overcome it.
Avoid unreasonable expectations
This holds true for both, you and your kids. You want your kids to eat healthy vegetables and stay away from junk food. It is not a wrong expectation but any forceful behaviour on your part will lead to clashes. They may start seeing you a controlling parent and refuse to co-operate. Similarly, avoid setting high expectations for yourself. No mother is perfect and you are doing the best you can.
Stay away from the internet
Looking for answers on online forums will only cause more anxiety. If your child is sick, take her to a doctor and trust your instincts. Avoid WebMD at all costs. Similarly, avoid social media as it can put unnecessary pressure on you. You may look at other kids and feel your children are not matching up to their standards. Judging anyone life’s from their social media is like judging a book from its cover. A few pictures are not going to tell you the entire story.
Allow yourself to make mistakes
Parenthood is a journey and you are going to make mistakes. Instead of beating yourself about it, learn to move on. Several mothers live with a pang of constant guilt and I know what I am saying is easier said than done. However, reason out with yourself. Did you do it deliberately to harm your child? No, right? Think about what you can learn from the situation and move on.
Distract your mind
When you find yourself worrying excessively, practise some diversion techniques. The key is to activate the logical side of your brain and calm the emotional side. You may try counting backwards or read a story backwards. You can even try jumping on one foot or cycling in the air. You can also try slow breathing. This is a known exercise that can slow you down and bring you to the present. Anxiety arises from worrying about unexpected situations that may happen in the future. Try to come to the present and ward off those negative thoughts.
Confront your fears
Anxiety is a long debate with one’s own mind and answering a series of ‘what if’ questions. When your mind is clouded with excessive worry, confront these questions and look for answers. The main objective is to differentiate between facts and fears. For example – you may be worried about your daughter’s swimming class. You may follow these steps.
- What are you worried about? That she may drown in the pool.
- Is your concern based on facts or fears? You are scared or water yourself (fear)
- What can you do to alleviate your stress? Get her all the protective swimming paraphernalia and attend a class to know that she is in safe hands.
Being a parent is definitely not easy. You want to do everything in your capacity to protect them from life’s struggles and disappointments. However, you can’t protect them all the time. Try to think of what is realistic and act upon it. It is important to relieve our anxiety so that you can enjoy a stable and happy relationship with them. Trust me, you will make better decisions and enjoy your time with your children with a much calmer mind.