Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Something new to worry about: Passing along anxieties

When I let my son watch Finding Nemo, I always start it at the scene where Nemo is waking his dad up for the first day of school. I know that fairy tales and children's movies have a long history of removing mothers from stories because moms represent safety and security. But in the case of Finding Nemo, I think that the opening scenes are a little too traumatic. My son is perfectly able to understand that Marlin is an over-protective dad to Nemo without viewing the tragic origins.

And, overall, Finding Nemo is a great story about adventure and friendship and growing up and being brave. But there is one thing that it really gets wrong: Anxiety-ridden parents don't produce brave, independent-thinking children; they produce anxiety-ridden children.

Yes, I know that I am using a movie with talking sea creatures as an example. Go with it and let's focus on the important part.

In a study by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London, researchers have found that overprotective parenting skills tend to make children feel more anxiety. By researching both twins and non-twins, researchers were able to determine that anxieties are more "contagious" than they are "genetic." How serious is this? Some children in the study were being treated for anxiety disorders by the time they reached age 11.

How can parents help combat their overprotective natures? Here are a few tips:
  1. Relax more. I wrote about this earlier in the week, and I know that it is easier said than done, but it really does help.
  2. Let your child take age-appropriate risks. Maybe back off a bit from the playground and let them explore on their own, or at the very least, don't run over to your child every time they fall. They are probably fine (maybe just a little dirty).
  3. Avoid your triggers. If you are one of those parents who always wants to talk about the latest news story about a child abduction several states away from where you live, then maybe you should stop watching so much news.
  4. Seek out therapeutic exercises to help you control your own fears.
  5. If know you'll be in a stressful situation (like if you are at a children's birthday party but don't like crowds), maybe pass that parenting chore off to your spouse or someone else in your family.
I know that all this is easier said than done. But isn't it worth trying?

Do you have any other tips for ways to keep your anxieties under control? Leave them for me in the comments.

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