I was diagnosed with severe anxiety four years ago. It didn't come as a shock, I'd expected it. Therefore, I learnt to adapt and deal with it. After my daughter was born two years ago, I started to worry. It's only natural as a mother that we worry for the health and well being of our children. A lot of parents with genetic disorders will worry that these are passed down throughout their generations. I'm fortunate enough to not have to worry about this, instead I worry about anxiety. Though it is not proven to be in our genes, it's definitely something that can easily be passed on to our children. It's something I consciously worry about everyday.
We all want to raise strong children. None of us are fighting our deepest darkest battles in order for our children to not fully appreciate and feel their own worth. It's common knowledge that every good parent does the best for their children, they'll go without so that their children can go with. We tend to put our own feelings aside in order for our children to live a pleasant and beautiful life. It's a selfless act that we seem to develop from the moment these tiny humans are born into our lives.
Whilst wanting the best for my daughter, Daisy, I end up second glancing a lot of my own actions. Anxiety can be considerably uncontrollable. My nerves get the better of me in situations that others would breeze through. New scenarios are the worst - I will picture every different outcome (90% of them bad) and work myself up for nothing. I remember the first time I dropped Daisy off at her preschool. I couldn't tell you exactly what it was, but I was so anxious. I had made up these scenarios (subconsciously) in my head that the other mums were going to be really horrible and the teachers would laugh at me. Turns out that, obviously, all the other mums and the teachers are super lovely - yet another situation that my anxiety had exaggerated.
I tried so hard that morning to act confident for Daisy. I didn't want her to see that I was nervous - I never want her to see through my nerves. Although anxiety is known for being an invisible disability, it has a lot of physical effects. I sweat, I shake, I feel (and look) sick. I sometimes will sit and pick the skin around my thumbs, I won't notice that I'm doing it until they start to hurt or someone tells me to stop. But these are all things that I worry everyday will rub off onto Daisy.
Children learn so much from their parents, they watch and perceive our actions and copy them in their own ways. We are their role models and so it's only instinct that we want to do the best by them. I try to tell Daisy when my anxiety is bad, because I know she will pick up on it. When I'm anxious because she's poorly, I'll tell her. "Mummy doesn't like it when you're poorly, it makes me really sad". When I'm anxious because the flat is a mess and we're running late, I'll tell her. "Mummy gets really upset when the flat is a mess, I much prefer it tidy". It's important for her to understand the reasoning behind my behaviour. The more I try to hide it, the more she will pick up on it.
I've caught myself, far too many times, asking Daisy to be careful as she's running. I'm worried she's going to fall. I've caught myself telling her to be careful as she's climbing up to the tallest slide at soft play. I used to worry that this would then drum the idea into her head that these things are scary. But I'm lucky she's a strong minded little girl and for the most part, doesn't really listen to anything I say! She's confident and she's adventurous. She's daring and not afraid to speak out to anyone that will listen. I love this quality of hers, it inspires me to overcome my anxiety and push it as far to the back of my mind as I possibly can. There are a few things we can all do to try and not let our anxiety rub off onto our children:
Speak with confidence - It's so important to encourage our children in all aspects of their lives. Talk about their strengths when they are excelling at something, and even when they aren't. When they are struggling, praise them and make them aware that they have your full support.
Be calm, open and show empathy - When your child seems to be a little nervous, empathise with them and speak about how they are feeling. Ask they if there is anything you can do to help the situation. Model calming behaviour when you are feeling anxious. Show them that you are able to control your anxiety. Take deep breaths and do what is needed to keep it under control.
Anxiety is a struggle. When we have children it seems to double in weight. But it's something we need not worry about rubbing off onto our children. By speaking to our little ones and being open with them, they will learn to be bold and be strong without a second glance into their parent's anxiety. You can read more about my life and it's ups and downs through my blog.