Could our children be anxious because of us?

There seems to be more children with anxiety in our society than ever before. This is something that I have been reading quite a bit about recently and the facts are quite staggering. In fact the research shows that as many as one in six young people in the UK suffer from anxiety. To look it another way, one in five teenagers in an average class will be suffering from anxiety (anxiety.org.uk). This is a frightening statistic frankly and it got me thinking about why this is happening.  As a mum, I know that there are many pressure of our teenagers which I have written about Here.

As a teacher and a mum I come across many, many children and their parents. I’m not a mental health expert and I’m only offering my opinions gathered from my experiences in this post. I certainly wouldn’t want to offend anyone but I wonder if the way we parent is adding to the anxiety that our young people are experiencing? In being such caring parents perhaps we are not helping our youngsters?

Here are my thoughts:

1. Perhaps by always telling our children that they are amazing at things, we are creating anxiety?

As parents and teachers, we want to praise our children for the things that they have done but I think the words we use are so important. Telling relatives that your child is going to play for a county team because they are amazing at sport actually creates tension, as your child is then expected to make that team. We’ve all done it; I know I have but labelling your child as ‘really good at maths’ creates a pressure for your child to always be really good at maths when their flair for maths may just be a stage. We want our children to enjoy what they enjoy or are motivated by, not become burdened by adult expectation.

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2. Do we overplay a ‘blip’?

As parents, we worry when our children get a bad grade in science or stick on a reading level but we really shouldn’t. All children plateau with their learning as that is the nature of learning! I’m often dismayed to hear that children as young as 6 years old are having tutor support because they received one poor maths grade. It may be just that they need to consolidate what they have learnt and then they will start making progress again. Tutors are great for children who need a little confidence or who have a barrier to learning such as dyslexia but all children will plateau at some point. This does not mean that they need extra tuition. If our children think the ‘blip’ is important enough to need support, they become anxious about their performance. Learning is a process that is complex and children must feel confident in their own abilities to make those next steps.

3. Do we overplay friendship issues?

One moment of unkindness is not bullying. Seeing you get upset when your child is working through a friendship issue will make them think the issue is more important than it really is. It really isn’t. All children have friendship woes, it’s a normal part of growing up. We need to help our children talk about their worries but not add to them by making small issues bigger than they actually are. I’ve noticed in my career that more and more parents are rushing in to talk about their child’s friendships when they should be allowing their child to figure some things out for themselves. Many, many children hit, scratch, kick, bite, pull hair and say unkind things. We need to teach our children tolerance, kindness and how to say sorry and forgive. Holding a grudge about a certain child that once pulled your child’s hair will also add to your child’s anxiety. They need to learn to get along with their peers and this anxiety about another child will not help them.

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4. Do we hide our feelings from our children?

I do this. I find it tricky to show my children if I’m sad or worried by something. I think that this is not healthy though. Obviously we shouldn’t be sharing things that are not appropriate with young children but if we are feeling sad we could tell our children that. ‘Mummy feels sad today but your smiley face is helping me feel happier.’ I think that children need to know that life can make us feel a range of emotions on a daily basis and that’s ok.

I’ve done all these things as parent at some time or another.
As a teacher, I know that praising effort is more important than praising attainment and I have always tried hard to do this with my own children. It does develop confidence and that is the one thing that young children need to try new things. Try it. Praise your children for the efforts they have made with a new skill rather than praising them when they achieve the end result. This is especially important for bright children when things come easier to them because they need the confidence to push themselves out of their comfort zone and learn that small failures are ok. Resilience to failure learnt young is better than feeling anxious as a teenager when exams hit.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take care everyone. X

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63 thoughts on “Could our children be anxious because of us?

  • This was an inspired post! I do think parents worry too much about little things. As a long-time survivor of childhood I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my parents had overreacted to every slight, off grade, or other normal thing that I experienced.

  • I am not a parent but I have been an educator for over a decade so I’m going to put in my two cents ;). I agree with everything you say about the things we say and do affecting children. I’ve also noticed a trend that kids should be over busy with sports and other after school activities. I also think technology has played a huge role in this anxiety epidemic. I know I have felt it. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reading this post hit home immediate. Last week I received an email from my youngest daughter’s teacher who is currently in Grade 2. My poor child was frantic and cried because she messed and stained her gym togs. She was anxious that we were going to scold at her. We have previously indicated to our girls that they need to take responsibility for their belongings including school uniform as items get lost on a regular basis and we can’t fork out money to replace these items all the time. The thing is we say things to our kids in a manner to ensure they get the message, what we don’t realize that they are little sponges and our body language, tone of voice and use of words actually affects them emotionally and by this instilling fear.

  • Some excellent points here… I thought the post was going to be alluding to our anxiety rubbing off on them, but you’re right, being ‘OTT’ on issues can definitely instill the wrong values and pressures in kids.
    Some great advice and food for thought – thank you for sharing with #coolmumclub x

  • I never saw any emotion from my parents growing up and I don’t think it was a good thing. I’m totally open and honest with my two (within reason) I believe they should understand that sometimes life throws us a curveball! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

  • Great post, and I agree with these. I think it’s important to find the balance between discussing but not over analysing things. I do try to find this with my boys, although I’m not perfect by any means! #Blogstravaganza

  • It’s hard to stand back sometimes when your child is upset or struggling. My daughter is having friendship issue at the moment and I try my best to encourage her gently to talk about it (only if she starts) but I try not to make a big deal of it. I want her to figure it out herself but know she can talk to me. As for showing our feelings, I’m trying to get better at this as I too think it’s important.
    #Blogstravaganza

  • This is such a great post. I often worry that my anxiety issues will be inadvertently passed on. All we can do is foster their confidence in themselves. Thanks for joining #blogstravaganza

  • I do worry about this a lot – I have struggled with anxiety for a long while. I excelled at school but as an adult now I’m not good at handling things I’m not naturally great at, and maybe that’s because of pressure to continue excelling, although it only comes from myself now and not parents and teachers. I try to encourage my son to enjoy things he wants to – he’s a very clever little man, and he gets frustrated when he can’t pick up something quickly too. Maybe he can help to teach me that no one starts out as an expert, and there’s no shame in being a beginner. #blogstravaganza

  • Yes I think this is absolutely true. I think it’s really hard to step back as parents and just watch our children develop – we want to encourage them and motivate them but sometimes we can go to far and put unnecessary pressure on them. I think finding the balance is really hard, but being aware of it is a good place to start 🙂

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the #blogcrush linky. Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

  • Yes, I think this is true. It’s really hard to step back as parents and watch our children develop. Finding the balance is really hard, but it is good to give it a try xx #mondaystumble

  • I love every well thought out word in this post love! I couldn’t agree more. We try so hard to praise the effort and hard work. Not a brass band for every outcome! <3 #MondayStumble xo

  • Totally agree. I think the fact children are so heavily scheduled these days as well with after school clubs and activities and play dates etc plays a role. As well as the need to fill every weekend/holiday with days out or organising activities for them. Kids seem to have forgotten how to just be kids and if we’re not giving them an activity to do they don’t know how to entertain themselves. They can’t just go and call on friends because they’re probably busy/out and everything has to be arranged 3 weeks in advance, it’s mad.
    #Coolmumclub

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently with my eldest and did some research too. I think we are in danger of passing anxiety on with our own pressures and expectations. We just have to let them ‘fail safely’ more than we do at school and at home I think. You make lots of good points – I am very guilty of the friendship thing and will keep your words in mind in future xx

  • So my 10yo struggles with anxiety and while not a clinical diagnosis I do believe it’s a real struggle for her. It’s both a combination of her naturally-occurring pessimism (she’s always had that outlook) and the move to a big, combined upper elementary last year that stressed her. CBT is helping.

    #tweensteensbeyond

  • I have recently started admitting to my children that I struggle and I think it has made the kids open up more about when they are having a hard time too. A very interesting post.
    Thanks so much for linking up with #kcacols. We hope you can join us again next time.

  • This makes a lot of sense to me and I think at the heart of it is resilience. We try, with the best of intentions, to control the environment in which our children exist but it may be better to give them the tools to cope in all sorts of environments. Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

  • Oh Sophie anxiety is something I have written a lot about but I love your viewpoint that it is our own over-reactions to a situation that can exacerbate our children’s behaviour and thus anxiety. It seems to me that there is so much pressure nowadays upon our children that parents are highly tuned to any dip in performance or change in attitude and often jump in with both feet first, whereas sometimes stepping back and giving it time is all that is needed. Great post. Thanks for sharing. #TweensTeensBeyond

  • Brilliant post! Everything you say resonates and I agree whole heartedly with all of your points. To refer to a couple – showing emotions – yep, something we have done so much more of as our daughter has grown. Its all about keeping it real and acknowledging that things to do go a bit wonky at times, it’s OK to show feelings. Having been brought up in a ‘sweep it under the carpet’ generation, I am mindful of getting things out in the open. The friendships – yep they will do and be done to and it’s all about learning what makes a good ‘friend’, what they will seek in others and give back. I always err on the side of caution with these matters, rather than encourage cynicism, which can unfortunately stick. I love this. Thanks you for sharing with us at #tweensteensbeyond.

  • My wife and I were talking about this tonight. As a society, we ask too much of kids too young. Like SATS at seven. Crazy.
    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time.

  • I think we project a lot of our fears and anxieties onto our children whether we intend to or not. My mother is frightened of dogs and would get very nervous and panic anticipate would could possibly happen, thankfully my sister and i aren’t scared of dogs, but i see my mum doing the same with the grandkids and great grandkids and it winds me up #tweenteensbeyond

  • I agree with everything you say here – the overenthusiastic badly worded praise and worry about school blips I see all the time, from myself (!) and fellow parents. I went to a really interesting pastoral care talk where teachers were saying that kids really need to experience and learn to deal with failure and disappointment – if they leave school having never had a real struggle to achieve something they simply aren’t prepared for adult life, leading to possible mental health issues later on. I’ll definitely share this post on my page if I may?!

    • Of course. Thank you.
      Yes, I fully agree that without learning how to deal with failure during the relative safety of childhood, how can children see that failure is not scary? Thank you for the positive comment. 😉

  • Communication of parents with their children is verbal and non verbal both. What we tell them in words is hardly 30 to 40% where as what they observe thru their own eyes especially in their formative years is non verbal communication which is of paramount importance.

    My one year old can easily distinguish when I am angry and when I am jovial. If we are sending positive vibes to our children they are bound to pick to be positives and vice versa is equally true if we are perpetually put them under stress they are bound to be anxious. I also do not understand this friendship thingy, I am her father and not her friend and at times I will be strict, I won’t let her tantrums dictate my decisions of what is good for her.

    I want her to chart out her own career path her own life but I am going to stand like a rock behind her , I am not going to let her wither in a storm, I am her father not her friend.

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