- What is parental anxiety?
- Impact on children
- Risk factors
- How to cope
- How to avoid passing anxiety on to kids
What is parental anxiety?
Parental anxiety is the constant overly worried about everything that might go wrong with one’s child or family. Sleep deprivation, concerns about the health and well-being of the children, fears of not being an adequate parent, and the stress of balancing parenthood with a career can all contribute to parenting anxiety.
Parental anxiety statistics
Parental anxiety is prevalent as a large percentage of parents experience symptoms of anxiety within the first few months of becoming parents. Up to 35% of parents experience anxiety during pregnancy, 17% soon after giving birth, and 20% six weeks later2. But parental anxiety doesn’t necessarily end after the newborn period is over.
Parental anxiety’s impact on the child
Anxiety tends to run in families. Children of anxious parents are 5-7 times more likely to develop anxiety disorders than those of non-anxious parents4,5.
Genes influence individual differences in anxiety levels in children6. Parenting behavior resulting from parental anxiety also contributes to the intergenerational transmission of anxiety7.
Therefore, anxiety in parents can have important implications and negative impacts on the child’s outcomes.
- A family history of depression
- Low self-esteem
- Low parental warmth in childhood
- Death of a parent before age 18
- Being female
- Early adversity such as childhood sexual abuse or traumatic experiences by age 21
- Growing up in a disturbed family environment
- Having fewer years of education
How to cope with parental anxiety
Proactive problem solving
Learn about child development
Individuals’ self-efficacy beliefs refer to the confidence they have in their abilities to accomplish their goals. A stronger belief in your parenting abilities can reduce anxiety9. The best way to feel confident and ease anxiety over not getting it all right as a new parent is to learn about child development.
There is so many parenting tips on the Internet that many new mothers feel overwhelmed and anxious. It is a challenge to wade through so many options and hope you have chosen the right one.
But parenting need not be a matter of luck or guesswork. A lot of research has already been done on child development. To ease new parent anxiety, arm yourself with science-based parenting information.
Exercise as self-care
It is important to take good care of ourselves, but for busy parents, it is a luxury. Self-care does not just happen in a spa with bubble baths. Exercising can boost your mood and energy, as well as reduce anxiety12. Take a walk, do yoga, or lift weights regularly to keep anxiety feelings at bay.
Seek constructive social support
Write in journal
How to avoid passing anxiety on to kids
Teach kids coping strategies
Teach your child coping strategies such as meditating, exercising, and taking deep breaths, and practice together. Your child will benefit from these calming mechanisms, too.
Avoid parental overprotection
Overprotection reduces children’s opportunities to acquire proper development skills, diminishing their sense of competence and resulting in higher levels of anxiety22.
Promote self-efficacy in your child
Help your child improve their self-confidence by helping them change their self-talk. You can do that by praising, giving constructive feedback instead of criticism, and exposing them to tasks that they can master24.
The whole family can benefit from seeing a clinical psychologist or a family therapist if both parents and children are suffering from anxiety.
Need Help Motivating Kids?
Online course How To Motivate Kids is a great place to start.
Final thoughts on parent anxiety
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