For people who struggle with an anxiety disorder such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Panic Disorder, it is vital to separate the anxiety from the person. You are not your anxiety. You have anxiety. Just as you may have a cold. The cold does not define who you are.
Often times people give too much power to their anxiety. People will talk about how he/she has always been anxious or everyone in his/her family is anxious. By making these types of statements, a person is unintentionally making him/herself a victim of his/her anxiety; feeding the belief the person has no control over his/her anxiety; he/she is destined to live an anxious life.
Another way people give power to their anxiety is by giving into their anxiety. For example, a person is anxious about going to a party where unknown people will be so the person does not go. A person is nervous about going to a gym, to work out, thinking others will be staring at him/her so he/she does not go.
When a person gives into the anxiety, he/she makes the anxiety stronger. What a person gives energy to, he/she makes stronger. This concepts applies to every area of a person’s life not just anxiety. If a person gives energy to eating healthfully, building healthy relationships, working out, getting up on time, meditating, etc., you will strengthen these habits.
These same principles apply to children. If you have a child who has fears, the last thing you want to do is give into those fears and make the fears stronger.
A phrase I have coined in my practice is emotional endurance. Emotional endurance is the ability to regulate emotions and to challenge self to follow through with a task/situation in spite of the uncomfortable feelings. Just as I can train a person to have physical endurance, I can also work with a person to develop emotional endurance.
Unfortunately, many parents rescue their children from emotional pain, thus inhibiting the development of emotional endurance. The intention is good; however, the result of these good intentions is a child who is insecure and unable to handle emotionally or physically challenging situations.
Parents may parent out of guilt. Next to anger, my belief is this is the second worst emotion to parent out of. Parents may feel guilty because they are divorced. They feel badly their child has to grow up in a home where both parents are not present. This results in the parent attempting to rescue the child from any situation that creates any type of discomfort in the child. The parent believes the child has already “suffered” enough due to the divorce. (This can also display itself in enabling behaviors if the child is acting out behaviorally and the parent does not allow the child to feel the natural consequences of his/her choices. However, this is a topic for another article at another time.)
Another reason parents may parent out of guilt is because they have a child who is dealing with an issue or situation other children may not be facing such as stuttering, a learning disability or a physical disability. Again, the parent attempts to “rescue” the child from experiencing any form of discomfort because the parent believes the child has “suffered” enough.
In Lynn Lyons article, “Taming The Wild Things: Helping Anxious Kids and Their Parents” she educates on not allowing anxiety to control a person’s life. She writes about the need for parents to minimize the energy they give to their child’s anxiety. She states, “When we overprotect them [our children], we deprive them of the practice needed to manage in the world.”
There is pain in the world. There is no getting around this. If we do not allow our children (and ourselves) to learn how to manage that pain, our children will live a life of being insecure, unproductive, depressed and anxious.
I have attached a copy of Ms. Lyons’ article below. It is a lengthy article; however, I believe Ms. Lyons does an excellent job explaining the impact of anxiety and how to better challenge anxiety in a person’s day to day life.