Being a parent can put you in a constant state of anxiety. From the time you found you were pregnant, you might have worried whether your diet was ideal for growing your baby, and we bet you Googled every other pregnancy sign and symptom to ensure bubba was doing A-okay.
And when a newborn is thrust into your arms, you’ll worry incessantly about his milk intake, poop colour, and sleep hours. Let’s not even start on the times your toddler had a sudden fever, or tripped over a step and grazed his knee.
Still, it’s only natural that we are eager to protect our children from harm of any kind. But worrying isn’t the same as loving your kids, and overthinking things that haven’t even happened may get into the way of your ability to parent positively.
Reid Wilson and Lynn Lyons, in their book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children, pointed out that anxious children can learn patterns of worry from parents who are only trying to help, “We inadvertently teach them to think and act in ways that reinforce their fear and avoidance.”
We suggest eight strategies you parents can ease your worries?
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Often, it’s the everyday things that give parents much anxiety and stress. “Getting out of the door every morning is tough,” Chen says. “I’m usually trying to get my 4-year-old’s shoes on, while my younger son is clinging on to me for dear life. If I’m late for work, that just adds to it all.” So, even if junior spilt the entire glass of milk onto the carpet or if he drew on the walls while you were in the bathroom, try to focus on the big picture. Messes get cleaned and life goes on, but losing your calm can affect your relationship negatively
2. You don’t have to control everything
This is particular difficult to put into practice. Mum of two Chen Ee Ting once broke down in tears when her 2-year-old son refused to eat the nutritious dinner she had prepared. “He was already not eating well, so I took the time to prepare all his food from scratch despite being a working mum. After a week of him refusing to eat the food, I had just about had it and my husband had to take over, feeding him a peanut butter sandwich.” Control battles like these can occur just about over anything ― from the amount of screen time junior has, to what time he goes to sleep. If you’ve already done what you can, accept that you can’t control everything ― and let go of what you can’t control. You’ll be a much calmer parent.
Messes get cleaned and life goes on, but losing your calm can affect your relationship negatively.
3. Don’t overthink it
Your baby isn’t going to forget your scent when you leave him with the nanny for a day, and your tot isn’t going to burn down the house just because you left him at your in-laws for the first time. As much as we love our child, we are doing him a favour when we allow him to adapt to different environments and caregivers. If you find yourself going through a host of “what if” scenarios, try to stay in the present ― think about the reasons why you are leaving your child with a particular person and why you chose that person to care for your child. Ultimately, know that you’ve made the right choice and trust in your judgment. All the other thoughts are pointless.
4. Your child has his own identity
Are you worried that your mini-me will have problems making friends when she starts school? Or maybe you think that she’s going to feel left out if she doesn’t play sports. Know that these anxieties may arise from our own insecurities from the past. It’ll do you a world of good to recognise that our children are their own persons and will carve out their own path ― nor will they necessarily head in the same direction as us. Instead of nagging at junior and trying to point him towards a specific direction, why not channel this energy into connecting with him and learning about the amazing person he is instead?
5. Talk to someone
Besides writing, another way to “externalise” your worries is to talk about them. Whether it’s your spouse, a sister or a good friend, talking about your worries can help you gain a new perspective on them. “I was worried about the kids my 9-year-old daughter was hanging out with last year, but after speaking to my best friend about it, I realised that my daughter was basically a younger version of myself. We laughed about it and that really helped to ease my worries,” says mum Michelle Heng.
6. Pen down your worries
Worrying about multiple issues can be challenging. You may feel that if you don’t think about a problem enough, you aren’t dealing with it adequately and may drop the ball somewhere. If this is the case, you’ll be overwhelmed by those thoughts sooner or later. It helps to write out your anxieties ― for instance, 1. Brandon’s fever ― make sure the nanny gives him his medicine; 2. Charlotte’s spelling test tomorrow ― go through the words with her. Doing this breaks down seemingly intangible worries into tasks that you can complete easily.
Whether it’s your spouse, a sister or a good friend, talking about your worries can help you gain a new perspective on them.
7. Focus on the positives
Just because something bad happens, it doesn’t mean that your day is ruined. Carolyn Tay, mum to Mischa, 2 and Mikael, 8, finds it hard to let go of her frustrations about her son’s school results. “He takes a while to learn his spelling words, for instance, so he hasn’t been doing very well. When he gets his grades, it can affect me the rest of the day,” she says. In order to focus on what’s important, she tries to list both the positive and negatives. “A positive would be that he is a healthy and kind boy, a negative would then be the results. The positives usually far outweigh the negatives and it helps me to see things in a different light.
8. Create a coping toolkit
This is essentially a bunch of activities and exercises that can help you from stressing over an issue. It could be a set of yoga poses, a nature reserve walk, reading for an hour, or doing some deep-breathing exercises. Basically, do anything that would distract you and take your mind off your worries. Furthermore, it actually gives you the opportunity to focus on yourself ― so, you’ll be better able to take charge of your life and be an improved role model to your children.
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