Many of us realize that we are living in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. As we have seen, it increases our anxiety and compromises our problem-solving and decision-making skills. In order to fully unravel the ill effects of uncertainty on our thinking, we need a deeper and more subtle understanding of our concerns. How does anxiety affect us? How do our concerns affect our children? What can we do to enhance our ability to learn from anxiety, not just to cope with stressful situations? The natural instinct of children is to avoid something that frightens or worries them, but if they do, they will not develop courage and ability. This is the worst possible scenario for dealing with uncertainty, because you can’t go crazy in skills if you want to move forward, taking risks, adapting quickly, and engaging comfortably with new people.
Connection between anxious parents and anxious children
One in five adults in the United States has suffered from anxiety disorder in the past year, and about one in three of us will experience it in our lifetime. Among adolescents aged 13 to 17, one in three had struggled with anxiety in the past three years and 8.3 percent had severe disability. While no one can claim to know all the reasons for the rise in anxiety, most experts agree that our volatile era contributes to it and that smartphones and social media make it worse. As Alex Williams writes in the New York Times, “Epidemiologists consider anxiety to be a medical condition, but the disorder is beginning to feel like a sociological condition: a shared cultural experience that metastasizes through alarmist TV graphics and social media.”
Apart from the cultural factors that make us more concerned, our genetic makeup plays a role. There are adults who are born brave, and others who are born more cautious and fearful. Similarly, some children seem to be active adventurers and fearless in the world, and others seem challenging to just move on to the mother. Studies have shown that genetics is the cause of 30-40 percent of personal risks in anxiety disorders. But having a genetic predisposition to anxiety does not mean that it is written in stone. The environment, for better or worse, almost always works alongside our genetic code.
There is another connection between parental concerns and their children. Anxious parents have less tolerance for their children’s suffering and this leads them to avoid situations that they think will upset their child. All parents do it to some extent, but anxious parents do it a lot.
Childhood is a series of extraordinary discoveries কিছু some joyful, some anxiety-stimulating জন্য for both children and parents. It takes patience, self-control, and mental energy to cope with our anxieties about our kids getting out of the world. When we are short on those reserves, we feel compelled to stop our anxiety right now. When the new mother Jina’s month-old baby cries at night, it feels unbearable. His mother told him to let her scream, but she couldn’t. The howl was shaking his last nerve. So she would pick up her baby in her first protest call and ask him to sleep in her arms. He didn’t suffer anymore, and neither did Gina. In the process, the child did not learn how to calm himself down to sleep. And Gina could not learn to bear her discomfort. Our children cannot learn without us.
This double-edged sword plays in a way that seems loving and helpful at the moment, but can accumulate over the years with extremely detrimental effects on our children. Say you rode a bicycle as a child. You’re in no hurry to get your young man on the bike – he’ll probably fall and think about it thirty years later. To make sure this doesn’t happen, you delay granting his request for the bike. It’s one of two. You believe that you are protecting your son from a potentially dangerous and anxious experience, but you are protecting yourself to recover from the fear you felt when you fell. Thus, instead of helping your child develop courage and coping skills, you are inadvertently promoting fear and hesitation.
When we think of protecting our children, we think of protecting them (from an oncoming car) or protecting them (from online porn or classmates). These are, of course, critical forms of protection. But we need a long view to provide long-term protection to our kids. Real and permanent protection is built slowly and increasingly. It comes from their qualifications and self-awareness when they examine themselves physically, mentally and socially. Responsive parents are very consistent with their child’s feelings, and this is a good thing: coordination between children and parents is important for the development of mental health and empathy. But parents who are overly anxious are not doing their child any good. This type of overly anxious parenting usually has deep roots and it is challenging to change. But let’s look at the unintended consequences of not doing our hyperactivity with our kids ’anxiety.
The adolescents and adults I see in my practice often suffer from what I would call accumulated disabilities: weaknesses in life skills and coping, adaptability and ability to work. This is the result of years of confusing protection provided by their parents who protect and rescue their children’s normal anxiety subject to development. It will be a shame in any age, but in our case it is a real threat to the life and livelihood of a young man. Because if we know anything about the next twenty or thirty years, we know that essential skills will include self-sufficiency, equality in the face of change, and enthusiasm for challenges.