It’s not unusual for parents to feel anxious from time to time, when their child is unwell or troubled, however some parents are living with perpetual worry, unable to balance feelings of protectiveness with their child’s need for independence.
What are the signs you may have become overly anxious or fearful and what can you do to help yourself and your child?
Psychologist Dr Judith Locke, author of The Bonsai Child, suggests parents feeling anxious or fearful should think about the things they’re worrying about and ask themselves whether there’s a real chance of actual harm.
“They can ask themselves if it would be okay if their child just faced that tricky thing such as not winning the race, not having their lunch that day and learning they can cope and overcome the challenges, or feeling slightly uncomfortable for a moment,” Dr Locke says.
“If you find that you always have something you worry about to do with your child then it is likely you worry a bit too much.
“That unnecessary worry is likely to make your child worry unnecessarily too, particularly if you are voicing your fears, telling them that you worry about them or overprotecting them.”
Dr Locke believes parents should always be concerned for their child’s safety and making sure they’re protected from harm. But there are some definitions of harm that aren’t necessarily accurate.
Some parents might spend hours feeling anxious because their child is worried they won’t be in a class with their best friend, or that they haven’t been invited to a friend’s party or their child is upset that a favourite toy has gone missing.
“For example, a child losing a toy or not winning something – that isn’t harmful to them. But we’ve widened the definition of harm so parents are protecting their kids from things that will disappoint them,” Dr Locke says.
“The more you protect them from normal outcomes, such as not winning every game, then they’re not resilient enough to face the future and its ups and downs.”