Tips to Relieve Parental Anxiety
An article by Dr. Joselyn Eusebio, MD, FPPS, FPSDBP
Raising a child isn’t easy and parents, especially first-time ones, are often anxious over many things that their children can or cannot do. Every little thing seems to be a big issue for parents, from whether their babies are sleeping too little or too much, or whether or not their toddlers are ready for potty training.
Some amount of anxiety is normal but when it affects your ability to concentrate, sleep, and carry out ordinary tasks, it can be a cause for concern. It is also important to address symptoms of anxiety before they reach the threshold for a disorder as a large body of work has shown that longitudinally parental anxiety, along with parental over-involvement, predicts similar problems in children (Hudson & Dodd, 2012).
Common Symptoms of Anxiety
Your next question perhaps is how to know whether you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety. Here are common things you need to watch out for:
• Feeling nervous, tense, or general restlessness
• Physical symptoms such as: increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, feeling weak or tired
• Difficulty controlling worry, especially regarding circumstances that can happen to your child
• Avoidance of situations with potential negative consequences for your child
• Excessive amount of researching parenting-related questions and facts
Here are some strategies you can implement to help you cope with anxiety symptoms:
• Talk to your partner and/ or get the support of your other family members. Social support is instrumental in anxiety symptom relief. Talk to your partner or a family member about the different parenting issues you are facing and the things that you are anxious about. By letting them out in the open, you may be able to catch yourself before engaging in excessive worrying.
• Talk to other parents. Sometimes all it takes to relieve yourself of your worries is to know that these experiences are common to everyone raising a child. In this time, especially when feelings of isolation are heightened, it is very helpful to know that other parents are going through the same thing.
• Avoid comparing your child with other children. In this day and age where almost every parent broadcast their children’s developmental milestones or achievements on social media, it could be a particularly important reminder to catch yourself when you start engaging in social comparison. This kind of behavior is especially destructive if it makes you question your self-worth as a parent or your child’s self-worth and abilities, and can lead to negative emotions.
• Stress-reduction techniques. Make sure to take time for yourself and avoid stress by engaging in healthy behavior such as getting proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise. You may also engage in other activities or hobbies that bring you joy and distract from ruminative thinking.
• Practicing mindfulness. A particularly useful stress-reduction technique backed up by science is mindfulness. The core idea of this technique is being present and aware of what you are sensing, feeling, and thinking at the moment without judgment. Mindfulness can help you acknowledge your worries so you can begin disengaging with unproductive thinking and put your mind at ease.
• Talk to your pediatrician and arm yourself with knowledge. One of the most important things you can do aside from the tips above is getting medical help, especially from your pediatrician. They can help educate you about your child’s development and support you with parenting issues you feel you aren’t comfortable handling yourself or aren’t getting better. They may also provide recommendations for intervention (if necessary) to address your concerns about your child.
• Consider getting professional help for yourself. If your stress and anxiety symptoms are lingering or start to co-occur with symptoms of other psychological disorders such as depression, consider talking to a mental health professional such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
Most important of all, remember that there is no such thing as perfect parenting. Mistakes are unavoidable and meeting all of a child’s needs is impossible. It is okay to be “good enough” (Winnicott, 1953) – meaning most of the time we get parenting right while accepting we are bound to make our share of mistakes.
• Hudson, J. L., & Dodd, H. F. (2012). Informing Early Intervention: Pre-School Predictors of Anxiety Disorders in Middle Adulthood. PLoS ONE, 7(8): e42359. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0042359
• Winnicott, D. W. (1953). Transitional object and transitional phenomena. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 34, 89 – 97.
About The Writer
DR. JOSELYN EUSEBIO, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician
Dr. Joselyn C. Alonzo-Eusebio is a graduate of Doctor of Medicine from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. She had her Pediatric Residency Training in the same institution, after which, she pursued a fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at UP-PGH. She had had further trainings in Developmental Pediatrics abroad (US and UK).
Dr. Eusebio is involved both in teaching and in clinical practice. For the academe, she’s currently an Associate Professor of the College of Medicine of UERMMMC, and Clinical Instructor at the New Era College of Medicine and St Luke’s College of Medicine. Dr. Eusebio holds various positions including the following: Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, UERMMMC; Head, Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at National Children’s Hospital; Vice-President, Philippine Pediatric Society and the Perinatal Association of the Philippines.
She’s a much sought-after speaker in conferences, scientific symposia, lay fora, here and abroad, both in platforms and in media, most especially on the topic of child development and behavior.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.
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