Gil arrived home furious. He had a terrible day at work, and, in a spur of the moment decision, quit his job. The stress at work combined with the emotional struggles his oldest son was facing pushed him over the edge. His son was battling heightened anxiety, and the school recommended classes for kids with emotional problems. Gil felt like his own anxiety was being passed onto his son. The house was in chaos with kids running everywhere and making a mess in their wake. His wife immediately saw his temper and knew they needed to talk. As they talked through the implications of his quitting, she blurted out that she was pregnant. He responded, “Well great! Let’s have it. Let’s see how I screw this one up!”
Gil, Steve Martin’s character in the movie Parenthood, gives us a prime example of parental anxiety. It’s consistent or excessive feelings of worry about your child’s life, wellness, health, performance, and satisfaction. We’re all going to experience anxiety about our kids at some point, but if it is consistently a part of your day, then something needs to be done. Parental anxiety not only will have a negative effect on your health, but according to Medical News Today, it can put a child at risk for anxiety as well. So if you’re struggling in this way, here are 5 ways to deal with parental anxiety.
1. Find ways to unwind.
Fatherhood will cause a buildup of stress, and if you hold it all in, you’ll explode. That explosion can manifest itself in a lot ways, like yelling at your kids, being curt, shutting down, or experiencing paralysis. You have to find a productive way to let off steam. Take some time for yourself and go for a run, read your favorite book, play the guitar, hit golf balls, draw, write in a journal, build something, or play basketball. Do something that relaxes you or puts you in a more positive headspace. And make sure you’re encouraging your child’s mother to do the same.
2. Focus on what you can control.
When your child is born, start letting go. That was advice my wife and I received when she was pregnant. There’s so much about our children we can’t control, but we’ll drive ourselves crazy attempting to. You can prepare and train your kids for the world, but ultimately, you can’t control how they’ll interact with it. You can prepare your kids for suffering, but you can’t control how much they will endure. You can help your kids come to the best decision or right course of action, but it’s still on them to do it.You can prepare your kids for the world, but ultimately, you can’t control how they’ll interact with it.
3. Talk to a professional.
Take your anxiety to an expert. Your doctor can give you advice on how best to treat your anxiety mentally and physically. Perhaps you need to spend time with a counselor or therapist who can give you perspective and healthy techniques to manage your stress.
Nothing stresses us out more than going an extended period of time without resting. We all need it. Even God takes time to rest. Genesis 2:2 says, “He rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.” Rest is more than sleep, which is incredibly important. It’s taking time to be quiet from all of the noise and distractions of each day. This year I have committed to spending five minutes every day in silence, and it has made a huge difference in my well-being. Seek out quiet time. Go sit by the water, in the mountains, at a park, or in any beautiful place, and take in the quiet. Don’t put in your headphones or feel the need to fill the silence.
5. Give God access.
We don’t have to face our daily struggles alone. The God who made us desires to be invited into our pain and difficulties. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t go to Him. Maybe it’s pride, thinking we need to handle every problem on our own. For a friend of mine, it’s the opposite. He doesn’t want to waste God’s time with his problems, as if an omnipotent eternal being is limited by time. Meanwhile, Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Give God access to your anxiety. Give it to Him, and let him bring peace, comfort, and power.
Sound off: Do you suffer from parental anxiety? What has worked for you?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things that cause you anxiety?”