By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
I recently gave a presentation at a local private school about parenting children with anxiety. As a result, I reflected a lot on not only why our kids and teens are so anxious and stressed, but why we as parents are so anxious and stressed! I believe that it is a combination of factors and plan to discuss the different elements that I see in this blog series about Parents and Anxiety. The first element I’d like to explore is that we have a lack of central, agreed upon parenting beliefs in our culture.
As Americans, we don’t seem to have any sense of what parenting approach really works best overall. We have so much advice and differing opinions that it really is overwhelming. This has always been a concern of mine, particularly after living in France as a nanny when I was younger where they definitely have more central beliefs that people use to guide their parenting. However, as a new mom myself, this has become so much more apparent. I still remember feeling overwhelmed with questions and uncertainty (and honestly still am at times). I would have a running thought process in my head that sounded like this… Am I going to be an attachment parent? Do I believe in “crying it out?” What will people think if I don’t attend to my child’s every need? What will they think if I DO tend to every need? Am I encouraging this behavior? Is it all my fault? Am I a bad mom if I do it this way? And the list just could go on and on and on of questions and thoughts I have had.
Interestingly enough, as a parent consultant, I routinely work with parents on their parenting approaches and helping them match their parenting style to their child’s personality for a best fit approach. In my professional life, I’ve read tons of parenting books and still felt like I should buy more, read more, and do more for my own son and parenting experience. I’ve always been a perfectionist but parenting my newborn seemed to really take it to a higher level of anxiety. The saving grace for me was that I had the experience working with parents and families for years to know that I was not alone in this experience.
So many of us don’t talk about this anxiety and our fears about our parenting to others though. We keep it in and then continually compare ourselves to everyone else. And we compare our messy lives and mistakes to everyone else’s Instagram or Facebook or Pinterest worthy posts and lives, not what is actually happening for them. And the truth is, none of our daily realities will ever measure up to everyone else’s curated posts!
I believe that parents are really struggling with anxiety rooted in the overwhelming amount of parenting opinions and information out there. And while I do blog about parenting myself, I recognize just how many voices are out there now especially with our Facebook feeds carefully tuned in for us to read more and more and more articles about just how we should parent so that our kids turn out okay. While I think a lot of the advice we can get is truly wonderful, we need to recognize that it is not one size fits all in parenting, especially American parenting.
I think that instead of reaching out for advice, we need to get really curious and seek more understanding in our families. We need to try to understand our child(ren), co-parent(s) (if we have one/or many), family dynamics, and ourselves so that we can customize our parenting approach to work as well as possible for everyone involved. This way we can parent in a way that feels right to us and feels like it might work for our children, rather than follow what other people are doing and what every parenting expert recommends. Research shows that we simply need to try to have a good fit between ourselves and our children in our families for them to thrive. Looking inward at ourselves and our children is the way to determine how to improve the fit for all of us.
So my parenting tip today is to work on asking yourself first what works best for your kid and for you… and then trying to find advice that matches your family.
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They become words.
Watch your words,
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Watch your actions,
They become habits.
Watch your habits,
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