“I worry too much for my children”: what to do?

Like many parents, Claire shows great attention to her children. Devoted, she seems ready to do anything to avoid them the slightest unpleasant feeling.

“I can’t stand seeing my 13-year-old son sad when he comes home from school. I ask him a lot of questions. Is he being bullied? Does he have friends? I’m constantly behind him with homework , because I’m afraid his grades will drop and he’ll fail. He’d have it so badly. As for my 19-year-old, she’s studying prep in another region. She’s a very perfectionist. I’m afraid she won’t hold up. I call her several times a day to make sure everything is fine. I push her to confide in me, to tell me everything that’s wrong… It’s difficult for me to look solid as I cry inside.”

Hyper-control to manage anxiety

Even at work, Claire is constantly connected to her children. She knows everyone’s schedules, checks the new grades on the college platform, sends the list of homework to her son still on the bus. She worries when her daughter does not answer one of her multiple daily calls, orders her a train ticket as soon as she feels she is regarding to crack. She eventually exerts “hyper-control” from a distance.

We sense in Claire an intense desire to protect her children. But from whom? Enough to? Of a world that makes him insecure?

While she was confident when they were in the lower grades, Claire has more doubts regarding the environment they live in today. She knows all too well the risks and dangers of college. She also knows the challenges and the competition that exist in preparatory classes.

Feeling of dependence

Nevertheless and despite her good intentions, Claire unconsciously communicates her fears. However, to feel safe, children need to know that their parents are strong and confident.

Claire adopts anticipatory strategies which, instead of reassuring, give the impression that the world is dangerous and that the child does not have the skills required to cope.

By overprotecting their children, many parents deprive them of the opportunity to learn how to solve their problems on their own. The latter can even develop a feeling of anxiety-provoking dependence. What to do if you find yourself alone with your pain? How to face the trials without the support of this mother so incredibly empathetic? This constantly listening mother, who always finds the words to soothe and reassure. However, these children do not understand that in addition to understanding their emotions, their mother feels them, shares them without being able to keep any distance. Thus, Claire seems not to perceive the limits between her own feelings and those of her children whom she feels are so vulnerable. This emotional bath in which she is immersed literally exhausts her, and makes her unavailable to the rest.

Claire realizes that she absolutely must take a step back. She is also aware of the impact of her anxieties on the anxiety of her children.

Working on Parenting Anxiety

The first job to do, following having identified it, would be to question oneself on one’s own anxiety. What is its origin? Does it stem from past trauma? How to reduce it or at least soothe it?

The parent can thus become aware that anxious thoughts cannot be driven out of the mind. Rather, they need to be put into perspective, questioned or played down. You will also have to learn to dissociate your own emotions from those of your child. Sometimes it will be necessary to be accompanied by a professional.

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Express your fears clearly

Admitting our own fears out loud will lessen their impact: “ It’s not running so fast that’s dangerous, it’s me who’s scared.”

One can also say to one’s child: “ I’ll try not to hold you back with my fear, because I trust you, I know you can do it.” This will make him feel more “brave” than his parents.

By leaving him free to explore and make mistakes (or fall) without immediately coming to his rescue, we will allow him to develop adaptation strategies. Thus confronted with reality, he will learn to better manage stress.

Accept negative feelings

The parent must also remember that it is natural for his child to feel all kinds of emotions and that they allow him to move forward, to build himself up. Stress and anxiety can also arise at one time or another. For a parent who is himself anxious, this idea is difficult because the anxiety experienced by his child can make him rekindle his own.

In these moments, you can teach your child some strategies, leading him to question his anxious thoughts, to think regarding solutions, to put them into perspective. This will be more effective and more constructive for his future than systematically reassuring him. Instead of creating dependence, we accompany him towards emotional autonomy.

Trust

Like Claire, many parents think they are best at understanding their children. Nevertheless, particularly when the anxiety is very strong, you have to accept that you cannot control everything, you have to accept that you are not an all-powerful parent who anticipates and repairs all the difficulties. You have to accept that you are not the only resource person. This role can be played by the other parent or by a third party. Allow your child to experience and deal with various emotions. You have to trust him. It is at this price that our child will gain in esteem and will feel able to face the world and find his place in it. This is how we can find a little serenity.

> 1. For the sake of confidentiality, his first name and his privacy details have been changed.

Since becoming a mother, Claire (1) keeps worrying. While they are 13 and 19 years old, his children continue to cause him concern. Even if they are in full physical and mental health, the mother of the family does not manage to be serene! In a permanent state of alert, she is ready to intervene at the slightest hassle of one or the other. However, these constant worries weigh on her couple, her social life, her work and even her health: she suffers from insomnia and complains of diffuse pain.

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