” Kids are anxious, afraid and risk-averse because parents are more focused on keeping their children safe, content and happy in the moment than on parenting for competence.” – Jessica Lahey
I don’t doubt that this statement is true, but I also cringe when I read it.
I am living with a whole different kind of childhood anxiety, but one that often seems to be painted with the same brush.
Some kids might be anxious because parents are too focused on safety rather than long term competence, but some kids are anxious because their brains don’t work quite right.
Some kids are anxious because they have real mental health issues, but many people seem to think the answer to anxious kids is parenting.
People seem to think if I just stop ‘babying’ my anxious child they’d be fine. Or if I just teach them to be more ‘resilient’, or if I was just tougher and made them do the things they find difficult, or if I told them to ‘suck it up’… then my child would be fine.
If only it was that easy.
If only I could parent away my child’s anxiety, and metal health issues.
If only I could say or do something to magically make them ‘tougher’ or ‘more resilient’.
If only I knew what caused my child’s mental health to spiral out of control. If I could just pinpoint the cause then maybe I could stop it happening again.
I can not tell you how much I wish I could make it all just magically disappear.
I can not tell you how many days I’ve spent worrying about what I did or didn’t do to cause this, or what I might be able to do or change to make it better.
But it’s not that simple.
I’ve tried being tougher and we work on resilience every day, but you wouldn’t make a child with a broken leg run a race, so don’t ask me to force my anxious child to do things they find difficult.
Children’s mental health issues are real, they are heartbreakingly real for so many families.
These are our children, this is their childhood that is being lost in a world of sadness, fear and struggle.
Please don’t brush this aside as a ‘helicopter parenting’ problem, because sometimes it is more than that, and we need your understanding and support, we don’t need to be told to ‘suck it up’.
Do you have a child struggling with anxiety or other mental health issues?
You are not alone.