The Ripple Effect of Change

How Overcoming Parental Anxiety Transformed My Child's Life

Introduction

Several years ago, if someone had told me my ‘manic mum’ lifestyle was affecting my child’s anxiety, I would have been offended to say the least. Back then, I was juggling three jobs, managing a household, trying to be a good mum, while also trying to be a present wife. Although admittedly, my husband often came last in a long list of other priorities. At the time I would have believed that my overwhelm was due to my son’s daily refusal to leave the house, resulting in tearful meltdowns at the door while I juggled consoling my daughter – who was going to be late to school yet again – while holding my own tears at bay and desperately trying to maintain a semblance of calm. It was a disaster.

Looking back I now understand that a lot of my own behaviours were in fact making my son’s anxiety worse.  I wasn’t setting any positive examples for my son. I was working tirelessly, sleep deprived, not eating properly and neglecting self care. (Let’s be honest – back then, self care for me was showering, brushing my teeth and having clean clothes on). I was frazzled and running on adrenaline. On the rare occasion I took time off to be with the family, more often than not I wasn’t actually present. I was in my own head thinking about all the things I ‘should’ be doing, like chores, contacting clients, did I remember to pick up snacks for the kids’ lunches? You get the picture, I was a hot mess.

The Impact of Parental Anxiety:

I didn’t realise any of this was having a negative impact on my kids. I believed myself to be a good mum. I read to them every night I could. I gave hugs, and told them I was proud of them and that I loved them every day. They both had healthy diets and made positive food choices. I raised them to be courteous and kind and I was often complimented on how polite my children were. So in all honesty I thought I was doing a good job in raising two lovely humans. I know in my heart I was doing the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time. But as my son’s anxiety worsened and started affecting the whole family unit in a really negative way. I knew something had to change. But I just didn’t know where to start.

Understanding Children's Perception:

Studies have shown that children are highly sensitive to their parents’ moods and stress levels. The part I didn’t know or understand back then was that continuous exposure to parental stress can actually lead to heightened anxiety and emotional distress in children. 

Children are incredibly perceptive, and they absorb the energy and mood of their surroundings. If they sense stress or anxiety in their parents, it becomes challenging for them to regulate their own emotions. This can result in high levels of cortisol being released into their systems, which can happen when children live in fear of something happening. So for example, my son may have been living in fear not knowing if I was going to come home in a good mood or if I was going to be stressed, detached and not mentally present.

I realise now the importance of being mindful of my energy and mood, understanding that my children pick up on these cues.

The Wake-Up Call:

Embarrassingly, it all came crashing down during a work’s night out. We had just received the news of my beautiful mother in law’s terminal cancer diagnosis and were waiting for her to go into hospital to have major life changing surgery. After a few too many proseccos I finished the night crying my heart out on a friend’s shoulder. I felt like I was falling apart and if I am honest I couldn’t see a way to put myself back together. 

The Unexpected Positive Change:

My journey towards positive change began when I reluctantly joined Facebook for work. My understanding of social media was that people took pictures of their dinner and tried to make their lives look more interesting. Not something I had time for when I was already feeling overstretched. But to my surprise there were a lot of interesting things that grabbed my attention. Amidst notifications and ads, I stumbled upon a few free challenges – the first about knowing my business worth and how to price my services properly. Something I desperately needed as I had been undercharging my service for far too many years. The second one was about overcoming imposter syndrome – not something I knew anything about at the time, but the two ladies hosting the challenge were fun and engaging. So I signed up. Little did I know then that this challenge and those two ladies would change my life.

Discovering Boundaries and Self-Care:

During the imposter syndrome challenge, I learned about setting boundaries, a concept I had never thought to initiate into my life. Being a lifelong people pleaser, saying ‘no’ felt quite alien to me. I often put other people first before considering the impact it would have on my own stress levels. This would leave me feeling overstretched trying to do everything, and ultimately the things that were important to me, moved further down the priority list in order to put others’ needs before my own. This resulted in me feeling resentful of offering my help. I’ll admit now, this was not a great mindset to have when trying to be helpful. This newfound skill of saying ‘no’, not only reduced my workload but also initiated a positive transformation in my life. When the challenge finished I decided to sign up to be coached by the two incredible ladies running the challenge and to this day they are still my coaches.

The Ripple Effect:

This is where all my own personal positive changes started happening, I was calmer, I was more present, and basically I was a lot more fun. For the first time in my life my own well being and growth became a priority for me. As I started to learn new strategies to help my own overwhelm, and my own well-being started to improve, something unexpected happened – my children noticed! They were curious and asked me about the changes. I found joy in sharing my newfound knowledge on emotional regulation, breathing techniques, and the power of positive thoughts. To my surprise, they were genuinely interested and supportive, even telling me that my personal growth inspired them.

The Importance of Approaching Anxiety in a Calm Manner:

Research indicates that a parent’s ability to approach their child’s anxiety with calmness is crucial for the child’s emotional regulation. Parents who exhibit higher emotional availability and lower stress levels are more likely to have children who can develop effective emotion regulation skills. This emphasises the pivotal role we as parents play in modelling emotional regulation for our children.

Gratitude Journal Tradition:

That Christmas, I purchased gratitude journals for the family and our nights became dedicated to spending time together writing down our blessings and sharing our thoughts. This sacred time became a massive turning point. My son’s meltdowns lessened, and he began to be able to articulate his feelings and emotions, a milestone we’d never reached before.

Transformation in Less Than Six Months:

In less than six months, my son underwent a remarkable transformation. Teachers noticed the change – saying he was more confident, that he was engaging in class activities, which he hadn’t done before, and remarkably, he hadn’t experienced another meltdown. While he still faced challenges, he now possessed techniques to manage overwhelming moments and he had a newfound perspective on life’s challenges.

The Power of a Calm Approach:

When a child (or anyone for that matter) experiences anxiety at a core level they don’t feel safe. It is vital that as parents we approach our anxious children with calmness, this is the first step to creating a safe space for our child to learn about emotional regulation. We need to be setting a good example for them to follow. My journey echoed this truth – as I became calmer, so did my son. 

Conclusion:

Reflecting on this journey, I’ve learned that acknowledging our impact as parents is the first step to positive change. Overcoming my own anxiety and overwhelm had a profound ripple effect, not only on me but on my entire family. Today, I encourage every parent feeling overwhelmed with life to take that first step toward positive change. You never know the positive ripple it might create for both you and your children.

What is next?

If you’re a parent navigating your child’s anxiety or your own, and seeking some assistance, I offer free resources on my website (link below). 

You can find the free resources here – https://janerumbles.com/free-guides/

If you would prefer a more personal approach, I offer a free 30 minute call where we can explore your unique situation and discuss how I can best assist you. 

You can book a call here – https://janerumbles.com/contact/

Read my other Blogs here – https://janerumbles.com/blog/

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