What are the symptoms of parental anxiety?
You have likely felt anxiety at different points throughout your life – when driving for the first time, starting a new job or buying a house. Anxiety during parenthood is its own brand unlike any type of worry you have felt before, especially for first-time parents. Some symptoms you may experience include:
- Incessant thinking or worrying about yourself as a parent and your child, including whether or not you are a good parent, whether or not you are making the right decisions or whether or not your child is thriving
- The constant fear that something bad will happen to your child
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of dread or doom
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heartbeat and/or hyperventilation
- Obsessive watching or checking on your baby or child
- Panic attacks
Is it normal to feel anxiety during parenthood?
It is absolutely normal, and maybe even expected to experience parental anxiety. Welcoming a new child into your family is a major lifestyle transition, and the infinite unknowns surrounding parenthood can lead to sleepless nights full of stress, worry and fear. Indeed, parenthood is one of the greatest joys of life, but that doesn’t mean it is always happy or easy.
How can I address my anxiety while I’m busy parenting?
Variety is certainly the spice of life, especially within the context of the anxiety that comes along with parenting at different stages in your child’s life:
- Learn to read their emotions and different cries so you can better understand what they want. You’ll feel more confident if you can identify a “hungry cry” versus a “discomfort cry” and quickly spring into action.
- Maintain your independence – whether that means returning to work, meeting with your book club or leaving your baby with grandma while you run errands or go to the gym.
- Stay organized and try to save time when possible. Pick out outfits for the week, prepare and freeze meals ahead of time and keep your tot on a schedule so you can plan your productive hours accordingly.
- Regularly take your child to the pediatrician to check in on recurring issues and ensure your child is meeting all of their benchmarks.
- Elementary school
- Establish schedules and routines for extracurriculars, meals and bedtime. Both you and your child will take comfort in the feeling of stability.
- Hire a tutor to help with homework while you take care of other household duties, especially if your child’s math homework feels above your pay grade.
- Middle school
- Trust and respect your child, and you will receive the same in return.
- Prepare yourself for shifts in behavior and personality from your teen, and try not to take it personally.
- Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to let them experience things and learn lessons on their own. Middle school often brings about bullying, first crushes and physical changes – these are things that you may not be able to protect your child from. As scary as it feels in the moment, your anxiety will be eased once you see the coping skills and independence your child has developed.
- High school
- Enroll your child in driving school if the thought of them being behind the wheel terrifies you, teaching them yourself will only add unnecessary stress if neither of you is comfortable with it.
- Talk to your child about safe sex and what healthy relationships look like.
- Communicate regularly, especially if your child has moved away for college. You will sleep better at night knowing where your child is, who they are with and that they got home safely.
Certain anxieties persist throughout parenthood, no matter how young or old your child is, such as whether they are safe, happy and healthy. Keep these tips in mind, whether your baby is 2 months or 20 years old:
- Accept that your decisions won’t be perfect one hundred percent of the time. It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to have a bad day or night.
- Don’t compare yourself to other parents that you know. What works for your friend’s family may not work for your family and vice versa, and you can never truly know what other families are like within their own homes.
- You are going to be stressed, embrace it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask a parental figure in your life how they addressed certain challenges, and compare and contrast to how you might respond.
- Take time to truly understand each of your children and adjust your parenting strategy accordingly. If your son likes to be tucked in at night but your daughter wants to set her own bedtime routine, allow them both to explore what they prefer. You’ll feel less stressed knowing you have an established routine that each of your children are comfortable with.
- Learn to triage. When you’re trying to switch a load of laundry, keep dinner from burning and ensure your child isn’t putting anything in their mouth that doesn’t belong, life can feel overwhelming all at once. Focus on the most important matter or task at hand and go from there.
- Recognize what you can and cannot control.
- Know that you are enough. Sometimes you need to take 30 minutes to yourself to take a bath while leaving your kid set up with a pile of toys and their favorite movie. You might feel guilty for missing out on playtime, but in the long run, small incidents like that will in no way impact your child. As long as you deeply love them, care for them and provide for them, you are the best parent for your child.
Can I speak with a counselor or therapist about my parental anxiety?
Pyramid Online Counseling provides holistic virtual therapy that works with your schedule. Investing in yourself is always worth the time commitment, and our licensed therapists are here to help you establish routines, strategies and actions to address your anxiety. Reach out today at 833-525-3077 to find the counselor that fits your needs.