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5 Tips for Managing Parental Anxiety

A mom and son eating together

Being a parent is one of the most important jobs you will ever have. Parenthood comes with both joys and challenges, with many bumps along the way. There are many unknowns when it comes to pregnancy, postpartum, and raising children. Many parents start to doubt themselves and may wonder things like:

What if I am not a good parent? Is my child hitting their milestones? What if my baby gets sick?

Although it is normal to doubt yourself at times, especially in the midst of major life changes, for some worry takes over and interferes with their daily routine. Parental anxiety impacts many parents in all stages. Here at Rooted Thistle Counselling we support moms and dads in navigating the change that comes with parenthood. If things are feeling off and you are in need of support, please reach out. 

What is Parental Anxiety?

Parental anxiety involves excessive worrying about the well-being of your child and can impact new parents, as well as seasoned parents. Parents who experience high levels of anxiety related to their children may start to avoid certain places, people, or activities. They are also likely to have negative or intrusive thoughts about themselves as a parent, or their child’s development. All parents worry about their children at different points in their lives, however those experiencing anxiety may notice their mental health is impacting their day to day functioning.  

Symptoms of Parental Anxiety 

Symptoms of Parental Anxiety may include: 

  • Difficulty letting go of your child, even for short periods

  • Constantly imagining your child in distress and in need of help

  • Limiting your child's independence and overprotecting them from situations you fear

  • Exaggerating minor problems and showing excessive concern for your child's well-being

  • Blowing minor risks out of proportion and overestimating the likelihood of injuries to your child

  • Constantly researching parenting topics to find the perfect solution or ease your fears

  • Neglecting your own needs and only focussing on the needs of your child

  • Sharing your excessive worries with others and even in the presence of your child, potentially transferring your concerns to them

  • Seeking reassurance from medical providers often, even for minor ailments

  • Showing excessive concern over your child's health, grades, and other developmental milestones

  • Fatigue, insomnia, muscle ache

Risk Factors for Parental Anxiety

Multiple factors put parents at greater risk of developing parental anxiety:

  • Having a personal or family history of mental health concerns

  • Childhood trauma or neglect

  • Stressful life events

  • Some medical conditions may impact mental health (ex. Endocrine disorder)

  • Having a child with special needs

5 Tips for Managing Parental Anxiety

There are many strategies and tools that can be used to manage parental anxiety. Here are some useful tips to keep in mind: 

1. Unravel Your Perfectionism

Anxiety and perfectionism often come hand in hand. Parents want to do the best they can for their children so they can grow and thrive. The pressure to be the ‘perfect parent’ is high. Parents experiencing anxiety often find themselves comparing their child to other children. The truth is every parent is different, and so is every child. We all develop and grow at our own pace, which is why comparison can be so damaging. Grab a piece of paper and take a moment to honestly consider what expectations you have of yourself and your child. Are your expectations realistic and attainable? If not, take some time to reframe these expectations to be more realistic and refer back to them often. A qualified therapist can help you unravel your perfectionism in more detail and work towards a more balanced perspective. 

2. Make Time for You

It is very common for busy parents to put their own needs on the back burner. This is especially true for mothers. Many parents experience guilt when they step away from their children to do something for themselves. The truth is we all need to have time to ourselves and interests outside of our children. It is a necessity and your mental health depends on it. Discuss your needs with your support network. We all need to support each other in getting this time. It will feel strange at first and you may not know what to do with yourself, but over time it will become part of your routine. 

3. Seek Professional Help

If you feel that your symptoms of anxiety are impacting you on a daily basis, speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. There are several options for support including medication, group therapy, or individual therapy. A therapist can support you in better understanding your experience of anxiety and coming up with a plan to manage symptoms. 

4. Talk to Other Parents

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child! Surrounding yourself with positive people who can relate to what you are going through as a parent is crucial. You are not alone. Join a local parenting group and learn about resources available to you in your community. 

5. Learn to Cope with Uncertainty

Anxiety is the inability to tolerate uncertainty. Anxious thoughts likely lead you down a rabbit hole of unanswerable ‘what if’ questions. There are no guarantees in life, and certainly not in parenting. If you want to learn to cope with anxiety, you must build your tolerance for uncertainty. Understand that no decision or situation is ever perfect or without some degree of risk. To cut through the clutter, you need to learn to trust your instincts and have faith in your own decisions. 

Wrapping Up

Being a parent is a tough job that is overwhelming at times. Parental anxiety is common and treatable. Know that you are not alone in your struggles and there is support out there. You’ve got this!

Rochelle Kaikai, MSW, RSW, PMH-C

Rooted Thistle Counselling

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