Although we all fall into the broader category of human being, which defines our universal, shared characteristics, in being human we each have our own unique ways—our own personal wiring as defined by our individual thoughts, beliefs, stories, biases, values, and even default settings.
As an author, speaker, and coach my topics of study are vast, but two topics that have always been extremely important to me are anxiety and parenting. Anxiety, because of my own personal experience (and challenge) with it and parenting, because it is my number one priority—always has been and always will be.
Of recent, while working on these two very important topics together, I was led to an essential realization: these two seemingly disparate topics are deeply intertwined.
As human beings, we have the potential to take on various roles. One of the most important roles that many of us share is that of parent, and no manual has ever been “perfected” on the topic. So for many, parenting has been a self-taught journey—a learn as you go experience.
Is it not, therefore, safe to assume that some of our parenting strategies may actually be faulty and that we may be a contributing factor in our children’s anxiety?
For some of us perhaps this is a hard pill to swallow. It feels far easier to blame anything or everything else. And so we have a natural tendency to blame our children’s anxiety on society, technology, social media, and other such external circumstances instead.
I, too, am guilty of this. But upon further examination, I have come to realize and accept my role in my children’s suffering and my accountability as a parent. As a result, I am now choosing to learn, teach, and integrate what has been called mindful parenting.
But what about parents who don’t have this awareness? If we don’t recognize the power of choice—then we don’t choose, and if we don’t choose—then we simply fall into a pre-existing default setting.
For many, this parenting default is untrained, unconscious, reactive parenting, a traditional parenting approach that may have been improperly defined for us by our own parents, and/or by society—with patterns of thinking and belief systems that we have unknowingly acquired. It is this kind of parenting approach that is feeding into our current issue of “the anxious child.”
All change begins with awareness, so here are some things to think about that can hopefully expand your current awareness:
- What are some of your unconscious parenting messages?
- What are your specific expectations around family, career, and lifestyle choices?
- Do you often make assumptions about how your children should think, feel, speak, behave?
Think about your predominant thoughts, beliefs, biases and fears and whether they are your own or have been acquired from your parents and/or previous generations. Next, think about whether or not you’re transmitting these same messages—unquestioned—to your children. Our children receive and oftentimes internalize many of our messages, so it is incumbent on us to become more mindful of them.
For example, what are we telling our children when they come to us with a 95% and we ask them what happened to the other 5%? (Do we really want to transmit perfectionism?)
And what are we telling your children when they come to us feeling sad or afraid and we dismiss their feelings by telling them they shouldn’t be feeling that way, that they should be feeling happy or brave instead? (Do we really want to be raising inauthentic children who cannot express their own true feelings?)
Some further questions for deep introspection:
- Are we sharing our ideas with our children or imposing them?
- Are we offering suggestions to them or dictating how they should be behaving?
- Are we empathizing with our children or are we judging, controlling, fixing, and managing them?
- Are we paying attention and listening to them or are we imposing agendas and lecturing them?
Trained, conscious parenting involves a new kind of mindset, a wider skillset, and a vast toolkit. In order to support our children and help raise more empowered, resilient, and conscious children who are then naturally calmer, more balanced and more peaceful, we may need to rethink our parenting approach.
Conscious parenting is a new way of being in the world—it’s an entirely new approach to parenting. It seems to me that communication is a lost art that needs to be rebuilt. Is it possible to build and strengthen this muscle? Absolutely, but with the proper training.
Think about these concepts and take a good look at your own parenting approach. Give yourself permission to be vulnerable and answer the following question: Can I help to calm my anxious child by changing my parenting approach?
If yes, then I challenge you to question the thoughts, beliefs, biases, and even the social norms that may have been passed on from one generation to the next. Give yourself permission to redefine what matters most to you, and most importantly, give your children permission to do the same.
Leave your children a legacy that is authentic and wholehearted.
PS – If you are interested in learning more about this, I am giving an eye-opening presentation for parents tomorrow at 8pm at Chabad Markham called:
A Special Event for Parents: Tues. Oct. 29/19
How to Calm Your Child’s Anxious Mind
So, take a moment and register today!