From the moment you become a parent, you may start battling with newfound anxiety. While some level of anxiety as a parent is normal and even healthy, it can be draining and debilitating if you always feel anxious. Here are evidence-based tips on how to ease parental anxiety.
Understanding the Connection Between Parenthood and Parental Anxiety
Becoming a parent is, for the most part, a fantastic experience. However, the years you put into caring for, teaching, and worrying about your child can inevitably lead to a certain amount of anxiety. After all, parenthood is a significant responsibility. Generally, this anxiety is mild and resolves without any significant intervention.
However, persistent parental anxiety, the type where you are consistently and overly worried about everything that could go wrong with your child or family, can be debilitating and harmful to your mental and physical health. Many factors contribute to parental anxiety, including concerns about the health and well-being of your child, fears about your parenting capabilities, the stress of balancing career and parenthood, and sleep deprivation.
Having a child means you deal with many stressors, some of which you may be unsure how to manage. Parenthood also involves losing many of the freedoms you once had before having children, including a sense of being in control.
Statistics on Parental Anxiety
Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. Statistics suggest about 34% of the general population will experience anxiety symptoms at some point in their lives. If you are someone who already struggles with anxiety, your symptoms may worsen when you become a parent.
Research shows that parental anxiety is prevalent, especially in new parents. Data from various reports suggest up to 35% of parents experience anxiety during pregnancy. Another 17% report anxiety soon after childbirth, and 20% report the onset of anxiety approximately six weeks after.
Although many of these reports focus on the newborn, parental anxiety does not necessarily end once your child becomes a toddler. Parental anxiety can affect parents with children at any age, whether newborns, adolescents, teens, or young adults. There is no “age limit” on when you stop worrying about your child’s health, safety, and well-being.
It is also important to mention that anxiety may have a hereditary component. Children of anxious parents are five to seven times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder than those with non-anxious parents. Genetics and parenting behavior resulting from parental anxiety may contribute to the onset of anxiety symptoms in children.
Tips for Coping with Parental Anxiety The good news is that as unpleasant as anxiety can be, there are several evidence-based and effective strategies you can try to manage your symptoms.
1. Proactive Problem Solving
The first coping strategy is proactive problem-solving. For example, if you are concerned about your toddler bumping your head on the coffee table, installing bumpers or other protective devices around the table’s rim can ensure that won’t happen. Thinking through and developing task-oriented coping strategies are more likely to reduce your anxiety and contribute to overall psychological well-being.
2. Learning About Child Development
A key way to reduce anxiety is understanding your concerns’ root causes. For instance, a greater belief in your parenting capabilities can reduce your parental anxiety. The best way to feel confident and ease your anxiety over not being “the perfect parent” is to learn about child development. Developing a clear understanding of your child’s phases and stages of growth may help reduce your concerns that something could be or may inevitably go wrong.
3. Practicing Mindfulness
A growing body of evidence shows that mindfulness-based meditation and self-care practices can substantially reduce your anxiety symptoms without harmful or adverse effects. During mindfulness meditation, you focus on being open to the contents of your mind as they enter your mind. Becoming aware of, working through, and then letting go of anxious thoughts can help relieve anxiety.
4. Remember Self-Care
As a busy parent, it is not uncommon to forget about the importance of taking care of yourself. However, it is crucial to your mental and physical health and that of your child’s to include time to take care of yourself in your daily routine.
Self-care does not occur only by going to the spa or taking a bubble bath. There are many types of self-care, some of which require very little time. Some examples of self-care practices include mindfulness meditation (as mentioned above), yoga, reading a book, trying a new hobby, writing in a journal, or, yes, taking a bubble bath.
Another type of self-care is exercise. Engaging in physical activity can boost your mood and energy levels while reducing your anxiety. Try lifting weights, walking the dog, going on a run, doing yoga, or going for a bike ride. Both aerobic and anaerobic activities can have anxiety-reducing effects. The key is finding a physical activity you enjoy and incorporating it into your routine. Some activities, like swimming or taking a morning neighborhood walk, can be done with children of any age.
5. Try a Social Support Group
Sometimes you might feel like you’re not alone in the challenges you face. Engaging with a group of like-minded individuals who share the same concerns and challenges can make a world of difference. Confide in your partner regarding stressful issues or seek out a peer support group of other parents in your community. Social support can help reduce your anxiety by allowing you to focus on problem-solving skills, planning, and other tools you can use to reduce your worries.
6. Seek Professional Guidance
Do you feel overwhelmed by anxiety and can’t seem to get it under control? There are several signs that your anxiety may require professional help. For example, it impedes your daily functioning, leads you to consider self-harm, or is causing depression.
In that case, seeking a therapist can help you better understand why you’re feeling this way and develop strategies to cope and mitigate parental anxiety in your everyday life. Several therapeutic techniques, including acceptance and commitment therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and relaxation therapies, can help you learn how to address and manage anxiety symptoms.
Partner With New Jersey’s Compassionate and Research-Driven Therapists
You might think this is just a phase and your anxiety will subside once your child gets older or reaches a certain milestone. However, many parents will experience anxiety in all stages of their child’s life, even once they’re grown and have children of their own. The reality is that although a stressful environment can make you prone to anxious thoughts, parental anxiety is often rooted in how you process events and your strategies for coping.
The good news is that while anxiety can be debilitating, there are many proven, science-based methods that can make a difference. Our expert clinicians at the Lukin Center in New Jersey are here to listen and help guide you through strategies and treatments that can help you.
Anxiety can drive a wedge in your relationship with your child and make every day feel like a challenge. We’re here to help you lighten your load, strengthen your parental bond, and find the freedom to thrive in your day-to-day life.
You don’t have to live with parental anxiety. Contact Lukin Center for Psychotherapy to learn about anxiety treatment options.
Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist psychologist and founder of Lukin Center for Psychotherapy in Ridgewood, Hoboken, Montclair, Jersey City, Englewood and Westfield. He has extensive clinical and research experience spanning individuals of all ages, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. He specializes in men’s issues, couple’s counseling, and relationship problems. His therapeutic approach focuses on providing support and practical feedback to help patients effectively address personal challenges. He integrates complementary modalities and techniques to offer a personalized approach tailored to each patient. He has been trained in cognitive-behavioral, dialectical behavior, schema-focused, and emotionally focused therapy, and has also been involved with research projects throughout his career, including two National Institute of Mental Health-funded studies. He is a member of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, New Jersey Psychological Association, Northeast Counties Association of Psychologists, New York State Psychological Association, The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy, The New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy, the International OCD Foundation, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACSB) and a regular contributor to Psychology Today.
20 Wilsey Square | Ridgewood, NJ 07450 | (551) 427-2458
60 Grand Avenue, Suite 104 | Englewood, NJ 07631 | (201) 403-1284
80 River Street, Suite 302 | Hoboken, NJ 07030 | (917) 903-1901
277 Grove Street, Suite 202 | Jersey City, NJ 07302 | (201) 577-8124
51 Upper Montclair Plaza | Montclair, NJ 07034 | (973) 787-4470
128 S. Euclid Avenue | Westfield, NJ 07090 | (908) 509-8336