Will anxious parents raise anxious kids? A recent research study shows that there certainly is a greater risk for those kids. About 10% of all kids in the USA are suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder. They are liable to be clinging, wash their hands compulsively or be obsessively tidy and are fearful about home security. The ideal would be to stop anxiety so that these kids will be able to conquer their fears and worries so that they can become more resilient and enjoy a more independent and productive childhood. If they have anxious parents, the chances of this happening are much less. Let us look at what this and other studies found. We can also examine what can be effective ways to help these kids.
Main research findings
The researchers decided to monitor 136 families for a year. In each family there was one parent who had been diagnosed as having an anxiety disorder. None of the kids had been diagnosed with anxiety at the beginning of the experiment.
Families were divided into two groups. The first was given an information pack on anxiety and they were not given any other advice at all. The parents were expected to read through all the material and basically left to their own devices.
The second group of families were invited to attend eight therapy sessions held once a week plus a few other additional sessions. The first two sessions were exclusively for the parents while the others involved the whole family. Basically, the families were helped to cope with anxiety, parenting skills, and techniques to deal with it.
Results of the research were not surprising
In the first group who were left to sort out the anxiety issues on their own, 30% of the children were found to be suffering from anxiety. In the second group who had been given therapy, only 5% of the kids were found to have an anxiety disorder. It is a startling difference and the basic message is that anxious parents are far too busy protecting them from worrying and fearful situations. They should be doing the opposite as the lead researcher Dr. Golda Ginsburg remarked:
“They need to help them face their fears in order to reduce their anxiety.”
More research needs to be done because this particular study involved only volunteers and they were not from poorer, single parent families or non-white backgrounds.
Other research studies
One research study at the Iowa State University by Dr. Russell Laczniak found that children of anxious parents were more likely to play violent video games than those kids who had more authoritative parents.
“If parents want to reduce the amount of violent video games that their kids play, be warm when dealing with them, but somewhat restrictive at the same time, and set rules and those rules will work. For parents, who are more anxious, the rules become less effective and those kids are going to play more.” – Prof. Russell Laczniak.
Another study from King’s College London found that although anxiety was passed on genetically, parenting choices were much more influential on how kids turned out.
“The right thing to do is to help the child have opportunities to take on challenges and tasks appropriate to their age and level of fear,” – Thalia Eley, head researcher.
How can anxious parents help their children?
Parents need to stop avoiding worrisome situations by protecting and accommodating their anxious kids. This may take the form of avoiding social outings or stressful sports activities and parents think that their children will be calmer, more secure and comfortable. Nothing could be further from the truth because these kids will grow up fearful and incapable of coping with their anxiety.
Parents must be able to help their kids overcome these fears and worries. One way is that they can talk to their kids about it and how they cope with it themselves. They can give worry a persona or make it into a game where they have to conquer and beat anxiety. This is just one suggestion from the authors of the excellent book called Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children by Wilson and Lyons
Parents have to become aware of how they can overestimate the risk of danger and underestimate their kids’ capability in learning to face these worries, fears and obstacles to their happiness. If they never learn how to do that, their kids will always be trapped in their anxiety and their world will become smaller and smaller.
Featured photo credit: Morgan, anxious/ Sage Ross via flickr.com