As a parent, sometimes it’s easy to feel like you have multiple personalities. After all, raising children is likely the most difficult responsibility of your life. Kids are challenging, our adult lives are challenging as well. Parents live under a great deal of stress. It’s easy to understand how easy it is to become overwhelmed with anxiety about any number of situations. The question becomes-how do we, as parents, not allow anxiety to take over?
Perhaps thinking about this question in terms of an analogy will help. Think of two friends. One friend is named Conscientious, and the other is named Fear. Fear however, legally changed his name to Anxiety because Fear sounded so negative and downright scary.
These two best friends are adults, both parents of teenagers. Now here is the particular scenario.
These friends shared a story about asking their children to help with a chore around the house. Both adults called and called for their teen to come and help them, but to no avail. Upon walking into their respective living rooms, each found their child sitting on the couch, engrossed in their phone, fingers and thumbs flying across the screens with blazing speed. Each teen was supposed to be helping around the house.
Each of the friends responded differently. So when Anxiety called his friend Conscientious for advice on how she handled the situation, he realized that the two responded quite differently. Anxiety had to learn to handle situations in a far healthier manner. How did Conscientious handle the situation, and what will Anxiety do? Each approaches from vastly different places.
Conscientious is gifted in being able to see situations from many perspectives and clever in being able to think through different scenarios before acting. She has a calm, yet stern presence.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is singularly focused and can perseverate. Sometimes, Anxiety can become paralyzed by too much worry. Anxiety approaches situations reflexively and can often times act before thinking it through.
The question these two friends must decide when they reach the doorway is who will give the best advice for a response when they step over the line into the room. Which style is best suited to attend to this situation with the teens? Is it Conscientious or Anxiety?
When the friends follow Anxiety’s advice, this can be a real problem. First of all, he is contagious, so others absorb his negativity. Another issue is he is not very effective. He gets the job done in the short run but rarely makes real progress toward lasting change.
How to prevent Anxiety from monopolizing an interaction:
- Write a list of some of your parenting moments in which Anxiety has taken the lead. Anxiety might take over when your kids spend hours watching shows or playing video games on the weekend. It could be seeing them on the couch during the week, being on their phones for much longer than you’d like. It could be activated regarding chores or when siblings fight over device time.
Writing a list is helpful in itself (because it takes the abstract and makes it a bit organized), and it can help a person get into a calmer mental state, promoting better problem-solving.
- Write down some methods for addressing these various situations and how you want to respond when the issues come up in real-time. Conscientious will be so happy you thought of some plans.
- Share the story of the friends Conscience and Anxiety with your child. What a gift to model to your kids that you know Anxiety can, at times, take over your intentions and how you work not to let that be the case.