I'm a bit of a worrier, I think my child is too.. How can I make sure they don't pick up my habit?
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
In this FAQ series, we asked clinical psychologist Catherine Gallagher how we can make sure our kids don't pick up any of our nervous habits.
Well if you are thinking about this, let’s be honest- you are probably worrying about it, and so I think you have answered your own question ☺.
The good news is that you have recognised it and so there is always something you can do about it. Of course, we can’t do much about your genes (as we know that anxiety does run in families), but we can certainly harness your child’s innate ability to watch and feel those adults around them to know how safe the world is. In other words, if you are able to understand and manage your worries, you are really helping your child learn how to ‘read’ their experiences more accurately and not be tricked by the scripts that anxiety has written about how scary the world is and how unable they are to cope.
We are all works in progress and so this does not mean that you have to sort this overnight. In fact, you couldn’t, even if you really wanted to! Don’t forget that you too are a product of your genes and life experience and the brain doesn’t tend to give up on well-learned patterns of thinking and behaviour very easily. Be patient with yourself. What you can do, is to learn ways to turn down the volume of your worries, stand firm in the face of your child’s worries and not let them avoid the things that their worry brain is tricking them about. If you want to avoid something, then the most helpful thing to avoid is spending too much time in dialogue with worries (as this can reinforce their credibility and take A LOT of time as you are arguing with something that always has a ‘but what if’ option).
Instead of focusing on the negative influence of your anxiety - catch it, acknowledge it, work on doing something about it (while anticipating balls being dropped on various occasions!), and show your child that worries are something that can be challenged and overcome. I call that a very positive habit for your child to pick up and well worth work towards ... even on challenging days!