For people who suffer from panic attacks and anxiety – there’s perhaps no greater fear than the fear of passing along your worries and behaviors onto your children.
You know the pain that panic attacks and anxiety cause in your life, and the last thing you want is for your children to share your fears. When you are a parent coping with behavioral health issues, life can be stressful. That’s what we’re here to discuss today – what it’s like and how to deal with the day-to-day challenges of managing your panic attacks and anxiety around your children.
The cues come from you
Witnessing a parent in distress is more than a momentarily upsetting event for children. Sometimes, it can have lost-lasting effects. Kids look to their parents when trying to understand how to interpret certain situations. For example – if a parent feels anxious or fearful, the child will then determine that said situation is unsafe.
That on its own is hard enough to process for many, but what’s more is that the science says that the children of parents who suffer from anxiety and panic attack disorder are more likely to demonstrate those traits, themselves; the combined risk of both genetic risk factors and learned behavior.
For many who suffer from panic attacks and anxiety, it’s a painful thing to think about as a parent. Especially when – in spite of your best intentions – you find yourself passing on your stress onto your child. None of us want that.
The first thing you need to know is that if your child is dealing with anxiety and you start to notice those signs and behaviors – that it’s not right to bog yourself down with guilt. It’s not your fault. Second, it’s treatable and the transmission of your anxiety and panic attacks to your children is not inevitable or irreversible. The third thing you’ll want to do – is to assist your children in managing their stress through behavioral strategies.
Learning stress management
Take panic attacks and anxiety off that table – and it’s hard enough to communicate how to be calm when it comes to your children. It becomes even more difficult when you’re coping with those issues on your own.
That being said, a behavioral health professional can help you work through those challenges in a variety of ways. As you learn to tolerate stress in your own life, you will – in effect – be teaching your child – who takes cues from your behavior – how to cope with situations of uncertainty and doubt.
This is a simultaneous process in that it’s directing both your anxiety as a parent and then how you support your child’s development of stress management tools.
Modeling stress tolerance
The best thing about Cognitive Behavioral Treatment(CBT) is that you will learn strategies that you can impart to your child when they’re anxious. For example, if you’re working on thinking more rationally during stressful periods, you can practice those skills with your children. You can say: “I understand that you’re scared, but what are the chances of something bad actually happening?”
It’s also about being conscientious about what you’re doing in front of your kids. Things like the words you choose, your facial expressions and the intensity of your emotions can all paint a clear picture to a young child. Again, kids are reading you. They’re little sponges who’ll pick up everything. While it’s not healthy to mask your emotions – it’s important to learn how to express your feelings with less fervor and demonstrate control.
Talk about your panic attacks and anxiety
None of us really want our children to witness our anxiety, but at the same time it’s not healthy – for you and them – that you don’t express emotions. It’s important for kids to see us coping with stress now and then – but it’s doubly important in your case that you make the effort to have the follow up conversation as to why you reacted the way you did.
Let’s take a totally normal situation and break it down. Let’s say you lose your cool because you’re worried about getting your kids to school on time. It’s OK to share those emotions, but be sure that when the dust has settled later in the day to have a conversation along the lines of ‘do you remember when I got really frustrated this morning when you were late for school? I might have yelled but there are other ways I could have gone about things. Maybe we can come up with a better way to leave the house in the morning.”
Talking about your anxiety in this way will help to teach your children that it’s OK to feel stress, but also that stress can be managed.
Be Prepared to Implement the Six Step Take Control Training Method to Stop Panic in Its Tracks
Cognitive Behavioral Treatment(CBT) is a Panic Attacks Treatment that is scientifically validated. Implementation of CBT can help you take control of panic attacks and feel more confident in your parenting skills.
Daily Rehearsal of the Take Control Training Stance will allow you to take control of panic when it strikes and model effective stress management tools for your child.
1) Be Symptom-Ready…ready to embrace your bodily sensations of heart pounding, lightheadedness, shortness of breath as natural, normal feelings of adrenaline. 2) Be Symptom-Tough…don’t blink, don’t shrink back one inch….Stare the symptoms of weakness and rubbery legs down. 3) Be Symptom-Friendly…heart pounding, shortness of breath, you are the same feeling I have when I engage in vigorous exercise.
Lean on your support system
It’s hard to parent when you’re grappling with your own behavioral health issues. You should know though – that you are not alone. Millions of very successful people suffer from panic attacks just like you. Don’t be afraid to rely on people in your life who’ll step up when you’re overwhelmed.
These people could be a Anxiety Doctor, parents, friends – it could be anyone. Don’t be afraid to be open with them and share who you are – because eventually we all need people to help us. We all do – even if we don’t all deal with panic attacks and anxiety. So pick up the phone, fire off a text and don’t be afraid to reach out to your support network.
Know Your Core Emotional Trigger For Panic Attacks
The core trigger for parents, who suffer with panic attacks is often the fear for the safety and well-being of loved ones, specifically their children. When panic symptoms of lightheadedness, heat waves, wobbly legs, and heart pounding hit “Out of the Blue” the first thought is the fear of passing out and “not being there to take care of my children.” Apply the Cognitive Challenge. How many times have you felt lightheaded? How many times have you passed out? What is the likelihood of passing out from natural, normal, harmless feeling of adrenaline? This Cognitive Challenge can stop the escalation of panic attack symptoms and help you stay calm to model effective stress management techniques for your children.