Parenting in an Anxious World

Mar 27, 2021
(This blog post was originally published on December 14th, 2019)
"I am so frustrated I want to scream!!" she yells as tears stream down the face of what you believe to be the most amazing young woman. But she is in the hell known to us all of a group project. Today, work is shared via technology, not crammed at a friend's dining table as I did as a child. But technology only works when people use it and this is now sending your cozy family evening into the fight cycle that has only arisen with high school education.
"It's OK," you soothe "You are a smart girl you can get it finished just one problem at a time. Work the problem."
Sound familiar?
You have never been able to control the world that your daughter lives in, but why do we think we know what it is like? But this cycle plays out in family homes all across the world. So how can we tackle it better?
  1. Recognize the frustration - the group project at school or at work has been a pain for you at some point. And this group project analogy is just an analogy. There is any number of stressors for our kiddos! Let's not just dismiss it, if you dismiss their frustrations you, in short, dismiss them as well. So stop what you are doing and ask some questions. If you have never done this before go slowly as your child may be shocked by your sudden change in tactic. And you may not have success the first time, just like the first time you gave them a fork, it's something new, it does not normally go smoothly. But with practice, and genuine presence, eye contact and asking the right questions you will gain insight into what is wrong and do not be afraid of what comes out. Life is the gritty stuff that happens while you are making other plans. So stop, listen ask questions and offer some support. It does not need to be a hallmark card, but a "that is so frustrating, I am sorry, is there anything I can do that won't make it worse?"

  2. Do not engage anger - it is normal to want to raise your voice at the sound of the slamming door. "Screaming you are overreacting or are such a cry baby or drama queen." Are words no child should ever hear from their parents not even in jest! You might say that I am only joking they know that. Well, actually they don't, words sting and stay when you are already in a situation of pain. You might not see it as pain, but accept the fact that whether or not you agree, they are mad at the world. Setting the standard for the tone in your home rests with you. Let the anger move through like water, let it drain away without acknowledgment. The only time, I revise this is if someone or something is getting hurt in the process.

  3. Breathe - our fear of saying or doing the wrong or right thing can take us back to the similar moments of your childhood. If you do not take a long deep breath the hurtful words from your parent may accidentally, slip out of your mouth as your brain is still trying to find the right words, the wrong ones fly out by some mysterious power. Breathe, there is no bomb that will explode if you do not say something within 30 seconds. So just breathe and collect yourself.

  4. Own your errors - so you've had a tough day, you tried to breathe but the words that a boss or parent had spat at you come out. It is more than ok to say "I am so sorry, I spoke to you like that, you are having a tough day and so am I. I spoke out of frustration and I should not have. Is there anything I can do that won't make it worse?"
We run from the moment our feet hit the floor, to doctors' appointments to school to work to after school activities, to Church we rush. The biggest antidote to parenting in this world of stress and anxiety is to keep your home a sanctuary for your family. Acknowledge you will all have tough days, but they will come and go. What is permanent is your family. There is no easy out for this life, you may as well approach each day with some dignity, grace, and humor!

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