6 Tips to Avoid Passing Your Own Anxiety On to Your Kids
When my daughter was around two years of age, we were visiting relatives who lived in a high-rise apartment building. I’ve always been afraid of heights and have no desire to step out onto a balcony no matter how safe. The rational part of my brain reminded me that no one would get a building permit which included balconies prone to falls, so I never gave much thought to someone being in danger. I was aware my fear was irrational. But when my mother-in-law took my baby girl out onto the balcony, my heart rate increased rapidly, and I could hear the thumping. I felt faint and saw spots. I jumped up and demanded my husband grab her back inside.
Nearly a decade later, I feel the panic of that experience. I have to stop and take a few deep breaths. I know that there was no way she was in any danger: the wall was too high for her to climb, even if she had crawled up the chairs she still couldn’t have reached. And there were four competent adults with her. But in the moment, my brain convinced me that in spite of all rational evidence, my child was in imminent danger of plummeting to the pavement below. I was certain of it. I flashed forward to the news stories which would include every expert testifying how this shouldn’t have happened, but it did.
Like 40 million American adults, I have an anxiety disorder. For the most part, I’m able to manage my anxiety with medication combined with breathing exercises, prayer, and meditation. But my reactions are not always normal and healthy, so I worry about burdening my children with my anxiety. I also worry about whether they will develop an anxiety disorder because of me, the way other parents might worry about passing along medical issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes.