Don’t go outside, you’ll catch a cold. Stay close by me, so I can keep my eye on you. You’ll shoot your eye out! Everyone has heard these types of phrases from their moms (or movie moms) from time to time. But life with an anxious mother is different from from life with a mom who worries a little here and there. Everyone has worries that overcome them once in a while. But when worrying becomes excessive, it starts to affect the people around you. You make choices based on fear rather than the bigger picture.
Daily life becomes more about avoiding risk and discomfort rather than having experiences. Like playing not to lose, not playing to win. A child with an anxious mother might start learning that the world is too dangerous to be explored much. This effect can even continue on through adulthood. When faced with discomfort stress, they often choose to go further inside themselves rather than take a risk and push through their anxiety.
An anxious mom can literally transfer her nervousness to her child. A child that senses tension will become tense themselves. Pretty soon, the child develops their own tense reactions to stressful situations. When the child appears stressed, the mother becomes worried all over again. The cycle feeds itself and continues on.
Anxiety and confidence are two polar opposites, and each has its own sort of inertia. Whatever mood is going on, it tends to want to stay that way. When a person is generally confident and gets knocked off course, they make feel some temporary stress from that adjustment. But since they have an expectation of themselves as being confident and pressing forward, they will very likely get back in the saddle again. When a person lives their life out of anxiety, even positive experiences tend to circle around and lead to anxiety. They have an expectation that things may go bad or get comfortable, so they may not put as much stock in the good things in their life.
An anxious mother may tend to define their child is more shy, fragile, and not capable of things. When a child struggle with learning a new skill or with some performance anxiety, an anxious mother may not see her part in the problem. She may not recognize how she transferred her anxiety into the situation, making it more difficult for the child to get through their own uncertainties.
Mothers tend to set the emotional barometer in a household. Children will grow up believing their home environment is normal whether it is healthy or not. When a child is exposed to an excessively worried and anxious mother for years, it may take them quite a long time to see that as their mothers problem. If the child has developed their own anxiety problems as an adult, it’s important that they recognize and separate themselves from their mother’s anxiety.
Thankfully, anxiety is one of the most treatable mental health problems. A person can do many things on their own to manage anxiety, and many mental health professionals are trained to help with anxiety problems.
As usual, I’m ready to hear your stories and your solutions. The holidays frequently bring out anxious tendencies in people. How have you or your family members dealt with this? How has this affected your life, either as a child anxious mother, or being an anxious mother yourself? Have you found things that have helped with the anxiety?
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Last reviewed: 22 Dec 2009