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« Anxiety in kids: Manage expectations, by Rachel Green »

Written by Rachel Green. Your smart emotions coach: Helping people find positive outcomes from uneasy emotions and difficult decisions. Director of The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

Are our expectations making kids anxious?

The anxious child is all too common. So much so that parenting an anxious child can be anxiety producing in itself.  Anxious parents - anxious child. It can become a vicious circle.

Of all the anxiety requests for help we get, many involve managing anxiety in children and teenagers. 

There are many ways to help overcome and avoid children becoming anxious. The strategies for parenting the anxious child in this article will focus around reducing expectations and pressure. Parental and outside expectations can increase the possibility of children becoming anxious.

Anxiety in kids: What have expectations got to do with it?

Parents are wonderful at wanting the very best for their daughters and sons. Sometimes in their enthusiasm to give them the best they want their child to be a genius. However, most children are normal.

If you push your child to be a genius, when she is not, then you may find that you end up managing anxiety in yourself and your children.

There is nothing wrong with having an ordinary child. There is nothing wrong with having an average child. There is absolutely everything right with having a happy child.

  1. Happy children don't arise when their parents have unrealistic expectations of them. When they are pressured to perform, to be the top in everything and to be exceptional, they can feel anxious. 
  2. Do you expect your child to be better than he or she really is? Someone always has to come last or in the middle if someone is to come first. They can't all be top.  
  3. The statistics prove that most of us are average. In fact that's what average means. Are you willing to let your child be average, i.e. normal? 

When I was discussing managing anxiety in children with one of my friends, and mother of two, she said to me: 

We need, as mothers to stop trying to craft our children into what we want them to be. Instead, we need to look at our children for who they are and allow them to be who they are."

There is so much wisdom in this. Surely, if we were all able to do this, managing anxiety in children would come off the top ten list?

If you do feel under pressure and have stress and anxiety, learning to meditate may help you to soften them. Our audio-downloads "Happy not hassled" contain easy-to-follow guided meditations that may help, and one of them you may be able to do in quiet time with your children. It is only 6 minutes long. I recommend them to you. Peace and calm - bliss!

Audio downloads $29 (US) Add to Cart


Anxiety in kids: Other pressures and expectations.

Another reason children can feel anxious is that some are put under a lot of pressure to do well at school in order to get a high status and highly paid job or career. No wonder parents are managing anxiety in children.

Value ALL jobs. Don't just value a job because of the pay it brings in. What matters is that your children are happy when they "grow-up" not that they earn a huge wage. I know people who are earning over $400,000 a year and are on anti-depressants.

If you value all jobs you can relieve your children of the pressure to be a superstar and take the pressure off yourself to produce one.

If your child wants to be a nurse that is great. No, she doesn't have to be a doctor. If she wants to be a secretary that is fine, she doesn't have to be an HR manager. If you reduce your expectations you may find that there is less anxiety in your children and in yourself.

Children also gain unrealistic expectations of themselves from watching advertisements, listening to teachers, hearing other children, and so on.

One unrealistic expectation many have learnt is to expect everything straightaway. Show them this isn't necessary or possible or realistic. If they see you are not chasing after the instant answer or latest consumer product or gadget, and are still happy, then they may be less anxious themselves about getting everything instantly.

Anxiety in kids: Lower your self-expectations

Some parents also have unrealistic expectations of themselves. This can result in their not only managing anxiety in their children but also managing anxiety in themselves.

Lower your own expectations of yourself. You don't have to have everything for your child. You don't have to have the trendiest, latest, most expensive, most super-deluxe pram, jogger or change table. Do not believe the people selling these items; they are trying to make money out of you. You don't need all the paraphernalia.

Many parents manage beautifully without expensive, fashionable items such as these, so you can take the pressure off yourself too. Being able to love your children is far more important. When your children feel genuine affection and love and less pressure, managing anxiety may be far less of an issue.

When you take the pressure off yourself you also take the pressure off your children.

High expectations lead to anxiety in mums, dads and children. By taking the pressure off yourself and the whole family you may well find you have a happier child and are managing anxiety less often.

Anxiety in kids: Softening the pressure

If you do feel under pressure and find yourself role-modelling stress and anxiety to your children, learning to meditate may help you to soften the tension and anxiety. If you'd like to try some easy-to-follow guided meditations I have recorded the four that I used to dissolve my own panic attacks. They are available on our MP3 recordings "Happy not hassled" along with some great tips on managing your emotions.

MP3s $29 (US) Add to Cart


NB: The information contained in this article is general information only and not individual advice. Every child is different. It is not provided as an alternative to obtaining professional or psychological advice from an appropriately qualified practitioner. Rachel is not a psychologist, psychiatrist or medical doctor. Please seek the help you need.