Bethan O'Riordan Psychotherapist

This weeks Ask Bethan: “How can I stop being an anxious parent?”

I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling with anxiety.  I remember when I first became a Mum I suffered enormously with anxious feelings and thoughts in a way that I never had done before.

Becoming a parent opens the mind up to a whole new level of potential worry and guilt. It can overwhelm you in a way that you’ve never experienced before. Once that Mamma Bear part of the brain has been turned on it needs to be tamed a little so that it doesn’t run the show.  The good news is that this is possible and you can do it.

Being honest, there are times in parenting that are simply full on and while these situations cannot change, how you respond to them can. I remember having three kids under three and a half and all that brought; sleepless nights rolling into each other and having a baby that cried 18 hours a day… But I felt great in myself.

Anxiety makes us react to a situation and what we want is for you to move into responding in a way that’s helpful for you and those around you. The first thing I’d suggest is to think about what you mean by anxiety as it’s an umbrella term for so many things.  When we break it down and understand it a little more, we can then put practical steps in place to create change.  Always remember that turning towards what we find hard is the best way of healing it.

Anxiety is showing us two things:

1.     That the logistics of life are out of balance

2.    That you’re disconnected from your feelings

We often say that we feel anxious but what we feel is a variety of physical symptoms and thoughts.  Understanding these gives you the clues to remedying what’s happening. Are you tired? Overwhelmed? Worried for the kids future? Feeling guilty about how you parent? Finding the logistics of motherhood hard?  Is the thinking and planning too much?

You’ll work out these questions by saying to yourself, “I am feeling ___”.  This will help you to stop in that moment and rather than let emotions build up, you’ll be able to tune inwards and help yourself.

The next step is to create small systems to help ease what you’re finding hard.  Try asking yourself “what I need is ____” and trust the first thing that comes to mind.  Our gut instinct is called just that for a reason.  Where the anxious part of the brain would over think, tuning into what first bubbles up will help you to bypass the mental load and move towards practical action.

Your short question is very much at the core of parenting and such an important one.  Research shows us that when parents tune into what they find hard and work towards healing it, their emotional inner world doesn’t spill into their children’s development.  Myself included.

By being curious about how your emotions work, you can then teach your children how to be curious about theirs too.  And this is the best way to support your children’s emotions.

If you would like support in understanding and overcoming your anxiety, you can book a one to one psychotherapy appointment here. They’re available online or in person in my practice in Blarney, Cork. If you’d like to talk with me before booking (I know that finding the right therapist is essential), you can book a free call with me. Also make sure you’ve got your free 5 Steps To Calmer Parenting to help you cultivate the most helpful parts of yourself.

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