Parenting a child with anxiety can be incredibly challenging. When seeing your child struggling,
it is easy to want to jump in and help them. Unfortunately, some of the things parents do to help,
can actually be maintaining their children’s anxiety.
Here are some of the key parenting traps we can fall into when parenting a child with anxiety:
1. Giving too much reassurance
Often children with anxiety ask lots of questions to find out if a situation is okay. For
example, ‘Is it definitely a sports day?’, ‘What if my teacher is sick?’. A natural reaction is
to answer these questions. However, when we answer questions all the time, children
become reliant on parents and only feel safe in situations where parents are around to
2. Jumping in too soon
When watching your child struggle or feel anxious, it is understandable you will want
to jump in and solve the problem for them. However, jumping in to solve problems for
your child all the time actually prevents them from developing important skills, and can
become a form of avoidance. Additionally, when parents jump in, the child can think that
the situation is not safe or that they cannot cope on their own, which increases anxiety
and reduces independence.
3. Allowing avoidance
Avoidance is one of the key maintaining factors in anxiety. Often parents allow
avoidance by modifying situations for their children, like speaking for them, allowing
them to skip school or social events etc. Whilst avoiding these things in the short term
reduces anxiety, in the long term, when children avoid situations, they miss out on the
opportunity to face their fears, learn, and overcome anxiety.
4. Being ‘too tough’
Being too tough, or telling your child to toughen up, can lead to children being pushed
too hard too fast. Anxiety is hard. Children need time, and graudal, supported exposure,
to overcome their fears. Also, ignoring your child’s feeling can result in them feeling
unsupported and misunderstood by you. We want to strike a balance, being fair and
empathetic, whilst also pushing just enough to help children start to face their fears.
If you notice you are falling into some of these parenting traps, it can be a good idea to start
monitoring your own behaviour and noticing the particular situations where you might feel your
own anxiety or stress rising, urging you to reassure, jump in, allow avoidance or just be too
Once you have noticed when you are falling into these traps, you can start replacing some of
your behaviours, with other, more helpful behaviours.
Here are some remedies to help pull you out of common parenting traps: