Understanding Family Patterns That Perpetuate Anxiety in Children and Teens

Hey everyone! I’ve been thinking a lot about how family dynamics play a role in the anxiety our children and teens may experience. It turns out there are three categories of family patterns or responses that keep families trapped in the parenting pitfalls of child anxiety. I’m eager to share these insights because recognizing them is the first step towards change.

So, let’s dive in! First up is avoidance. It’s when your child shies away from the things that make them nervous. This could be anything from ordering in a restaurant to avoiding going outside if the weather looks iffy. If we, as parents, facilitate this avoidance, we’re actually reinforcing their anxiety. It’s like we’re saying, “It’s okay, you don’t have to face your fears,” which prevents them from learning how to cope.

Next, we have safety-seeking behaviors. These are the moments when our kids look to us as their personal shield against the world. They might say things like, “I’ll only go upstairs if you come with me, Mom,” or “Please don’t leave the house at night, I don’t feel safe.” While it’s natural to want to protect our children, constantly being their safety net can prevent them from developing their own resilience.

Last but not least are rituals. Does your child insist on having things done ‘just so’? Whether it’s drinking from a cup of a specific color or demanding routines be followed to a T, these rituals can be a way for them to manage their anxiety. But, when we cater to these demands, it can reinforce the idea that the world is a scary place that needs to be controlled meticulously.

These patterns—avoidance, safety-seeking, and rituals—can keep our little ones stuck in their anxiety loops. It’s important for us to recognize these behaviors and learn how to gently disrupt them. This way, we can empower our children to face their fears and grow out of these patterns, ultimately freeing both them and ourselves from the cycle of anxiety.

What do you think? Have you noticed any of these patterns in your family? Let’s chat about it in the comments below! Your experiences could help another family out there.

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94 to 99% of families with anxious kids are stuck in patterns that make their child's anxiety worse
Does Child Anxiety Have Your Family Trapped?