Do you ever worry, or wonder, how you’re doing as a parent?
I often wonder if I’m getting it right.
Mostly I wonder how my mental states (you know, the ups and downs of life) affect my kids. Like, if I’m not always 100% on, if I feel distracted, or lose it on my kids sometimes, I wonder if I am Iaying permanent ground work for their emotional development? Or in other words, am I causing irreparable damage?
Just considering and writing those questions raises my anxiety. But you know what? That’s okay.
Believe it or not, fear and anxiety are important. They are part of our human experience for a reason. Our fear response keeps us safe. Our worry helps us anticipate and prepare for any impending threat. The problem is thatsometimes our interpretations of our internal world (our unconscious thoughts and feelings etc), and external world (the things that happen around us that our out of our immediate control like traffic or a tantrum), can mislead us, causing us to feel out of control, and then anxious as a result.
So when I catch myself wondering and worrying if I’m doing a good job, or messing up big time, I try to turn my attention away from my fear of the future and try to focus on the present.
That means that instead of worrying about how your kids are going to turn out, try to focus your attention on who they are today, right now.
Not only does this exercise offer some respite from the pesky worrying (exhale), it will also help you to tune in and enjoy who you and your kids are right now, in this moment.
Having said that, turning my attention away from the worrisome thoughts is sometimes harder than it seems.
Hashtag reality check.
In which case, when I struggle to bring my attention back to the present moment, I instead, believe it or not, focus in on the anxiety itself!
Yup, that’s right.
When I find myself stuck in overwhelm or anxiety, I ask myself a few questions to get to the bottom of what’s really going on for me, like“What are you thinking”, “What are you feeling”, and often the most telling is, “What sensations are coming up for you in your body?”.
It may seem counter intuitive, but instead of running from the discomfort, I tune right into it, essentially asking the anxiety “What are you doing here? What, anxiety, would you like me to pay attention to that I am otherwise trying to avoid?”.
I’m a Psychologist, and even more so, I have dived down and explored the hidden crevices of my mind in my own individual work, so it’s much easier for me to recognize the fears and concerns of life and raising kids when they creep up, and to unpack them. I didn’t always feel so equipped for the task, but I started with these exact questions which are key steps to uncovering and overcoming those haunting thoughts that tell you that you might be messing up this parenting gig.
So the next time you find yourself worrying and wondering about the future and questioning yourself as a parent, take pause, reflect on your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations and reconnect with the present moment. Like anything worth doing, it takes time, practice and patients, but the pay off is well worth it.