How a Child's Anxiety Affects Parents' Emotions

Anxiety scrabble

I have written before about anxiety, I have suffered anxiety and have worked for years with clients large and small to help them overcome their own negative thought patterns. I spoke recently with a mum of a 9 year old daughter about how anxiety affects her family. This raw, unedited account is what she asked me to post:

My loving, funny, creative daughter has anxiety. Not just a few worries here and there. Not just the occasional “I don’t want to go to school today” worry. Instead she worries about everything and anything. 

She worries about not getting anything for her birthday. I tell her she will be getting presents from me and Daddy and grandma at the very least.  She then gets anxious about what she will get for her birthday.

She got so anxious about the tooth fairy and desperate to know who it was.  So I told her it was me.  Now she’s not quite as anxious and we swap teeth for money in the kitchen.

She’ll get anxious if Daddy goes to work on the late shift and doesn’t leave her a bedtime note.  She’ll check for this when she gets in from school.  If he’s forgotten she’ll then check her iPad every 15 minutes to see if he’s messaged her.

She gets anxious if someone talks to her at school when the class should be quiet because what if she doesn’t answer them, then they won’t like her.  Then she gets anxious about being told off by the teacher.

She gets anxious if someone has hurt themselves.  She feels she needs to care for them.  What if they have to go to hospital, will they die?

She constantly uses the word ‘sorry’ even when she doesn’t need to apologize.

She gets anxious if a friend ‘looks’ at her in a certain way.  That surely means they don’t like her anymore, doesn’t it?

She gets anxious if her dad or I go out.  Will we come back?  She gets anxious if she doesn’t know where I am in the house. 

Homework?  Don’t talk to me about homework.  She gets so anxious and feels shame if she can’t do it (she worries about failure).  She then worries that she’ll miss out on extra playtime if she doesn’t do it all. 

She’s already getting anxious about receiving detentions in secondary school and she’s not even in Year 6 yet.

My beautiful daughter's anxiety usually shows itself in anger, occasional violence, and, increasingly, in very dissociative behaviour.  We have anger every day in this house and have done for years.  We never really know what mood she’ll be in from one minute to the next.  We used to walk on eggshells but not so much now as we’ve learnt tips and tools to help us help her, but it’s always incredibly wearing on us.

We’re always on high alert, ready to soothe her, ready to help her soothe herself, bring her down gently from high up on that pedestal of anxiety. 

As a result, over the years my anxiety has increased hugely too.  At one point I hated going out, even to do the school run.  I’m better now but there are days I’d like to stay in the comfort and safety of my home with my husband.  I volunteered for the PTA once, thinking it would get me out and about.  It just merely served to increase my anxiety and brought on a couple of panic attacks when I had to make some calls regarding the school fete.

I often feel breathless and I can feel my heart pounding.  I don’t sleep as well as I used to and I can very easily feel completely overwhelmed.  You’ve probably heard of fight or flight – well, I do neither, I freeze.

I work from home, self-employed.  There’s no way I could work in an office anymore as my confidence is so low.

I feel tired from lack of sleep.  I feel tired from trying to get the right support for her and getting school to understand how anxiety and shame affects her.  I don’t feel good enough, I am forever comparing myself to others in my head.

I do know there is help for me and I do have tools I can use.  But my main priority is to help my daughter feel good about herself and about her life.  I try not to get too anxious about the future. 


Anxiety is becoming more commonplace in our society, as our daily stress levels rise, and the pressure our children are under at school, in friendships, from society both on and offline we see the affects of this on individuals and families.

At Hertfordshire Therapy Centre all of our therapists are seeing a rise in the number of clients asking for help in this area. We offer a supportive environment for both children and adults to challenge the negative thoughts that are getting in the way of them enjoying their lives.

We can work with parents and children offering individual support to both. Anxiety can be isolating, our role is to support you so it doesn't become that way.

For more information about the services we offer at Hertfordshire Therapy Centre, or to book a complimentary clarity call to find out if our services can support you, please get in touch by calling or texting 07969 315591.

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Girl with flower

One of our therapists, Sarah Ariss, talks about perfection

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, they say.  But one person’s perfection is another person’s “I’m not good enough.” But it’s all subjective. Everyone compares, yet everyone is different.  As a therapist I regularly work with clients who, on the outside, appear to have so much, yet, by their standards, they are lacking. Their lack of self belief can manifest in so many ways.

A person can be fit, healthy, have a great job and a loving family and yet they feel there is something missing in their life.   What they see when they look in the mirror is someone who is ugly, someone is attracts negativity, someone who is a failure. They can be wracked with anxiety and self-loathing.

Why do we seek Perfection?
Why do so many of us feel the need to be perfect? Is that what life is all about? When you look around at your friends and family would you love them less if they weren’t the best cook, the best gardener or the most beautiful person physically? Of course not. We love those around us, warts and all. We love their souls, their imperfections. So why is it so difficult to love ourselves without criticism?

For many people, lack of self-belief and anxiety are born of events that have happened in their past.   Occasionally, it may be the result of a string of events that add up to a belief that they are not good enough. Other times one singular traumatic event can push us off course, creating a wave of limiting beliefs and fears. Something might have happened to us when we were young for which our minds were just not equipped to understand and deal with.  Our perception of those events can leave us feeling either crippled, or can set us free.

Perfection in Therapy
When I started my career as a therapist, I doubted myself every day. Was I good enough? Was I doing the right thing to help my clients? What if the therapy didn’t work for them? I wanted to be the best therapist I could be.  I wanted to have all the answers for my clients so that I could help everybody. I wanted to be perfect.

Over time I have realised that I will never be the perfect therapist. I will never have all the answers and I will not be able to help every single person who comes into my clinic room. The moment I let go of that need to be perfect I became a better therapist. Letting go of the need to be perfect freed me to accept my imperfections and work on growing and learning. I could then work on doing the best job I could for my clients. I began to believe that giving people the best of myself was what I needed to do and that best would change and grow over time. Coming from a place of honesty, care and service was what mattered. Sterile perfection was not what I wanted any more.

Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset
In school these days children are taught about Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset. People with a fixed mindset tend to see perfection as a fixed point, a definite place to aim for. Those with growth mindsets don’t look so much for the destination as savour the journey.

Those people with growth mindsets are willing to take a chance, to push themselves into unknown territory. They might ‘fail’, but even if they do they will have learnt from the experience. Those with fixed mindsets tend to stay where they are, in their safe zone.

There is a saying that I heard some time ago and which I love. Its the phrase – “Nobody ever became a good sailor on calm seas.” Its so simple and yet it sums up life for me. Life is not a calm sea. Some days life is stormy, grey and full of waves that threaten to capsize our boats. The way we face those days defines us and makes us the people we are. It might feel safer and easier to live life on a mill pond, but where ultimately does that take us?

Making Imperfection feel like Perfection
So….. can you change that deep belief that you are not good enough into a dawning understanding that its ok to not be good enough…. yet?  Are you able to ever really change who you fundamentally are? My answer to that is yes!  Yes, you can change because we are all constantly changing. The direction you take is your choice and there are no rules as to where you go, who you become.

I often hear people say “I can’t do that.” And I wonder….but why not? What is it that is standing between you now and the person you would like to be?  Work? A new skill? Courage? Fear of failure?
If you don’t step out from your comfot zone you will never know what you might have achieved. You might have dreams of doing or being something and, even if you try your hardest, you might not succeed in reaching that goal.

But in having the courage to try, you are already a different person to the person you would have been if you had stayed still, stayed fixed. You will have learnt, grown, changed just by taking those steps. And sometimes….you might even succeed….you might even become the person you want to be. How exciting is that thought?

Not being perfect is exciting because it means that you have space to change, learn and live life with the wind in your hair, the thrill of your heart beating a little faster. Imperfection can become the perfect place to be because it gives you choices.

Do you need a Helping Hand?
The work I do helps people to dismantle their limiting beliefs. I’m the person who helps you untie the knot that’s keeping your boat tied to the jetty. There are ways of working together that can work long term to change the way your mind understands events of the past. And at the same time we can work to give you tools to help in the Now with the symptoms of anxiety and fear.

I remember, when I was considering whether to take a chance and retrain at the age of 50, a friend told me that she had retrained aged 60 and had never regretted it. As she said, she now had maybe 20 years ahead of her doing something she loved, rather than carrying on with a life that bored her. Doing the same ‘safe’ thing day in, day out and getting nowhere is said, by some, to be the definition of madness.

Taking a chance, sailing out into unknown seas, can take you to exciting new places. Maybe you can begin to believe that you are more than good enough, even if you are not perfect. 
If you, or someone you know, are affected by this post and would like to talk about making an appointment with Sarah Ariss, do get in touch by calling or texting 07969 315591.

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