How your anxiety is affecting your children
With recent attacks in Orlando, Istanbul, Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and Nice, many people may be experiencing anxiety about their safety and the security of their family.
Though experiencing anxiety and fear after a terror attack or mass shooting is understandable, what many don’t realize is that their anxiety may be affecting their children.
“Parents may not realize that they are setting the bar as to what is safe and what’s not,” says Dr. Wasim Khawaja, a family medicine physician on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “At a young age, children are able to read their parents’ emotions, and they begin to develop coping mechanisms by watching how we react to situations. So it is only natural that they look to us for how to feel or react in a crisis situation.”
In anxiety-inducing situations, it is important to understand that you can be honest with your child about what is happening and how you feel, but to keep it developmentally appropriate in a way that they understand.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers some strategies to help you cope when you’re feeling anxious. They include:
- Taking time out of your day to relax by meditating, practicing yoga, listening to music, learning relaxation techniques or getting a massage
- Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake and eating well-balanced meals
- Getting enough sleep and exercise daily
- Practicing your deep breathing and counting to 10
- Being open to humor and maintaining a positive attitude
- Doing your best at what you can do, volunteering and getting involved in issues you care about
“It is essential to remember that the probability of a mass shooting happening is very slim, and around-the-clock media exposure can make it seem more common than it really is,” says Dr. Khawaja. “Most anxieties rest on probability overestimation, but what many people don’t realize is that it is more common for people to die in a traffic accident than a mass shooting or terrorist attack.”
Dr. Khawaja adds that how you express your anxiety can have a large effect on how your children react and feel in the face of dangerous situations.
“It is important to model healthy coping techniques and to not be afraid to express emotions in front of them. It’s okay to react to bad news, but it’s equally important to not be afraid in the world we live in.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.