Parenting Through Anxiety

Quick Link to Parent Resource for Anxiety

Recently I held a parent meeting in my ministry. I do these three times a year based upon the term. So this was my fall parent meeting. Many youth pastors tend to use this time to tell parents about details of events, which I do, but I do not spend the majority of my time telling them details they can read for themselves. Instead, I give them the information in writing and links to our webpage for our events. I try to spend the bulk of my limited time intentionally speaking to felt needs for parents in my community and church.

This past year, there has been an increased interest in anxiety in teens in the St. Johns County area. There are a multiple of reasons for this, but this is primarily being driven by fear. The fear of mass shootings and violence has gripped our country. Many parents struggle to feel safe sending their children to school, because of them being “soft targets.”

However, I chose somewhat of a different route. Rather than debating the policies come from the anxiety issues, I wanted to explore the sources of these anxieties in students and how to parent through anxiety. I particularly wanted to explore this with parents because anxiety in teens is on the rise, particularly in our area. The two most common topics that parents come to me for counseling with their children is behavioral issues and anxiety.

So, I created a simple brochure on anxiety in our community, which you can download here. I distributed this to my parents. This is the only time, I ran out of printed resources to give parents. So, I obviously struck a nerve. Please look through the resource for anxiety stats and solutions for parenting through it.

If you are still reading at this point, I want to talk further about one of my solutions: Personal Development Not Performance Driven. I feel that this may be the number one issue and cause of anxiety for teens in my community. There is so much pressure for teens to perform well in my community. This is not only from their parents, but the schools and the community add to this pressure leading to anxiety.

I live in a community that is one of the most affluent in Florida. Many of our residents are white-collar workers. They are managers or higher, predominantly working in offices. There are some blue collar workers, but mostly these residents commute into the city to work in some “cube farm.” The pursuit of money and wealth has become a major factor in the lives of the people. Consequently, the parents who are very performance driven in their own lives, impute these values to their children.

Now, there is nothing wrong with teaching a good work ethic, and performance does matter. I, personally, am a very driven individual. I do not know how to sit still and do nothing. I feel like my time is my most valuable commodity. I understand the value of working hard to achieve your goals.

However, when a parent upsets the balance of performance driven and personal development, the child begins to interpret their value and worth according to his/her performance. As a result, her parents’ pride, affections, and love is directly tied to her performance. Thus, she constantly pursues the best of grades. She pursues extra-curricular activities, endlessly. Simply consider the business of today’s students’ lives. They never seem to stop. Parents are often marching to the mantra “Divide and Conquer.” Even many schools now require community service hours. Many colleges look for these extra-curriculars for admittance.

Here is the where anxiety comes in to the mix. What happens when a child has peaked or is beyond their capacity? Many students will burn themselves out. Then, they find themselves unable to cope and maintain their pace. Their self-value and worth declines sharply. They begin to think their parents cannot be proud of them because they are no longer able to perform. They either sink into discouragement, or they attempt to rally their performance in a burnt-out state.

Parents, make sure that you are spending adequate time with your child with no performance agenda. We must raise our kids to know that our love is not based on their performance but on their person. My son needs to know that I love him unconditionally because he is my son. This is how God shows us love. He loves us unconditionally because we are his creation. For Christians, he loves us not on our performance, because there is nothing we could ever do to earn his love. By loving our children as God loves us, we teach our children how to interact with God. Our children must learn that they cannot work hard enough to make God love them, and they learn that through their relationship with us.

Love your child as God loves you. Spend your time with them not focusing on their performance but on your relationship. Spend time where there is no performance component.