Anxious parents do an anxious child make

It’s that time of the year when many young people will be getting ready to sit exams. It can be a time of anxiety for the child and as is sometimes forgotten, for parents too. As a parent, it is important to be aware of how our anxiety can influence their exam anxiety, and the support we give them during this period.

So why do this?

Self reflection will help you understand what your child may be feeling right now and needing right now. It may well be that your child could benefit from something you felt you needed from your parents when you were going through this stage – although its important to remember they are not you. Their needs may be different.

Secondly, it will help ascertain how your received childhood messages about exams, and academic success and failure are influencing the messages you are sending out to your child now. As a parent then deliberate on how you are defining academic success and failure and communicating this to your child. How realistic are your expectations? What impact do you think they may be having on your child now?

Think too about how it would it be for you if your child “failed”? Would you feel now the way you felt if you had “failed “ academically as a child? And now as a parent would you feel that you had “failed as a parent”, that they had failed or let you down as your child? What then might the consequences be for you, and how might this impact upon you and your child’s anxiety levels now as well as the relationship you have with each other?

So how do we do this?

We start by reconnecting with our memories of preparing for, and sitting exams when we were children. This will tap into feelings, thoughts or memories we had then. This might include remembering what messages parents (or other influential people in your life) expressed about their academic fears, hopes and expectations of you. Consider then, their nature and the impact they had on you then.

Consider too the messages you received from them regarding academic failure. What were you led to believe the consequences of failure might be? How did it leave you feeling (fear, shame, anger, sadness, disappointment and embarrassment for example) and what did this do to your self-beliefs and self-judgements (If I fail my exams I will be a failure at everything in my life. If I fail then it will mean that I won’t be able to do X, Y, and Z. If I fail, my parents will be so disappointed with me). What then did this do to the feelings of anxiety you might have been experiencing back then?

Lots to consider then and in my next article, I look at practical ways to support you and your child through this period.

Take good care readers.

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