7 ways parents add to their child’s anxiety

It’s safe to say most parents want to raise a child who doesn’t suffer from anxiety. Many of these same parents, however, might be the reason their kid has trouble coping with challenges.

“Parents play a crucial role in shaping their children’s emotional well-being, and unintentional actions or behaviors may contribute to the development of anxiety in children,” psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D., wrote in Phychology Today.

Here are seven ways you might be causing your child’s stress, according to Bernstein.

Being overprotective

No one wants their son or daughter to get hurt, but if you’re always protecting them from life’s challenges, they might never learn to cope with unfamiliar situations.

Monkey see, monkey do

Children are always watching, and if you display anxious behavior or show excessive worrying, your offspring will learn to mimic that.

No safe space

“If parents don’t openly discuss emotions or provide a safe space for their children to express their feelings, it may lead to emotional suppression and anxiety,” Bernstein wrote. “Children need to feel it’s OK to share their emotions without judgment.”

Being inconsistent

If your child doesn’t know what to expect from one moment to the next, it can lead to uncertainty and anxiety. If your example is one of “do as I say, not as I do,” it could have an adverse effect on your child. “My dad tells me to ‘stop sitting around and get active,’ but he just lays around on the couch and looks at his phone,” 12-year-old Scott told Bernstein.


Children need to learn to make their own decisions and how to deal with the consequences. If a parent is always intervening, their child might never develop the coping skills needed in life.

Too much of a good — or bad — thing

Excessive praise or constant criticism might create performance anxiety, Bernstein wrote. Positive reinforcement is important, but praise shouldn’t be unwarranted.

Instilling fear

The world is a scary place, but if a parent is always expressing excessive fear or worry, the child might pick up on this. “Parents need to provide a balanced perspective and help children understand and manage risks appropriately,” Bernstein wrote.

If your child’s anxiety persists or worsens, he wrote, you should consider getting them professional help so they can develop strategies to cope.

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