6 Ways to Help Your Daughter Beat the Family Anxiety Pattern
You are not alone! I sit across from countless amazing high-functioning women, in the counseling office and outside of it, who experience anxiety and whose children are now facing the same thing. There’s HOPE! Anxiety is highly treatable, many kids (and mothers) see fast relief in counseling.
So how did this happen? You’ve probably tried hard to keep her from the worries you experienced as a child. Women are more likely to struggle with anxiety than men. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “From the time a girl reaches puberty until about the age of 50, she is twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder as a man. Anxiety disorders also occur earlier in women than in men.” 1
Part of this is due to the makeup of the female brain. Hormones, neurotransmitters and stress response all work differently for females and may contribute to increased chances of experiencing anxiety. Part of it may also be due to the way a developing brain works. Researchers are fascinated by newly discovered “mirror neurons” in the brain. These neurons teach us to mirror behaviors and even emotions of others. Last time you saw someone yawn and then had to yawn yourself, that’s the mirror neuron at work. It’s also what helps us empathize with others and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.2
“…Mirror neurons may allow us not only to imitate others’ behavior, but actually to resonate with their feelings. We sense not only what action is coming next, but also the emotion that underlies the behavior. For this reason, we could also call these special neural cells ‘sponge neurons’ in that we soak up like a sponge what we see in the behaviors, intentions and emotions of someone else. We don’t just ‘mirror back’ to someone else, but we ‘sponge in’ their internal states.” (exerpt from The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel) 2
Your daughter’s mirror neurons may have allowed her to sponge in some of your own anxiety, just as you may have unknowingly sponged in your mother’s and so on.
Before you feel guilty, remember this is not something you did intentionally and you can take steps to help her now.
Anxiety is common for women and it’s also easy for our children to feel worried too. The great news is you and your child don’t have to sit in fear, it’s treatable and responds well to calming exercises. Choose something new to practice and do it on a regular basis. If you or your child have fears and worries that feel overwhelming, call a counselor and take advantage of the great resource that counseling can be in your life.
1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. https://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/women/facts
2. Siegel, D.J. (2012). The whole brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
3. Grey, P. (2010) The decline of play and rise in children’s mental disorders. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201001/the-decline-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders