The negative consequences of parental communication
There is no denying the fact that we inherit most of our traits from our parents. My strong conviction about how a bed should be made to how the icing should be on the cake. Not to forget all my anxiety.
Though your parents didn’t intentionally gift you a worrisome nature, unwittingly how they spoke to you when you were young definitely had an impact on your anxiety and worry in adulthood.
It’s important to understand that most parents would have inadvertently said offending or paradoxical things to a child at least a few times in their lives. They might not have had the time to think through the psychological implications of their words and action.
Words can be powerful and can generate intense feelings of anxiety in children, your actions can be even more powerful. As a parent, your role is to provide a predictable and reliable environment. As parents, your words can become problematic when you invalidate what your child is feeling. Unpredictable behaviors make children anxious and create an emotional template that becomes problematic for the child in adulthood. It is important to understand that your children rely on you to validate their confusing emotions and feelings and when as parents you deny or minimize those feelings, they tend to get anxious when those very emotions reappear.
Some words and phrases often used by parents which must be avoided are:
- Stop crying, don’t be a sissy, be strong! – statements like these can convey to the child that being sad and expressing those emotions are bad or unacceptable. As a result when such feelings resurface in adulthood, it leads to anxiety as they wouldn’t know how to respond leading to suppressing those emotions.
- Relax, calm down! – Often when someone is going through an anxious situation, people end up making this statement which is counterproductive. Though the intent is to help and diffuse the situation, the person becomes even more anxious. They would start to feel that they do not have the ability to deal with the situation as others which can erode their self-confidence. It is like a quicksand, the more you repeat the more anxious the child becomes.
- Come on, hurry! – Almost every parent would have made this statement and almost on a daily basis when their children have to get ready for school. “Now, you are irritating me, hurry up before I blow my top”, such statements have never really worked. Those who have experienced would vouch for it. The more you shout the more delayed the kids will be. They get very anxious unable to deal with the situation, often leaving them confused and exasperated. There are better ways to manage.
- There is nothing to worry about – This is another statement which can actually make the child even more worried. They might perceive it as an attempt to diffuse a situation which they must actually be worried about. By attempting to quickly put off the flame you end up having the opposite effect.
- Not a big deal – Is a statement that makes the child feel that you have not completely understood their emotional state and are brushing it aside. This can lead to detachment, and they would stop sharing their feelings with you. Over a period of time, they would learn how to suppress such feelings leading to anxiety.
- Don’t climb the tree, you are going to fall and break your bones! – Why do we have to exaggerate in an attempt to stop our kids from doing certain things which we don’t want them to? Why don’t we look at conveying our concerns in a more realistic way and help them make the choices? When you keep repeating such statements, they become fearful of action and tentative in their approach as adults.
- Come here, let me do that for you – communicates to the child that they are incapable of handling the situation on their own. While your intent is to help your child, it has the opposite effect. They become afraid of making choices as they grow up to be adults.
- You can do whatever you want and feel like, I am there for you! – this may sound like a very positive statement to make, however, has a devastating effect on the psyche of your child. We wouldn’t realize that the child could perceive it as a compromise the parent is willing to make for his/her happiness. Statements like “I have never stopped you from doing anything”; “I have always given you the permission to do what you feel” etc., still communicates a lack of intent to engage with the child or you are still the one calling the shots. Ponder!
It is highly unlikely that you will never make any of the statements I have mentioned above. However, being mindful of the deep impact it can have on your child and its consequence, when they grow up to be adults, will make a huge difference!
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