Rory Laide is a family solicitor and a Bright Horizons parent. Rory shares some areas to focus on to support your child in situations that may cause anxiety.
As family solicitors, we see many parents struggling with child anxiety - often related to relationship breakdown. However, other contributing factors will also include recent stressful situations such as the current pandemic restrictions and closure of schools.
Here are some areas to focus on to support your child in situations causing them anxiety.
This may seem obvious, but if you are struggling in your own relationship, in order to minimise the impact of parental conflict, disputes should ideally take place away from a child. It is also important to try to avoid ‘bad mouthing’ the other parent in front of your child. Often this can be difficult - anger and upset can cause us to do and say things in the heat of the moment, but it is important to try and limit children’s exposure to marital conflict where possible.
The ways in which parents resolve their own arguments is a big indicator for a child’s outcome in the long term. Low-level parental conflict can seem unimportant, for example, bickering and eye rolling in relation to relatively trivial issues may not appear too serious. However, if it’s happening often, children are highly tuned to the family’s emotional climate, and ongoing low-level conflict can lead to insecurity and may even impact upon a child’s mental health. In order to achieve effective co-parenting, it is important to find a way to communicate with each other in a constructive and problem-solving manner, avoiding confrontation where possible.
In the current climate and in times of uncertainty, tensions are often high and it is understandable for parents to feel anxious but as children do tend to pick up on adult’s emotions, they may even start displaying similar feelings.
Parents are like anchors to their children. Children thrive on consistency, routine and stability, and providing a settled and united parenting front will make this much easier to achieve.
All parents want their children to learn right from wrong, but these values won’t develop on their own – they need to be taught. Discuss your values with each other, talk together and try to work towards a common goal.
For parents living in separate homes, effective co-parenting will be more easily achieved if both parents can try to put conflict aside in order to be aligned in relation to what is best for a child. In turn, this will help a child remain resilient in challenging environments. Consider professional family therapy if you find it’s too difficult to discuss and agree a common consensus together.
Given the current pandemic restrictions, it is common for parents to be attempting to make difficult decisions about issues they may not agree on. Recent examples include attempting to agree on: (i) the people forming a COVID-19 bubble; (ii) a child returning to school; (iii) a parent and/or a child receiving a COVID-19 vaccination; (iv) holidays abroad. Ideally these decisions should be made as a family unit where possible.
When making decisions, try to consider all the available evidence and ensure it is from a reputable source. It is important to maintain a degree of flexibility where you can, allowing sensible compromises to be reached and helping to minimise ongoing conflict.
Try to avoid repeating past mistakes. Take time to reflect on what worked well and what hasn’t work well and be prepared to try and find new ways of working through family disputes and conflicts. Being flexible and calm reflection should help prevent similar disputes reoccurring.
This article was written by Rory Laide, Associate at Rayden Solicitors.
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