Anxiety’s effects on one’s life can be very detrimental, and those who are severely anxious, including those with social anxiety who are seeking anxiety support, know these effects firsthand. A person may be in his or her mid twenties and never have had a significant relationship, friend, or job. The tendency of people who have had this severe anxiety their entire lives is to say, “I can’t take it anymore! I don’t want this! I never asked for it and I have been fighting every day of my life just for the little bit that I do have!” Given the experience of people who find themselves saying this or things similar to it, this is a perfectly reasonable response. How should anyone feel who has been overwhelmed by struggles in their life?
Any anxiety disorder is caused by a complex mixture of diverse factors. Another cause of anxiety disorders, besides overprotective and controlling parents (see ASN’s Causes of Anxiety: Overprotective and Controlling Parents), is a lack of love experienced by one during his or her childhood. Actually, the phrase lack of love is slightly inaccurate because in reality almost all parents love their children. However, many parents who do not make their children feel loved are simply showing the love in inappropriate ways that end up harming the children or in ways that the child does not understand as love.
Children who do not feel loved by their parents have a much higher risk of developing an anxiety disorder than children who do feel loved by their parents. Look, for example, at a child whose parents continually tease him in what they perceive as a loving manner. What the child may really want to hear is, “I love you! You have done such wonderful things in school lately!” But, since the child never hears those words expressly, he or she feels unloved. Someone who feels unloved tends to be very hard on him or her self emotionally. Since no one else seems to love him or her, why should he or she love him or her self? Other people communicate what reality is to a child, and if other people seem to think that child is an idiot, then he or she tends to believe so as well. This was a demonstration of an inappropriate way to show love to a child.
Other parents, on the more extreme end, emotionally abuse their child. Children who come from homes with non-recovering parents who are active in addiction have a much higher likelihood than average of having an anxiety disorder. Emotional abuse is when the parent verbally harasses the child and puts him or her down on a regular basis, or when he or she screams and yells at the child on a consistent basis when the child has not behaved in a manner to deserve such treatment. These parents are cold, offer very little, if any, positive reinforcement, and are in general simply too consumed by their own problems such that they cannot help other people with theirs, including their own children. Parents who emotionally abuse their children do in fact love their children, but again are unable to show it to them because of other things going on in their lives.
So, what is the solution to this particular issue? The solution is actually very easy. The parents should simply ask the child what he or she would like mom and dad to do in order to show that they love him or her. For many parents this can be a very daunting task because they themselves were shown a lack of love by their own parents, and this might be the first time in their lives they actually show love in an appropriate and healthy manner. Why is asking children suggested? The first point is that children know what it is that would help them to feel better. If there is any confusion, the parent could simply say, “Would you like mom to hug you more? Would you like dad to say ‘,I love you,’ more?” The child will quickly confirm or disconfirm each answer. The other point to remember is that children are very honest because they have not yet fully internalized the inhibitions that society places on people as they grow older. Children will say exactly what is on their minds because they have no fear of upsetting other people.
Overall, parents do love their children, but they do need to make sure they are doing so in an appropriate manner that the child perceives as love. No parent will do a perfect job, but every parent can do a better job, and the better job a parent does, the better life the child has.