Day 5 of Anxiety // Anxiety Comes with Parenting

Wiregrass Hope Group's Christian counselors have written these posts on anxiety based on their own experiences and the book Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow. Our hope is for you to live free from anxiety.

Moms, whether you are sending a child off to college or bouncing one on your knee, there is more than just a little bit anxiety in mothering. There is good news though! Everything is not riding on us, as our children are simply on loan. For parents with children entering college, the loan has been for approximately 18 years now. In truth, our children have always belonged to their creator-God. But it can be all too easy to believe that they belong to us alone and experience incredible discontent over what we perceive to be their failures or our own.

Personally, I have raised two children who attended and survived college. They are wonderful, decent human beings currently involved in doing more good than harm in the world. If it’s an encouragement, I clearly remember fretting and having those feelings of worry.

By fretting, I mean the striving to make sure EVERYTHING is perfect: schedule, school, college orientation, dorm room, roommate, clothing, attitude, money savvy, sorority rush, summer experiences, stress management, curriculum, fraternity selection, job readiness, etc. WHEW! Anxiety builds when we think our children’s lives are dependent on our performance as parents.

Even if we were able to make everything perfect, how would this help our children navigate life? God has planned (in advance) good things for our children (Ephesians 2:10). What do we teach our children when they are watching us worry and fret? Are they learning to rely on us or circumstances or are they learning to trust God? How can we possibly send a truthful message that we are capable of “lining up all the planets” so our children can see every dream come true? That is a huge order, and it can actually provoke anger in our children when we can’t deliver. Ephesians 6:4 gives a powerful reminder to parents: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Well–meaning overprotection is a common cause of resentment in children. Parents who impose rules without conversation, who constantly criticize their children’s decisions, and who overly restrict where they can go and what they can do send a loud message to their kids: “You cannot be trusted to do things on your own.” Constantly questioning their judgment builds walls between themselves and their children—usually under the delusion that they are building a closer relationship. Children certainly need careful guidance and certain restrictions, but they are individual human beings needing to learn how to make decisions on their own, commensurate with their age and maturity. Careful guidance and micro-management = control.

Looking back on my own college experience, some very significant wisdom came from crashing and burning a time or two! My husband tells of moving himself to college without any parental help. His parents were actually in the process of moving themselves, the very next day, 1000 miles away! There was no freshmen orientation, no ‘Bama Bound’ or ‘Camp War Eagle.’ But God was still at work! He grew up and gained some wisdom through mistakes.Today, he claims Jesus as his Savior, points his children to God, leads his family well, and prays with me daily for our offspring to grow in their personal relationship with God. 

Looking to our own children’s growing up experiences…they looked a lot like our own experiences which included broken hearts, wrecked cars, run-ins with law enforcement, failing grades, changed majors, general disappointment in people and experiences, great summer jobs, rotten summer jobs, uncomfortable parental encounters, wonderful friendships, pushing of boundaries, classroom boredom, and lack of preparedness. But Jesus has this incredible way of shining through difficulties, and we survived.

And so can you.

How? First, be intentional about pointing your children to Jesus because parenting is not about us! Psalms 73:28 in the NASB says, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good." I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works. If anxiety plagues you, find hope in what the end of this verse says, “I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.” His works are this: God is faithful, regardless of your mistakes or your child’s mistakes. When we elevate our parenting importance, it causes us anxiety because we think we are in control of all the outcomes of our children’s lives.

My husband often reminded me that we did not begin our parenting yesterday, and we have actually been working at it a long time. On one occasion, I was about to go into control mode by suggesting we run screaming to their dorm, scoop them up, bring them home, and start parenting all over again. Praise God, clearer heads prevailed. Together my husband and I sat down and prayed asking God to replace our irrational, anxiety-filled madness with His wisdom. We asked God to draw our child close to Him, and for our child to press into God as never before. Peace came in those prayers. Truly, when we choose to pray and not worry, God brought peace.

Secondly, model Christ’s love by communicating “I love you no matter what.” Proclaim, “I love you” when Jr. strikes out in t-ball, when the crazy date turns into a stalker and it takes a police call to get their attention, or even if the police get called concerning your child. Learn to look for the lesson God is trying to teach.

Thirdly, we must forgive in our relationships. Linda Dillow writes, “Much of our discontent and lack of peace comes from our expectations in our relationships.” In family relationships or other relationships, we will fail each other, and forgiveness is necessary to heal and move forward.  

Being connected to Christ, can make the difference whether our children and family relationships are our greatest blessings or greatest trials. That connection is what will help calm your anxious heart! 

Prayer: LORD, I pray reliance on you daily for myself and for all parents battling anxieties in parenting and in all other relationships.

Further Study: Read Chapter 5 of Calm My Anxious Heart.

Small Group Questions: Questions 5, 8, and 9 of Week 5 in the back of Calm My Anxious Heart.

Comment: In what ways do you realize you are not fully trusting God with your children or relationships?

Please share your answer either in the comments section below or join the conversation with our Facebook Community Group. #undividedwomen.

// Angela 

Angela Smith has been married to Banks (Tom) Smith for 30 years and for that time they have called Dothan their home. Angela is a graduate of the University of Alabama where she earned a B.A. Degree in Communications. She is currently working on her Master's degree in Biblical Counseling from Birmingham Theological Seminary and works for Child and Family Services as a Behavioral Specialist at Dothan Head Start. Angela has worked for nonprofits serving as Development Director for Providence Christians School in Dothan for 10 years. Angela and Tom have two children, and a new son-in-law.