Dr. Murray Bowen in his book Family Therapy in Clinical Practice describes the idea of triangles within families.
When one spouse brings anxiety into the home it can be passed on to the other parent and ultimately the child.
No parent intends to pass worries, distress, or nervousness on to their children. Kids, however, have a strong sense of awareness and will readily take on these emotions in an attempt to protect their parents.
Your child has probably not developed a true understanding of the boundary between themselves and you, their parents.
So they “feel” your worries and concerns are their own.
Your child’s brain was not designed with the mental or emotional capacity to handle this anxiety.
Thus, worry and distress in your child may manifest as bad behavior or acting out.
This is the child’s immature effort to relieve the adult anxiety that they are unable to cope with.
When your child acts up or gets into trouble, this likely has the negative effect of increasing your anxiety as the parent. And if you lack proper boundaries between yourself and your child, then the anxiety returns right back to your child and the cycle begins again.
We, as parents have to learn better coping strategies to diffuse our own anxiety and prevent shifting it onto our children.
This begins with recognizing that this cycle occurs and learning to spot the pattern.
Parents can begin by identifying the root cause of the anxiety that they may initially bring into the family unit.
- Is it a difficult boss, a highly stressful work environment, a complex work assignment, or bullying?
- It may also stem from marital conflicts or tough interpersonal relationships. Parents may need to learn strategies to lessen anxiety and/or consider seeking the help of a counselor.
- This anxiety may also stem from physical, emotional, or mental illness in one or both parents. This too could be remedied through professional treatment.
- You must quickly acknowledge and remediate any drug or alcohol abuse in either parent. The biggest predictor of drug and alcohol abuse in children and adolescents is drug and alcohol use in the parents.
When our children are learning good, healthy behaviors, triangles can be a positive thing! As a result, they grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults.
But be ever mindful of your actions and your own emotional state when around your children. They truly are tiny sponges that absorb, internalize, and act out your every thought, move, and emotion.