On Anxiety, Parenting & Contagious Healing

Last night I walked into my eight-year-old daughter's room after a church zoom meeting so we could chat before saying goodnight.

Her chin trembled and her eyes filled with tears as she recounted an anxious night the evening before.

"Mom, I'm so scared it'll happen again."

We talked about our emotions. How frustrating it is to be highly sensitive people. We talked about how we both feel the feelings of people around us. We talked about coping skills and getting to know our bodies and our minds. The ways they get stuck. The ways they try to give us information.

"Mom, is everyone like this?"

I held her in my lap and paused.

"No, not everyone is like us. Some people don't notice their emotions a lot. They may build and build before it registers for them."

She responded, "Mom, sometimes I wish I didn't feel so much."

"Me too."

I continued, "But you know what? You got a mom who spends a lot of time getting to know herself and the chaos inside so that she can have some peace, and help others find that peace in them. So if you're willing, we can learn together how to befriend all the feelings inside us that feel so big sometimes."

She nodded yes.

"And maybe if we can learn to befriend our insides, we can help show people why these big feelings matter. Maybe we notice things that others might miss. We can use this for good. If we're willing to do the work to understand it ourselves."

She breathed a big sigh.

After an evening meditation with Insight Timer (our favorite meditation app!), I slipped out and closed the door.

My heart stuttered as I thought of all the times I held this young child while shaking with unexamined anxiety in her early years. Ashamed of the overwhelm, scared of the messiness, completely unaware of how unconscious my fear was.

She knew.

I thought I could hide it from her. That maybe she would somehow escape unaffected. That if I could just figure out my mess, it wouldn't entangle her too.

But that’s not how life works, is it? We affect each other. We share this life together. We are not islands. Our decisions, our policies, our votes, our values, our behaviors affect each other.

Our fear is contagious.

The good news? So is our healing.

Anne Lamott once said, "The most profound thing we have to offer our children is our own healing.”


I’m banking on it.