Mental Wellbeing

Parents, You Cannot Fix Your Anxious Child (Guest Post)

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Parents, You Cannot “Fix” Your Anxious Child

But, You Can Be a Source of Strength and Support


This is a guest post from the lovely Colleen over at Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Joy.  Colleen is Mom to a 13-year old girl who suffers from severe anxiety and OCD.  

Colleen started her blog as she was frustrated with the medical and self-help books available to parents.  She found many of them weren’t in touch with REALITY.  So she set about learning as much as she could about anxiety treatment and management.   

Colleen is also a veteran elementary teacher and has been teaching since 2004.

She wants to spread encouragement and hope and to help families like hers navigate options and feel less alone. 

Here she tells us her story.


Nothing will ever prepare a new mom or dad for the journey of parenthood.  In the blink of an eye, we go from selfish to selfless. Suddenly, we realize we will do ANYTHING to make our child happy.  Sometimes, that need to protect and shelter our child can backfire.

For parents like myself, with a child who suffers from extreme anxiety, the fierce need to shield your child from unpleasant feelings can lead to a significant increase of anxious thoughts and feelings.

Over time, an anxious child will begin to believe that he or she is incapable of managing their anxieties, solely relying on others to manage their daily life.

Additionally, parents begin to break under the false belief that they can “fix” their child’s anxiety.

Anxiety is a powerful, and often debilitating illness that affects 1 in 8 children. It can manifest itself in many ways from physical symptoms to irrational fears, sudden ticks to school refusal.

When parents begin noticing their child complaining and avoiding, hurting or acting out, the first response is to swoop in and remove any negativity.  This is done with the intention of calming the uncomfortable feelings in their child caused by anxiety.

Parents you cannot fix your anxious child

What Do I do?

It goes against every reflex as a parent to not jump in and ease the unhappiness felt by your child.  However, you must stop enabling your child’s anxiety and begin helping them manage their anxious thoughts and feelings in order to empower them.

Believe me, I know that this is incredibly hard.  My hope is that by reading this you will see the importance of providing the necessary tools and confidence to your child.

I honestly believe that if I had understood this concept earlier on in our child anxiety journey, we could have saved ourselves from hitting rock bottom in June of 2018.

If like me, you have been spending your every waking minute trying in vain to “fix” your child, I understand.  Just in the last 10 months of our 6-year journey, I have finally understood and accepted that my job is not to “fix” or “cure” my daughter’s extreme anxiety, rather provide opportunities for her to learn the tools needed for her to help herself.

This does not mean I sit back and do nothing, rather I still work very hard for my daughter’s health. I make sure that she attends regular therapy sessions, takes her medication as needed.  I provide opportunities to talk with her about her thoughts and feelings.  Allow time for her to manage and process whatever she is dealing with, and support her in a million other ways.

What I am not doing for her is the actual mental process of managing anxious thoughts and feelings. In order for her to grow up to be a successful, independent adult, she must believe in herself.


It has been freeing to know that my job is to support rather than “fix”.  Sitting here today, while my daughter is a long way from living a life where daily anxiety is not thought of as an obstacle, I absolutely feel content knowing that I have given her every opportunity for success.

In moments where I begin to get overwhelmed or question the future, I remind myself that this is her process and it is up to her to work through it.

I am proof that being your child’s biggest advocate and closest confidant, continually offering encouragement and support for pushing through the scary times, leads to an incredible improvement in the quality of life for both your child and for you.

One year ago today, my daughter, who was 12 at the time and 5 years into her battle with anxiety, was unable to attend classes at school and was having to be physically helped to school each morning. She was unable to leave the house with us and go to stores or restaurants without frequent panic attacks on our trip, spent most of her time curled on the couch lost in technology as a way to allow her anxious thoughts a moment of reprieve.

The Turn-Around

Today, she attends school on a reduced schedule with a calm morning and class participation,
journeys out of the house with us without much thought of anxiety, and spends time laughing and smiling with us and friends. Anxiety is still present more than I would like, and still plays a role in our life, but my daughter is living again.

This amazing turn around has been a slow, often painful process. One that has helped us all grow in ways I never expected. We have witnessed the harsh reality of truly losing our daughter to anxiety. I spent nights crying in bed, begging to have my daughter return, to hear her laugh, to see her smile. And then slowly, she did emerge from the shadows of anxiety.


Through counseling for my daughter and our family, we have all learned ways to manage and support one another. Each week, sometimes twice per week, my daughter attends therapy where she learns to adapt her black and white thinking into a more realistic perspective.  She practices sitting with her uncomfortable feelings, challenges her anxious thoughts, and finds ways to breathe in the positive and out the negative.

I also visit with this same counselor, sometimes alone and other times with my daughter. I have learned ways to handle my emotions when seeing my daughter hurting. Through this, I became aware of my role as an advocate and a supporter.

Over these past 10 months, we have overcome hurdles that most never imagine. My daughter has fought harder and been braver than people twice her age.

Today, I am confident in my parenting and able to realize the value I have as a parent of an anxious child. My daughter sees that she has the power to help herself.

There are days when she falls down emotionally and mentally. I no longer run in with the intention of picking her up. Rather, she knows that I am there to encourage her to get herself back up.

How To Get Help

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  1. Abby Heird

    Such an important message behind this post! I am not a mother but I suffered a phase of depression not too long ago and my parents wanted to fix instead of empower. That was the hardest part. And I didn’t want them to feel the burden but what they were doing wasn’t what I was needing. I had to find my own way. I think this is an amazing lesson but such a hard one for parents to accept because all you want to do is make and keep your child healthy and happy. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Alison

      Thanks Abby. I’m not a parent either but as I know a lot of readers are I wanted to feature some posts on child mental health issues. I can’t begin to imagine how hard it must be not to try and ‘fix’. I’m so glad Colleen has found a different way x

  2. Marie

    I don’t know how easy it is for a family to get access to help for their child these days. I know it used to be terrible. This post gives a very clear message though about not getting anxious about getting anxious which is a good starting point.

  3. Geraldine

    This is a very important message and honestly I wish that my mom could have read this back then and helped empower me instead of trying to fix everything! It’s such a motherly instinct I guess! I’m not a mother but I imagine I would always try to be at the ready and trying to take away what it is that is causing my child’s pain. I feel like I still go through phases but I’ve since been able to manage it on my own with a good support system but this is something important to know in case if I ever do become a parent. Thanks for sharing Alison!

  4. Lavrax Rinc

    Throughout my teens I was always in and out of therapy for depression and anxiety and I can’t believe I have just read this through the eyes of a parent. I really wish my parents could have read this when they were dealing with it, I know i was bringing them a lot of pain and I felt so bad, but I know that if they had more resources and information from experienced parents they could have helped me so much more. This was such an important post with such a strong message. Thank you Alison 🙂

    1. Alison

      I’m sorry to hear that Lav 😢 I hope that things are changing. I think they are as more people are talking about mental health issues, even just over the last couple of years x

  5. Chloe Chats

    A great post and something that I feel is not that often spoken about, child’s mental health. I’m not a parent, and I wouldn’t know how it feels to have a child that has severe anxiety, however, it is something that I’ve dealt with throughout my childhood and of course I still am, I never really spoke much to my mum about it when I was just a child, because at that time no one really spoke about it, I felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to about it, society is definitely a lot different nowadays and mental health is a much more open topic which is fab and I’m so glad. Let’s keep learning and talking about it 🙂

    Chloe xx

  6. Sigrid Chu

    Hello Alison and Colleen,

    Thank you for this guidance. Many times I see my little one anxious and as a mother, I sometimes do not know what to say or do. Thank you for sharing your experience and helping other parents like me determine the best approach to take when our children get anxious.


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