Dealing with parental anxiety

6min read

Parental anxiety is the feeling of fear, nervousness and worry specifically related to being a parent or caregiver. It is also completely normal. However, when you start to worry excessively, from the moment you discover you are expecting a child, it may start to dominate your lives in an unhealthy way.

Key Points:

  • Parental anxiety is the feeling of fear, nervousness and worry specifically related to the responsibility of being a parent or caregiver 
  • When feeling anxious, we may not have the motivation to do simple tasks 
  • When feeling overwhelmed try and think about an occasion when you were able to make a parental decision and try and replicate some of those actions 

How anxiety impacts us

If you are feeling anxious and low, you may not have the motivation to do simple things such as get yourself and your children ready for the day ahead. You may struggle to go to work, tidy the house or cook dinner. This can create even more guilt and anxiety as you may feel you are letting down your family.

You may also suffer from physical symptoms such as a racing heart and shortness of breath, or experience headaches and tummy aches, and feel constantly tense in your body.

Understanding triggers

As a parent, you will go through so many different experiences and may at times, make you feel anxious. It could be trying to deal with sleepless nights, the first day at school or even when the children fly the nest.  

All these events can create repeated anxiety for both parents and children and learning how to manage anxiety can help your child feel more resilient and able to cope with their worries and stresses. 

Identifying your triggers

What is triggering your anxiety right now? Try to be as specific as you can. List your thoughts and worries and think about each one individually. How significant are they? Score each thought or worry out of 10, with 0 being small and 10 being very worrying.

Recognise how this thought makes you feel. What evidence have you got to support this thought, what evidence have you got against it?

You may find it helpful to download this Anxious Thoughts Diary Worksheet.

Once you have identified your significant triggers, ask yourself what is the ideal outcome? What steps can you take to work towards your ideal outcome and who can you ask for help, if need be?

Commit to taking back control where you can, and you will get a real sense of achievement.

Accepting what is outside of your control

Changing a difficult situation is not always possible, especially as your children grow up and become more independent.

Recognise and accept things as they are. Some things are outside of your control and will therefore fall into your circle of concern. It is easy to spend a lot of time worrying about these things, but they may make you feel very anxious, which causes you to worry even more. Sometimes, you have to just let these thoughts go as they are not serving you.

Understanding parental burnout

Being a parent is an incredibly rewarding experience, but it can also be incredibly draining. Parental burnout, a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, is very common and it is natural to feel overwhelmed.

Signs may include constant fatigue, emotional detachment, irritability or feelings of inadequacy. It's important to remember that you're not alone and there are steps you can take to address it. Seeking support from your family and friends can help. Additionally, prioritising self-care, even small things like taking a relaxing bath or reading a book, can make a big difference.

Banish feelings of guilt

Parental guilt can stem from sitting our loved ones in front of a screen to distract them when we work from home or being too exhausted to read a bedtime story or play with the children. There are so many things that can make us feel inadequate as parents when we want everything to be perfect, and while such guilt is common, it can often make us feel more anxious. Look at the bigger picture and be kind to yourself.  It may have been that the expectations you put on yourself are unrealistic when you have so much to juggle.  

Learn to say no

You can cause yourself a great deal of anxiety and stress because you do not want to let people down and often find it hard to say no. This could be in a work or family environment. You can sometimes end up doing or committing to more than you should. Try and be assertive so that you can say ‘No’ without feeling guilty yourself. Give yourself permission to put your own needs first so you can feel more recharged for your family and yourself.

Make self-care a priority

Prioritising relaxation also helps your body return to its normal healthy state. You will be far more effective if you regularly take short breaks. Doing something that relaxes you is important, even if it is only for 10 minutes per day. Whether it is escaping into a box-set, going for a walk, swimming or baking. Doing something just for you is important for you mental and emotional health.

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting. 

Other organisations that can help

  • Better Your Life has lots of advice and resources about anxiety
  • Your child may find it helpful to visit Young Minds, as they have a good parents survival guide​
  • For more advice, please visit the NHS website
  • You may find it helpful to visit the Mind website

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