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Children Take On Parent’s Fears

Carrie, age ten, came to me to treat her fear of going to school. Her mother, Sue, insisted that Carrie’s fear was her’s alone in spite of the fact that Carrie claimed that she was afraid of leaving her mother alone in the house during the day. Carrie was also afraid for her own safety and yet when asked how she felt when leaving for school she teared up and said that she was worried for her mother’s safety, as well. Sue admitted that she was over protective of Carrie and that she realized that her overprotectiveness encouraged Carrie’s anxiety. What Sue didn’t realize was that Carrie’s problem began with Sue’s unrecognized fears. Until Sue was able and willing to recognize and face her own anxiety, Carrie didn’t have a winning chance at overcoming her own. A daughter looks to her mother to learn how to feel and what to expect in life. Children look to their parents like a little seedling looks to the sun for sustaining life. They are so “tuned in” to their parents it’s as though they know intuitively what they are thinking and feeing. Children take on their parent’s fears. Carrie automatically absorbed Sue’s anxiety as her own. When Sue recognized her own anxiety and began to face it Carrie’s anxiety began to dissipate.

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