Q: Is it possible to recover or fix relationships with my young children? I hear often that the first 5 years are critical to a child’s development. I fear that I have messed those years up with my children. 

I have struggled with anxiety and have often found myself snapping at my children when I’m anxious. I believe I model poor emotional regulation. I know that stomping, ranting, yelling, and throwing objects when I am upset is not good. However, in the moment, I find it very difficult. Now that my children are a little older 5-10 yrs, I see them exhibiting those same behaviors. 

Is it possible to reset and reframe how we all handle stress? I also feel like by yelling at my kids I’ve done irreparable emotional damage. I don’t ever physically harm them or call them names, but I just feel like I have failed to support them emotionally and set them up for failure.

A: Thanks for reaching out! We certainly understand your fears about the emotional effects your anxiety may cause within your family, but we also want to commend you on your awareness and willingness to make positive changes! Our first suggestion for you is to give yourself a bit of grace and focus on how you can emotionally support your kids in a way that feels good to you, instead of worrying about past “damage” and feeling guilty. Raising kids is hard, but feeling guilty is just as difficult and will only exacerbate your anxiety. 

It’s never too late to reset and reframe how stress is handled. Since your kids are a bit older now and are likely able to understand the concept of stress, why not have a chat with them where you explain that sometimes stress makes people behave “not so nicely” (or any other wording that you feel is authentic and appropriate). You might also consider modeling an apology for behavior that you aren’t proud of.

In general, how you bounce back from adverse experiences like fighting, yelling, or stress within the home is what tends to be the most important because it’s unrealistic to think that you will never yell in a moment of stress ever again. Think about how you can make repair attempts after these moments (conversations, hugs, apologies, etc.).

Additionally, we do have therapists at Thriveworks that are trained in family therapy if you ever feel that this is something you’d like to process together as a family unit. You can schedule an appointment here. We hope this helped!