6 Things My Parents Did That Helped Me Overcome My Anxiety


If you’re a parent supporting your child through anxiety and want to know what kind of support you could give, this post is for you.

As a teenager, I had generalised anxiety disorder, and my parents' support was one of the biggest forces behind my getting better. I want to share what they did that worked well in the hope that it gives other parents in a similar position some guidance.

I’m not going to lie and say that they got it right every single time. They were, I'm sure, just as blindsighted by the situation as I was. So I also hope that if right now you feel like your support isn’t good enough, it’ll be reassuring to read a story where parents learned how to provide support over time.

I never really liked referring to anxiety as ‘generalised anxiety disorder’ - it sounded too clinical and, honestly, a bit frightening. So, borrowing a trick from an old counsellor, I’m going to refer to it as Kevin. In fact, this is something you could try with your child to make speaking about anxiety feel less serious to them.

Anyway, long story short, Kevin came guns blazing into my life when I was 15. Needless to say, he was not the boyfriend I was probably hoping for at the time. After one incident in which I was randomly and quite suddenly sick on the school bus, I then went on to vomit as a response to Kevin in almost every slightly uncomfortable situation. The triggers were anything from festivals, unknown toilets, and tents, to planes, sleepovers, and just waking up in the morning.

While it plagued my teenage years, I’m now 22, and Kevin only dares to show his face very rarely. Now that I look back on it, I genuinely feel that had I not had my parents' support, I might well still be carrying sick bags around with me 24/7.

So here are the most effective ways that my parents supported me. I hope it helps someone else to ditch their Kevin.


#1: They didn’t communicate their worries to me

I now know that both of my parents were deeply concerned about the short-term and long-term impact all this was having on me. But at the time, as far as I was concerned, they oozed confidence that I would overcome this hurdle. This kept me protected from having any doubts that I might not get better. I guess they were faking their confidence, but it worked. I believed the whole time, deep down, that I would recover eventually.

In fact, in our free course for parents, The Horizon Plan, we have a whole workbook dedicated to guiding you on how to ‘fake it’ like this. It gives you suggestions for ‘positive statement suggestions’ which you can fall back on if it feels like your facade of confidence is slipping a little. These kinds of resources could’ve made my parents more confident, I think, about how to respond to the situation. Your own confidence is so important for shaping how confident your child feels, even when they’re really struggling. I definitely feel that, if I had noticed that my parents were panicking, I would’ve had less confidence that there was light at the end of the tunnel.


#2: They took me to the GP

Now this one is perhaps a bit specific to my situation, but bear with me. After a little while of repetitive morning vomiting, we went to the GP to rule out any physical illnesses. After we crossed off the various options like IBS, acid reflux, etc., the doctors concluded that this was some sort of anxiety disorder. It might seem obvious to you, but I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to hear from a medical professional that my brain was not working in the way that it should and that how I was feeling was not OK or normal. At the time, I was definitely familiar with narratives that diminish teenagers struggling with their mental health, like they’re ‘just hormonal’ or ‘it’s just a phase’. So I’d never fully understood just how real struggling with your mental health would feel. If my parents hadn't taken me to see a doctor, I think it would’ve taken me a lot longer to accept that I needed help to make some changes to improve my mental state and that I wasn’t just going to be fixed by some antibiotics.

#3: They were patient

Even though this went on for so long, I never felt any pressure from my parents to get better. Of course, I knew that they desperately wanted me to be better, but they never once said anything along the lines of “why are you still feeling like this?”.

I think that being surrounded by this patience actually made me recover quicker because I wasn’t being rushed. If one solution didn’t work, they didn’t give up, and we’d just move on to the next thing without dwelling too much on the increasingly long list of failed solutions. I was pretty miserable about the situation, but looking back, I remember feeling like it would take as long as it took, but eventually, something would change. I’m not sure I would’ve felt that way if I hadn’t had that patient support system.

Getting over anxiety isn’t a linear process, and it often feels like you’re making painfully slow progress. If only you could just flick a switch and turn it off overnight. But the reality is that you need to be patient with your child, or they will just put more pressure on themselves than they already are. So when the inevitable setbacks, or as we called them ‘blips’, happen, try to greet them with patience and remind your child that it’s one step at a time.


#4: They made sacrifices themselves

At the time, I stupidly felt like it was only me making sacrifices as I missed out on holidays with friends, festivals, and house parties again and again. But now it’s pretty obvious to me that my parents had to make a lot of sacrifices too. For example, Mum drove me to school every morning for months on end because the school bus simply wasn’t an option. If she hadn’t done that, my education would’ve been seriously impacted. Also, if I was in a potentially triggering situation, like at someone else’s house for a sleepover, they needed to be pretty much available 24/7 in case I needed them to come and pick me up suddenly. Now, I’m not saying that the only way to help your child’s mental health is to sacrifice things, but I am saying that the reality of supporting a child who’s struggling with their mental health is that you do have to give a lot. But I promise you that they will be so thankful in the future for everything that you’re doing for their happiness right now. I know I did a lot of work myself to get better, but I also owe a large majority of my now stable mental health to my parents and the things that they sacrificed for my well-being. I could not be more thankful for that.


#5: They met my ‘small steps’ with a lot of love and encouragement

They also always greeted any small steps in the right direction with immense encouragement. If I had a morning where I got to school and wasn’t sick at all, my parents would make me feel like this was a huge achievement. I felt so encouraged because they were acknowledging how big of a deal even the smallest of improvements was. Even more recently, I managed to go on a plane alone for the first time, and I wasn’t sick once. I felt mildly nauseous, and that’s about it. When I told them about this on the phone, they were so supportive and excited for me that I was so much better. Sometimes just knowing that someone else is so completely invested in you feeling happier can go a long way. Indeed, Claire Sutton, co-founder of The Horizon Plan, says that it’s important to “record and celebrate each time you see some ‘light in the dark’”. By treasuring these moments, you’ll feel more able to really believe that “your child’s beliefs about themselves/their life are not as ‘set in stone’ as they believe they are”. 

#6: They haven’t forgotten what happened

This one might feel a way off for you right now, but I didn’t want to leave it out. I’m very thankful that my parents understand that I still have some triggers and that just because I’m essentially ‘OK’ now, doesn’t mean I can just forget it happened. I always know that they’re still at the other end of the phone whenever Kevin appears to be making a minor comeback. When you’ve struggled with your mental health and come out of the other side feeling stronger, people sometimes assume that means it’s completely a thing of the past. And yes, a lot of the time you do tick along, forgetting that you ever felt that rubbish. But there’s still an underlying feeling that you’re lucky that daily life is running so smoothly and a slight anxiety that it might not stay that way. So, having parents who acknowledge how big of a deal it was at the time and support you whenever you want to talk about what happened is so important.



I hope this has given you some food for thought, or at least shown that your support as parents is going to be doing so much more for your child than it might seem at the moment. My parents absolutely didn’t naturally know how to deal with this situation. They took each day as it came, and slowly we worked out together what helped and what didn’t.

But one thing I do wish is that they’d had more support while I was struggling, because I know it must’ve been a burden on their own state of mind worrying about me all the time. If you’re supporting your child with any challenges with their mental or emotional health and would welcome more guidance, please take a look at The Horizon Plan, our free experience-driven resource specifically designed to support you as parents. 


To learn more about how to support a child or teen struggling with anxiety or more general mental health, CLICK HERE for the Horizon Plan, our free online course. 


The Youth Mental Health Foundation CIC is a non-profit with a free online course for parents supporting a young person struggling with mental health. Find out more by CLICKING HERE.



Written and illustrated by Asha Sullivan



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