Yes and No. Parents with Social Phobia, for instance, may pass their fears on to their children. However, we, the Sibyls, know that children have vastly different personalities, coping styles and anxiety levels. And they grow up with many influences including dominating siblings, unstable family structures, economic pressures, school, the culture and the media.
Nevertheless, studies show that parents can help reduce anxiety levels in young children by encouraging:
Creative Play: In The Serious Need for Play(Scientific American Mind, 28 JAN 2009) Melinda Wenner cites studies that show ‘Free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed.’
Risk Taking: “Children need to encounter risks and overcome fears on the playground,” said Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway. “I think monkey bars and tall slides are great. As playgrounds become more and more boring, these are some of the few features that still can give children thrilling experiences with heights and high speed.” (See: Can playgrounds be to safe? John Tierney, New York Times, 18 JUL 2011)
Research by Professor Sandseter supports the argument that children are born to take risks and this is how they learn to deal with such things as fear of heights. If a child does not tackle a fear of heights, say, then they can develop a phobia. Sometimes parents too need to be encouraged to take risks with their parenting. And these studies help start the conversation.