mental health

Moody Parent Anxious Children

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“It’s the emotions bit that was a problem for both of us,” said Sarah (not her real name), a friend of mine, who went through an acrimonious divorce with her former husband after their third child was born. “Too often, our emotions got the better of us. We didn’t know how to handle them.”

That’s my friend’s way of explaining her moodiness. In the end, she and her husband parted ways because neither could withstand the other’s moodiness. I knew her family well enough to appreciate the fact that she inherited her moodiness from her late mother.

Are you a moody parent? If you are, chances are you were raised by a moody mother or father or both. It is true that we all have different temperaments, our moods fall under an umbrella of temperaments, but you can choose NOT to leave moodiness as a legacy to your children.

Why should you care in the first place?

Simply because moodiness has a long-term impact on your children. Moody parents raise children with heightened anxiety. Studies have shown the vulnerability of anxious children to developing mental illnesses. The more easily anxious your child is, the greater the likelihood that he or she will develop mental illness e.g. depression. Such studies collectively reinforce the understanding that childhood anxiety significantly increases the vulnerability to various mental illnesses later in life. Early recognition and intervention remain crucial in altering these trajectories and improving long-term mental health outcomes (1), (2), (3).

Symptoms of The Moody Parent

Moody parents often have unpredictable emotions that can swing rapidly from one extreme to another.

Recognise that as a moody parent, you tend to have inconsistent reactions. It’s hard for your child to know what to expect. One moment, you might be calm and supportive, and the next, you might react harshly to the same situation. This unpredictability makes it difficult for children to feel secure and understand what behaviour is acceptable.

You might be easily irritable or overreact for the slightest reasons. You might get frustrated or angry easily, sometimes over little things. Small everyday challenges, like a spilled drink or a messy room, can lead to big reactions, making the home environment tense and stressful, leading to your children’s heightened anxiety and fear of making mistakes.

You might withdraw emotionally, giving the cold shoulder to your spouse or children, becoming unresponsive during tough times. Your withdrawal can make your children feel like they can’t rely on you for comfort or guidance.

You could also be overly sensitive to criticism or challenges, taking even well-intentioned comments personally, spewing defensive or aggressive reactions. Your sensitivity can create a volatile environment where children are extra cautious about expressing their thoughts or needs.

How Moodiness Affects Your Children

Moodiness in a parent can lead to heightened anxiety among children. Here’s how:

Feeling Insecure: Kids need stability. When parents’ moods are unpredictable, children can feel insecure and unsafe. Lack of emotional stability can make children anxious, as they never know what to expect from their parents’ reactions.

Living in Constant Nervousness: Kids might become anxious about triggering a parent’s bad mood, making them overly cautious. They may start to avoid bringing up important issues or asking for help, fearing a negative reaction. This can stifle their emotional and social development.

Learned Anxiety: Kids often mimic their parents. If they see their parents reacting anxiously, they might start doing the same. This learned behaviour can lead to a cycle of anxiety, where children adopt similar coping mechanisms to deal with stress, perpetuating a sense of unease and worry.

Attachment Issues: Secure attachment comes from feeling consistently loved and understood. Moody parents can disrupt this, leading to anxious attachment styles. Children may become clingy and overly dependent on their parents for reassurance, or alternatively, they might become distant and avoidant, struggling to form healthy relationships.

Communication Problems:  Moody parents might struggle to communicate effectively, leaving kids feeling unsupported and misunderstood. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and a lack of emotional connection, making children feel isolated and unsure about how to express their own feelings.

How Moody Parents Can Change for the Better

The good news is, you the moody parent can break the cycle and help your children become happier and more successful in their future personal and professional lives by understanding what moodiness is, its consequences, and what you can do to change for the better.

Gain Self-Awareness

Know Your Triggers: Identify what sets off your mood swings and work on managing those triggers. Keeping a mood diary can help pinpoint patterns and triggers, providing insight into what needs to change.

Prioritize Self-Care: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and seeking mental health support if needed. Taking care of your physical and mental health is crucial for maintaining emotional stability.

Seek Professional Help

Therapy: Individual or family therapy can provide tools to manage your moods and improve family relationships. A therapist can help you develop healthier coping strategies and communication skills.

Parenting Classes: These can offer practical advice and techniques for more consistent and effective parenting. Learning about child development and effective discipline strategies can help you feel more confident and capable as a parent.

Establish Stable Routines

Create Predictability: Having a regular schedule can give kids a sense of stability and security. Routines help children know what to expect, reducing anxiety and providing a sense of normalcy.

Consistent Discipline: Apply rules and consequences consistently to avoid confusion. Clear and predictable consequences for behavior help children understand boundaries and feel secure in their environment.

Communicate Effectively

Open Dialogue: Encourage kids to share their feelings and concerns openly. Create an environment where they feel safe to express themselves without fear of judgment or harsh reactions.

Active Listening:  Show empathy and understanding when they do, validating their experiences. Listen without interrupting, and reflect back what they say to show that you understand their perspective.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Encourage and Praise: Focus on positive behaviors and efforts rather than just negatives. Recognize and celebrate your child’s successes and efforts, no matter how small, to build their confidence.

Model Calm Behavior: Show your kids how to stay calm and composed, even in stressful situations. Demonstrating healthy coping mechanisms can teach them how to manage their own emotions effectively.

Build Emotional Intelligence

Emotion Coaching: Help your kids understand and manage their emotions by talking about feelings and appropriate responses. Teach them to identify their emotions and provide tools to manage them, like deep breathing or talking about their feelings.

Teach Problem-Solving: Show them how to approach problems calmly and logically. Encourage them to think through solutions and consider the consequences of different actions, fostering critical thinking and resilience.


As a moody parent, you do contribute to your children’s anxiety, but it’s never too late to make positive changes. Decide to grow your self-awareness, seek help, and establish routines that work better for you. All these are ways for you to create a more stable and nurturing environment. Moodiness is not something beyond your control. But you must make a decision to be in control of your emotions and life, not the other way around. Do not take your moodiness lightly. You wouldn’t want to be in my friend Sarah’s shoes. Choose a better, wiser legacy to pass on to your children and their children’s children.



Featured image by Vika Glitter


(1) Impact of Early Life Stress on Reward Circuit Function and Regulation. 2021. Jamie L. Hanson, Alexia V. Williams, Debra A. Bangasser, Catherine J. Peña. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 20 October 2021. Sec. Molecular Psychiatry. Volume 12 – 2021. |

(2) Long Term Effects Of Stress On Hippocampal Function: Emphasis On Early Life Stress Paradigms And Potential Involvement Of Neuropeptide Y. 2020.  Karina Alviña, Mohammad Jodeiri Farshbaf, Amit Kumar Mondal. Wiley Journal of Neuroscience Research. First published: 11 March 2020.

(3) Early-Life Stress Impairs PostNatal Oligodendrogenesis And Adult Emotional Behaviour Through Activity Dependent Mechanisms. 2020. Molecular Psychiatry, 25, pp. 1159-1174 (2020). Anne Teissier, Corentin Le Magueresse, & Jimmy Olusakin et. al.



About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 543 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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