The Parenting with Anxiety project

Back March 16th, 2021
The Parenting with Anxiety project: bringing together 2,000 anxious parents to test a major mental health programme

A pioneering clinic focused on the mental health needs of parents has developed an online course for parents who experience anxiety. Professor Sam Cartwright-Hatton and researcher Abby Dunn from the University of Sussex explain the importance of their new research project to evaluate the course.  They invite parents to get involved.

Parenting is a complex role – how can it not be? It involves taking responsibility for another tiny individual who has their own needs, feelings, and desires which, let’s be honest, are not always clearly communicated. Most parents navigate these sometimes-choppy waters with a clear intention to do what is best for their child. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard sometimes and when it is challenging wouldn’t it be nice to be able to get some support.

Parenting with anxiety

We know from working with parents who experience anxiety that many of them go to huge efforts to do what is best for their children. One mother explained to us that anxious parents are “super-parents” for the work they put into managing their anxiety at the same as juggling the demands of parenthood. In our clinic we work with these super-parents, and we have developed a course which gives them tools and strategies to make this juggling a bit easier. The parents we work with are often aware that their anxiety can sometimes get in the way of being the parent they want to be or stop them from experiencing parenting in the way they would like to. We have found that our Raising Confident Children courses help these anxious parents feel more confident in their own parenting and that they support parents to build the confidence of their children. In the course we talk about wanting children to walk through the world feeling comfortable in who they are and in what they face in life. We have yet to meet a parent who hasn’t wanted their child to feel like that.

Increasing access to support

Even before the pandemic we found that many parents were unable to attend our courses due to life and work commitments. COVID has highlighted the need to be more flexible in the way we offer support. Instead of asking parents to rearrange their day to attend a course, we can empower parents by giving them access to support which they can incorporate into the demands of their daily lives. To do this we have developed an online version of our course. With eight 20-minute modules which can be completed by parents at their own pace, in their own time, on whatever device a parent has available, we think it offers a flexible way for parents to access our evidence-based approach. Our hope is that one day our online course will be widely accessible to the tens of thousands of parents who struggle with anxiety. But before we can share it widely, we need to make sure it works, and we are now looking for parents across the UK to help us test it out.

The Parenting with Anxiety Project

We are inviting 2,000 parents who experience anxiety to take part in our two-year research study running at the University of Sussex. If you choose to take part you will either be invited to try out our course or you will just be asked to complete a series of questionnaires. So that we can see if the course is helpful in the longer term, we will contact both sets of parents one or two times over the course of the study to ask them to answer further questionnaires. All of this will take place online.

We have designed our project like this because it is the best way to work out if our course helps. Whether you are a parent who is trying out the course, or if you are just completing the questionnaires, you are equally important to the success of the project. Furthermore, your contribution has the potential to improve the lives of many more anxious parents and their families.

If you would describe yourself in the following ways you are suitable to join the Parenting with Anxiety project

  • A parent (birth, adoptive, step) of a child aged 2-11
  • Has at least 50 days’ contact with the child per year and can confirm that they see enough of the child to report on the child’s current anxiety level
  • Experiences substantial levels of current or lifetime anxiety
  • Able to commit to completion of questionnaires at up to three time points over the next 2 years, even if allocated to the control arm.

If that sounds like you, we would love to hear from you.

Find out more about the project and sign up here www.parentingwithanxiety.org.uk