Ryan Reynolds Tells Hugh Jackman He’s ‘Grateful’ for Anxiety as a Dad: ‘I Know That I Can’t Just Fix It’

Ryan Reynolds has long been open about his experience with anxiety, but now the dad of four is opening up about the way it’s affected one particular part of his life: his role as a parent.

“I think [anxiety] makes it better because your focus is less on yourself and more on your kids,” Reynolds said in a new People cover story, speaking with Deadpool & Wolverine co-star Hugh Jackman. Reynolds said he’s even gained a new appreciation for the way anxiety has provided him with empathy. “Now I love that I have anxiety, I love that I’ve had anxiety,” he explained. “Because when I see my kids experiencing some of that, which is probably genetic, I know how to address it in a way that is compassionate, that actually allows them to feel seen in that anxiety.”

Reynolds has four children with wife Blake Lively: daughters James, 9, Inez, 7, Betty, 4, and a one-year-old whose name they haven’t shared. He explained that when he does notice anxious tendencies in his kids, he responds with understanding. “I know that I can’t just fix it,” he said, but “I can communicate all that stuff to them and with them. I’m always grateful for it.”

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting 40 million adults every year, per the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, and while we’ve made major strides in de-stigmatizing mental health issues, some shame still lingers — particularly, Reynolds said, for men. “I don’t know why men have an issue talking about their feelings,” the Deadpool star observed.

When stars like Reynolds speak up about their experience, it goes a long way to eradicating that stigma. “I really applaud you for it,” Jackman told his friend and co-star. “I think it takes courage to speak about it and it’s helped a lot of people.”

Jackman admitted he “used to be a little bit old-school” when it came to mental health as a parent. “I thought, ‘Don’t burden them if you are anxious,’” recalled Jackman, a dad of two. “Say you’ve got an opening night, or you’re hosting the Oscars — for three weeks before, I go a little distant. And then someone said to me, ‘But your kids don’t know that you’ve got the Oscars. Maybe they’re thinking you’re mad with them [or] they’ve done something.’”

For his part, Jackman has been working to change that habit. “I had to make an uncomfortable phone call yesterday, and I actually just said to my son, ‘I’ve got to make this uncomfortable phone call. I’m a bit nervous about it. If I seem a bit off, that’s why,’” he said. “And he goes, ‘Oh.’ And then he said, ‘How did the call go, Dad?’ I said, ‘I feel so much better.’”

It’s difficult to be that open about your mental health as a parent, especially if you grew up in an environment where it wasn’t normal to do so. Many of us try to sweep our own emotions and mental struggles under the rug for the sake of our children, but experts say that’s actually counterproductive. “The idea of ‘faking it’ isn’t just futile; it can actually harm both parent and child in the long run,” psychotherapist Zuania Capó wrote recently for SheKnows. “Parents serve as emotional guides for their children, teaching them by example how to recognize, understand, and express their feelings in constructive ways. By modeling authenticity, vulnerability, and emotional intelligence, parents empower their children to develop healthy coping mechanisms and build strong, resilient foundations for life.”

For Reynolds, the idea of being vulnerable and honest with his kids is paramount. In a video portion of the People interview, Reynolds recalled a conversation with director Shaun Levy, who told him that “people only tend to talk about their wins but… it’s really important for your kids in particular to know that you lose. You don’t get what you want all the time. Something that you worked on really hard didn’t work. You said something embarrassing today… it’s so important that they see that… [because] you lose so much more than you win.”

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