Parenthood is stressful.
It’s almost a given that as soon as you become a parent, you truly learn what stress means.
While it is impossible to eliminate all stress from one’s life, reducing it and showing your children how to respond to it in healthy ways, will go a long way to damper the negative effects stress has on your little ones.
How Your Stress Affects Your Kids
Stress can negatively affect children and can cause behavioural issues.
How does this happen? There are 3 main ways your stress negatively impacts your kids:
1. Stress Impacts Your Parenting Style
When you are stressed, you are less likely to be warm and patient with your children. In fact, you are probably going to punish them more harshly than usual and even push them away.
If they are not receiving warm and positive attention, they will act out to gain the negative attention.
Therefore, you may notice an increase in unwanted behaviour during times of heightened stress. This is because your child is trying to get your attention in any way they can.
2. Children Learn Through Imitation
Your kids learn through copying other people – especially you. Particularly you.
They will copy the way you deal with stress. For example, if you tend to yell and get angry when you stressed, your child is going to learn to deal with stress in the same way.
And, since children tend to mirror your stress as well as your actions, you’ll notice those negative behaviours rearing their ugly heads.
3. Children Will Mirror Your Stress
Children will mirror not just your behaviours associated with stress but their brains will mirror your stress as well.
Your child’s brain releases stress hormones in response to your stress.
So it ends up being a vicious cycle – you are stressed, you behave a certain way, your child’s brain mirrors your stress and they begin to behave in the same way.
How to Reduce Your Stress
I’m not saying that as a parent, you must ignore all stress in your life and smile your way through life.
Trust me, that is impossible.
However, you can definitely take steps to reduce your stress:
- Know your triggers. If you know a particularly situation is going to cause you stress, try to avoid it or mentally prepare yourself for it. Giving yourself that heads-up can be enough to dispel the stress associated with that situation.
- Learn how to respond to stressful situations. If you can look at a stressful situation in a logical way, instead of immediately reacting emotionally to it, you will be able to reduce the stress of the situation and find a meaningful solution.
- Focus on self care. When you feel yourself stressed on a daily basis, it’s likely that you are not taking time for yourself. You need to engage in activities that provide you with relaxation and release. This will help give you a clear head to deal with your stress.
Even those these steps are meant to help you reduce your stress, they also demonstrate healthier ways to deal with stress to your children.
How to Help Your Kids Deal With Stress
Your children can’t avoid stress either. So, apart from modelling proper ways to deal with stress, you can help your kids navigate this confusing emotion:
- Avoid over-scheduling. Make sure your child isn’t bombarded by extracurricular activities. Between those, homework and a social life, your kid needs some downtime.
- Engage in activities with no end goals. No matter their age, kids needs to play with no expectation of learning a lesson or reaching a goal.
- Talk to them about their feelings. As children develop, they begin to experience complex emotions without being able to identify them. Help your child recognize stress by calling it what it is and discussing the feeling with them.
- Teach them healthy outlets. This can all be done through modelling or you can share other healthy ways of dealing with stress such as engaging in physical activity or writing in a journal.
Parenthood is Stressful
There’s no doubt about it!
The best thing you can do for your child when it comes to stress is to deal with it in a open, honest and healthy way.
How do you deal with the stresses of parenthood? Let us know in the comments!