As parents, you often see how your stress affects your kids–maybe you see it in their eyes or in their behavior. There are even studies that suggest that a parent’s stress level can affect a child’s makeup, including their risk for mood disorders, addiction, or learning disorders. It’s not something parents want to hear, but it’s definitely something you need to know.
David Code, author of Kids Pick Up On Everything: How Parental Stress Is Toxic To Kids, has gathered evidence from labs around the world that suggest that a parent’s level of stress can seriously impact a child’s development beginning as early as pregnancy.
Code suggests that the most critical thing that you can transmit to our kids is not your ever-present, undying love – it’s actually to provide them with a sense of calm and the absence of stress, which he says may be more powerful than declarations of love. (Forbes)
As a parenting coach, I talk to many parents who are struggling to deal with their own feelings of stress and/or anxiety, whether it’s related to sports or school, or just simply dealing with challenging behavior from their kids. With all the focus on kids’ mental health–which is HUGELY important–please don’t neglect your own. Your mental health WILL affect your family.
Your goal as a parent should not be to tell them you love them every five minutes and to hover over them so they know you’re “there.” Your goal should be to create a calm around them so that they feel safe AND loved. (Forbes)
Creating a stress-free (or low-stress) environment for your kids starts with you and your relationships with your spouse, friends, and family. If you tend to be a helicopter parent, you are hurting, more than helping, your kids. Code explains that there’s evidence pointing to the fact that over-parenting can lead to stress and depression in the parent, and also hurts kids by taking away what they need the most– the freedom to be kids, to play, and to develop as they will.
What Can You Do About Your Stress?
If you are struggling with stress, whether from parent burnout, work pressures, family pressures, or financial strain, your kids are feeling it. When parents feel stressed out, they tend to do one of these:
- overreact to their children (blowing a fuse, getting upset to easily), or
- become withdrawn and emotionally unresponsive.
For the sake of their mental health–and for the sake of YOURS–don’t let another day go by without taking steps to deal with your stress or anxiety.
If you want to make a change and get rid of that stress, then you will have to make a change. Here are a few steps you can take:
- Start saying NO and thin out your schedule.
- Prioritize family time.
- Be intentional about scheduling time to take care of yourself.
- Get help from a counselor or a parenting coach.
- Focus on getting plenty of sleep, exercise, and on eating healthy foods.
- Spend time with people that build you up and don’t drain you.
Your Stress and Your Kids
The goal is not to alleviate all stress from your life, because let’s be real–that’s pretty much impossible. The best thing to do is to be honest with your kids about how you’re feeling and talk about a healthy strategy you’re going to use to feel better. Your kids don’t need to think that life is always rosy; totally shielding them from what you are feeling is not the objective.
Perhaps you might say something like, “I’m grumpy because I had a hard day at work. Would you like to go for a walk with me? That might help me feel better.” It’s also okay to let your kids know that you need some time alone to work through your feelings.
If you’re dealing with a stressful situation, have age-appropriate conversations with your kids about what’s going on. Reassure them about what you’re doing to make the situation better.
Take the First Step
If you are weary, stressed, feeling full of anxiety, please don’t just wish it away. Decide today to address your mental health. Your kids and your family need you to take that first step.
If you’d like help deciding what your first step should be, please schedule a free intro consultation with me here.