With the holidays coming, we will all be under a lot of stress. Also, if you are a parent nowadays, your “to do” list is never ending; and your idea of relaxing is checking Facebook every 10 minutes when you’re waiting in the carpool line.
But think about this: all the stress you carry around on a daily basis can affect your kids. A recent study found that stress is contagious between children and their parents. A child as young as one mirrors its mother’s bodily stress responses, such as increased heart rate.
And a study published in Pediatric Obesity found that parental stress is linked to weight gain in young children. Furthermore, a recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 20% of children have chronic stress.
But it’s not hopeless. Children are very perceptive, so if you deal with your stress appropriately, they’ll realize that stress is something they can deal with too. Here are some suggestions from an article in Kids’ Health by Colleen Oakley.
Think positively. When you find yourself thinking something negative, replace it with affirmation. For example, rather than say, “I hope I’m not getting sick,” say, “I am healthy and well.” Shutting out negative thoughts can reduce stress. You can teach this technique to your kids as well.
Don’t wait. Most of us know good stress reducing techniques, such as eating healthy, exercising, and taking time for ourselves, but we often wait until we’re stressed to do them. Work on stress reduction every day, even when things are easy. That way, you’ll create a pattern of healthy coping mechanisms.
Unplug. Recent studies link social media use to stress levels. Try a self-imposed technology break. Limit screen time for yourself as well as your kids. Pick a cutoff, maybe 7:30 every night, after which you won’t check your phone or email. You may be surprised at how much more relaxed you feel when you are unplugged.
The following behaviors in your children may be signs of a child with chronic stress:
1. Does your child have more meltdowns than usual?
2. Do you notice an increase in fatigue, irritability, headaches and stomachaches?
3. Is your child sleeping poorly or waking up from night terrors?
4. Is your child acting angry?
All of the above plus your instinct can be signs of stress overload.
If you think your child may be overstressed, the book Stress-Free Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Build Self-Esteem, Manage Stress, and Reduce Anxiety in Children by Lori Lite might help.