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Why Stress is a Family Affair

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking at two school Parent Education Nights where I provided tools to parents to support their children's emotional and social growth.

The first question I asked the parents was, “How are you doing?"

As parents, our ability to deal with our own emotional life is the #1 strategy for teaching our kids to cope with their emotional and social struggles.

You may not realize it, but worries and stress are a family affair. We share them with each other, mostly unaware that we are doing so.

It is logical that we are affected when our children are upset.

Have you heard of the saying,

“We are only as happy as our unhappiest child?”

How about another view?

“We hurt when our child hurts.”

So, on top of all the pressures and concerns we have in our lives, our kids’ problems and challenging behaviors are ours, as well.

Guess what? It works the other way, too. Kids are smart and intuitive. They know when things aren’t going their parents' way. Even if they can’t articulate it, our kids are affected when we are upset. So, on top of all the pressures and concerns they have in their daily lives, our problems and frustrations are theirs, as well.

Why is it so vital to take stock of our mental state? According to William Stixrud, PhD and Ned Johnson in their book, What Do You Say?, “When we are stressed we are

  • Less warm and affectionate

  • Less encouraging

  • More inclined to say no

which hinders a child’s feeling of safety and calm.”

Parents who take the opportunity to focus on their own wellbeing and model effective coping skills are employing the #1 strategy for boosting your child’s social and emotional health and growth. We all get upset and suffer setbacks. How we deal with these is the game changer.

Here are some healthy coping activities to deal with stress, frustration, and overwhelm:

  • Deep breathing

  • Exercise

  • Listen to Music

  • Go for a walk

  • Remind yourself of what you are grateful for

  • Cry (It’s OK to cry. It is an effective release.)

  • Ask for help

What are other healthy and effective coping skills that work well for you? Your suggestions will help others who are searching for ways to release the pressure of contemporary life and be a good role model for our children.

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