Healthy Kids from Teeth to Feet: Positive Parenting
Is Your Stress Harming Your Kids?
By Aviva Patz for Healthy Kids from Teeth to Feet
Money worries, job demands and a lengthy to-do list have us stressed to the max … and it’s taking a toll on our kids. A 2010 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that children who said their parents were stressed said they were stressed too. They reported feeling sad, worried or frustrated — and their parents had no idea, according to the survey.
Stress is bad for your well-being, but it puts kids at risk too. Numerous studies show that chronic tension is damaging to children’s mental, physical and oral health. “Our children pick up our feelings and concerns. When we’re stressed, it makes them worry. And when we’re calm, they feel more secure and content,” says educational psychologist Michelle Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.
Here, a few research-proven and expert-recommended tips to ID stress effects in your kids, reduce their anxiety, and keep your own tension in check.
Spot the stress signs. Since most kids can’t just come out and say, “I’m stressed!” the APA advises watching for these red flags:
- Acting irritable or moody
- Withdrawing from favorite activities
- Expressing concerns
- Complaining more than usual
- Clinging to a parent or teacher
- Sleeping or eating too much or too little
- Experiencing stomachaches and headaches, which can be a side-effect of stress
Give them some control. Giving kids choices and a sense of control over a situation helps them deal with stress better, according to The National Institutes of Health. Give them a heads-up on any changes or decisions that might affect them, so they can process the information without feeling blindsided.
Get physical, together. Exercise releases endorphins — your body’s natural stress-reducers. Go on a family hike, take a bike ride, or dance around the living room. And to keep your own stress at bay, start a regular exercise routine.
Avoid unnecessary stressors. Say no to extra responsibilities when your plate is already full. Skip movies, TV shows or news stories that make you tense. Bow out of social situations that are uncomfortable. And stay away from people, places and things that make you anxious or unhappy.
Be accepting. Can’t change a problem? Change yourself. By choosing to see the positive in a challenging situation, stepping back to gain perspective (how important is this in the long run?), and abandoning perfectionism.
Cuddle up. When you feel your anxiety level rise, take a cuddle break. A simple back rub or a big hug can release your child’s tension — and help you relax in the process. Plus, a snuggle with your spouse can boost your heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormones and releasing oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone,” according to a study conducted by The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Protect your time. Part of reducing stress is nurturing yourself so you’re better able to handle life’s zingers. Whether you like to garden, bake, read mysteries or hit the mall, set aside “you” time every day. And don’t forget to laugh! It helps your body beat stress — and it keeps your kids smiling too.
has written for many national publications, such as Parents, Parenting, Health, Self, Redbook and Marie Claire. She is a frequent contributor to Healthy Kids.