Children and Stress

Children and Stress

Life is hard.  Parenting is hard.  Remember back when you only had to worry about yourself?  Now the worries can be endless; work, money, health issues, time management, late bedtimes, and marriage.  I recently have heard “I am so stressed,” or “this is a stressful time of the year.” But my question is, when it is not?  We just started the new school year (that is a “stressful time of year”) then it went into Halloween, which again is stressful with parties, staying up late, trick or treating, candy, costumes, etc and now we will head into Thanksgiving which is a new kind of stressful (families, traveling, or for those who don’t have families is a dreadful time), right into Christmas to then start the year over with “stressful times” as the norm.  

Scientists have been studying stress, the effects of stress, and how to decrease stress.  Scientists have called stress a “silent killer.”  Isn’t that what heart disease has be been called?  I can see that there are similarities.  Stress affects every aspect of the body and prolonged amount of stress without relief does result in real changes/illnesses/disorders.

Adults can handle more stress than children.  Our brains are already formed, we also have many more coping skills to handle that stress.  What are the effects of our stress on our children?   Research shows that there are lasting effects on their development and interestingly a Father’s stress impact daughters as Mother’s stress seems to impact sons more.  Newborns are impacted by their mother’s stress in utero; with researchers finding that stressful pregnancies can result in fussier newborns. 

Stress is contagious. Just as you have the co-worker that always seems to be heightened or “stressed out,” always behind in their work or going through things at home.  People feel other people’s stress and become more heightened.  The same is true for children.  Bringing home stress to your children over time will result in them being more heightened.  

What can we do?  

Listen to them.  Listen to their needs, their feelings and their fears.  Actually hear them.  Discounting what they are telling you as “not a big deal,” or “I am too busy to deal with this,” doesn’t acknowledge the feelings/thoughts/fears they are truly experiencing.  Hear them and acknowledge them.  Ask them how you can help them.  Do they just need to “vent” and get it out and then feel better?  Or do they need you to help support them more in school, or with bedtime.  

Exercise.  Just as adults need to exercise to “blow off steam,” or “refresh/reset,” so do children. Get outside and let them be free.  Let them get lost in a game of tag or if your child is older and wants to go for a run–let them tune out the everyday stress they have and spend that time being lost in their workout. 

Take care of yourself and them.  Yes, its not another “duty” to add to your list, but take care of yourself.  Flying in and out of the house off to one meeting or activity after the next will heighten your child.  Rushing them from one place to another–what is the saying “stop and smell the roses?”  Let them be kids.  They have their whole life to be “stressed.” Let their innocence and thoughts thats it isn’t a wild world out there be there for as long as possible. 

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