Stress Is Even Worse Than You Think for Children

Like most parents, I think I do a pretty good job of shielding my kids from the harder parts of life. They never see commercials or television shows that I haven't pre-approved. We don't talk about the news or any scary events in it in front of them. And yet, they often seem very stressed out. Now I know the reason. It's because I am.

I happen to be a very Type A person. I am balancing a million balls every second of every day. I pack lunches while I catch up on phone calls, work while I am waiting to pick up my son from preschool, and squeeze running marathons into the cracks between. It's stressful and I often have a short fuse, headaches, and other stress-related problems.

I always know I need to chill out. But now I know it isn't just for me. New research shows that kids really pick up on their parents' stress level. It's no joke.

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David Code, author of Kids Pick Up on Everything, says:

Parental stress can weaken the development of a child's brain or immune system, increasing the risk of allergies, obesity, or mental disorders. Stress is highly contagious between parent and child, even if the parent is unaware of his or her own anxiety.

Personally, I notice a huge shift in my children's behavior when I consciously slow myself down and when I practice deep breathing, patience, and yoga on a regular basis. In times of stress, my children are more volatile, clingy, weepy, and difficult.

It's not just me, either. My husband has a very stressful job as director in a pharmaceutical company. He works late, brings home stress, and is often mentally and physically drained after work.

It's not good. For me, de-stressing means yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and often ignoring and not reading negative things like insane, mean-spirited comments on the things I write. It helps me not bring it home to the kids.

In the end, the things we do to de-stress our lives are the things we do to de-stress our kids. They are highly attuned to their moms and dads. They feel what we feel and internalize it in the forms of headaches, irritability, and trouble sleeping. Then, of course, we stress about what we are doing to our kids, which helps no one.

So, de-stress moms and dads. It's not just about you. Take a long walk or a yoga class. Whatever you do, try to chill. It's affecting everyone!

Do you think stress affects your kids?


Image via alancleaver_2000/Flickr

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