Parental stress and how it impacts children has been the topic of this week. Stress can be unavoidable in life, but it’s good to know how prolonged stress impacts not only you, but those around you. When cortisol and adrenaline are present in a child for an extended period of time, it can lead to:
· Impaired brain circuits and smaller brains
· Development of low stress threshold
· Impaired immune system
· Weakened learning and memory areas of the brain
So why does your stress have such an impact on your children? There is an impact, especially with babies and small children, because they are so tuned into everything about you. Parents and children have close proximity and you are the one teaching them about the world. They are tuned into your emotions and are more preceptive than we typically give them credit. In one of my social media posts this week I gave an example of a parent having a tense phone call and then two minutes later a child had a major meltdown. Many psychologists see a connection between the two. They might not always know the details of what is wrong, but they know something is wrong and struggle to self-soothe. A child, whether we like it or not, can be a mirror into our own well-being. So, if you’ve been trying to push down problem areas in your life, maybe it’s time to tend to those. Examples of problem areas in life that can show themselves in children:
· Tension in marriage- This might seem obvious, but uneasiness present between a young child’s main caregivers will have an impact on their well-being. There is no shame in tending to a marriage that might need extra support. Research shows that the entrance of a new baby and the years after can be strained, so do the work to regain a healthy connection with your spouse.
· Pressure from your job- We all might think a job is something we “leave at the office,” but with how jobs currently are working there is less of a boundary between work and family life. Jobs do come home with us! See if there are any boundaries you need to set, or if you need to take up any new stress management techniques for this area.
· Resentment towards a family member- No family is perfect, and more issues can arise with the entrance of a new baby. It doesn’t even have to be a new baby, but they can start showing up at that time and linger on throughout their childhood. Some might even say having a baby is the new “family wedding conflict” relived. This does not have to be the case, so pay attention to any family system issues that are present that you have not yet tended to.
Managing stress as a parent is important. There are many tools out there to help. Whether you look for something more official, like seeking out help from a professional therapist, or self-care techniques that can help with stress, try something if you notice your stress levels are high! If you’re a mom or dad who is busy with life, think of the things you did before you became a parent (that your new commitments make harder to do). It could be yoga, cooking, going to the gym, gardening, painting, meditation, playing a sport, or knitting. Those are just some ideas, so think of things that could really fill your cup so you’re not trying to pour from an empty one!