It shouldn’t be surprising to know that children model their parents’ behaviors, including the behaviors related to managing stress. According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America 2020 survey, 73 percent of parents report family responsibilities as a significant source of stress. The survey also found that over two-thirds of parents think their stress level has slightly to no impact on their child’s stress level. Yet, only 14 percent of tweens and teens reported that they are not bothered when their parent is stressed.
There is undoubtingly a connection between high-stress levels and the health concerns are alarming. Children model the stress management techniques that their parents use or don’t use. Parents who deal with stress in unhealthy ways risk passing those behaviors on to their children. While no one is perfect, it’s important to recognize inappropriate coping mechanisms and make adjustments to promote better habits and skills for children.
Coping with stress isn’t going to be something you can completely overhaul overnight. Identifying better ways to cope with stress, for your family’s sake, will require you to:
Be proactive and not reactive.
Don’t wait until you are emotionally drained to create a plan to handle stress. Your children are more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle and less likely to associate stress with unhealthy behaviors if their family practices a healthy lifestyle and positive stress management techniques.
Create proactive systems by creating open lines of communication with all members of your family. Engage in conversations with your children when things are normal and okay – this way, when things aren’t okay, your children will feel comfortable talking about the deep issues. Moreover, it’s important to assess the way you handle your daily routine. Ask yourself, do you overreact when things do not go exactly according to plan? Do you consistently get frustrated when you handle simple requests? Learn how to create healthier ways to react and constructive habits. Evaluate your new proactive plan and make adjustments as needed, but remember this is your plan, and you have the power to make it work for you.
Develop a routine and healthy environment.
While it is okay and good to have spontaneity in your life, it’s important to have a healthy environment that is derived by routine. It’s not spontaneous if you live without a plan, that is just chaos. By having an established routine, you and your family will experience less stress.
Simple ways a routine impacts each family member are: clearing household clutter every day will remove the visible stress of chores and tasks, having dinner at the same time each day will eliminate the daily question of when everyone can rest and replenish, and establishing a bedtime for everyone will create a physical understanding when it’s time to rest and restore for the next day.
Each member of the household will develop a rhythm and ultimately have a healthier mental and physical well-being. The daily anchors will reel everyone in and maintain steady ground for everyone.
Allot “me” time for yourself on a regular basis.
There is, without a doubt, a stress gap within every household. While it is important for men and women to allot “me” time, it is increasingly important for women to create a self-care regiment. Women tend to do more unpaid domestic work than men, and the stress of cooking, children, bills, the physical house, and social life can become increasingly overwhelming.
Whether it’s taking a walk, reading, or a hot bath, it is essential that parents in the household take time for themselves. Think about it; if a friend came to you and complained about being stressed out, you wouldn’t think twice about recommending taking a vacation or resting – so, why is it so difficult to accept your own advice. Keep in mind; your children will most likely repeat your coping behaviors. Therefore, if you do not prioritize your mental and physical well-being, your children will likely replicate that same behavior.
It is important to give yourself the ability to reset before your body and mind force you to do it. As basic as it sounds, we must remember that we are not robots.
Exercise and take deep breaths.
Being active for 30 minutes each day can do wonders for your mental and physical health. The Mayo Clinic confirms, “Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.” The clinical staff has found that exercise and moving your body every day will pump your body with endorphins. The physical activity will increase the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters – which are the endorphins.
Adapting a breathing technique will help you stay calm and adjust your overreactive tendencies.
Encourage your children to exercise with you by going for regular family walks, hikes, ride your bicycles together, or try out yoga sessions as a group. Most adults find an excuse, but the reality is if you want to handle stress better and live a happier lifestyle, you can find the time. Consider watching less TV, reducing the time you’re scrolling on social media, or moving things within your schedule to create the availability. It’s a habit that you need to create.
Talk to a professional.
If you reach a point where you’re feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and hopeless, then seek out help from a mental health therapist. It is important to understand that you do not have all of the answers, and there are trained professionals available to help you. Whether you are a single parent or married spouse, there are situations that require the advice from a third party. There’s no shame in asking for help – this concept is something we teach our children, but it’s not something we actively do on a regular basis.
Creating better-coping processes for stress can feel stressful in itself; however, it is an important concept that we, as a society, must adopt. By taking the time to create a plan, parents will create a less stressful environment for their family, and their children are more likely to live healthy lifestyles in the future.