Is my stress stressing my kids out?

Ah, stress. The six-letter word that doesn’t escape anyone, regardless of circumstance, household income, marital status, or age. Some of us, right this very second, are stressed out about money, or our jobs, or our relationships, or what to make for dinner tonight. Some of us have mild stress, while some of us are starting to feel like the stress is getting to be too much – so much so that we feel like we’re just about ready to throw our hands up and give up.

But for those of us with kids, we know we can’t just do that. Because little eyes are watching. Little hearts are feeling.

Many of us are empathetic to other people’s stress and anxieties. Think about how you feel when you’re chatting with a friend who’s sad and upset. You can feel their pain.

Now, imagine how your little one feels when they see you, hear you, or feel you stressed out.

Yes, they can feel it too.

It turns out that kids are affected by their parents’ stress. And sometimes, it can even affect how they behave at home, at school, and on the playground.

You’re probably thinking, “That makes sense.” But how do you know if your stress is stressing your kids out?

There are a few telltale signs that your kids are getting affected by what’s distressing you. Your child may cry a lot. They may be acting up (for the first time or more frequently) at school. They may wet the bed or be unable to sleep. They may complain about feeling sick – skipping out from school because of stomachaches, headaches, or nausea. They may withdraw from their friends, do poorly at school, or could be uncharacteristically quiet even at home. They may lash out even at you.

When your child is stressed – and it’s a result of feeling yours – reducing your stress is the first step to minimizing theirs.

First, take stock of what’s stressing you out. Are you having financial difficulties? If you can seek free financial freedom advice, you may feel better learning some strategies on how to make more money and save more money. Are you experiencing conflict in your marriage? Perhaps couples counselling will help you iron out your differences and set you on a path of reconciliation and peace.

When your stress is lowered, it won’t be a surprise to see that your child’s stress responses – the acting out, the not eating, the not sleeping – will begin to go away too. While you’re both in the process of healing, come together in conversation and communication, which will also aid in destressing your child – and you.

But in the event that your child’s stress seems like it’s not going away, talk therapy may be the next step for your child (with you or alone). It shouldn’t be something to shy away from; therapy can help uncoil some of your child’s fears that maybe they don’t even realize they have. And the therapist is likely to share with you some individualized strategies on how to help your child begin to breathe and feel better, which, surely, will make you feel better too.

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