Stress management is not only vital for your health & happiness – it’s important for your kids too!
For many of my clients, and students, the struggle with stress management is real – when they are working, they feel guilty that they are not spending time with their family and when they are spending time with their family, they feel guilty that they are not working. In an age where many people start and finish their day on text and email, what kind of message are we sending to our children?
Research supports the notion that the stress management – or lack thereof – of parents does indeed induce stress in children.
In fact, one study, conducted at Virginia Polytechnic Institute found that children exposed to household stress had lower IQ’s and more conduct problems.
If you work from home, there are likely many blurred lines when it comes to family and career. One client I worked with had the chronic bad habit of getting up from the dinner table to take calls. Her children were hyper at dinner times and her poor husband was left to handle the menagerie while she disappeared into her home office to work. Sadly, this story isn’t unique. In our society, whether you work from home, or bring your work home, there is a significant risk that your stress is stressing out your kids.
Anxiety among children can manifest in a variety of ways including:
• Stomach aches
• Eating disorders
• Rebellious behavior
• Chronic illness
In 2000, a study conducted by Jean M. Twenge, PhD, at Case Western Reserve University, found that ‘normal’ children had more anxiety than child psychiatry patients in the 1950’s. Although we may not be able to fully insulate our children from the world, we can control the environment in our homes. Sadly, parents may be the number one source of stress for kids and the American Psychological Association reports that in addition to school, and grades, children are also highly stressed over family finances and issues formerly thought to be primarily adult topics.
As a parent, who works from home, I will tell you first, that I am not perfect however there are some strategies that we have implemented to help our children be less stressed and in that regard, here are some things that you can do to help your kids be calmer, happier, and focus on the main thing – being a kid.
1. No News
I believe in information and not inundation. In 2012, Graham C.L. Davey Ph.D. published an article in Psychology Today outlining a study on the effects of watching news on people. The findings, as to be expected, illustrated that when people watched negative news for 14 minutes they became sadder, anxious, and much more worried. Imagine the effect on kids.
Your children do not need to see the news, hear the news, or watch the news; especially from mainstream media where the ratings are at the forefront so shock and awe tends to be the norm. We do not let our children watch the news and nor should you.
2. Put Away Devices at Meal Times
I get it, you have an important text, or email, coming in and so you bring your mobile to the table. NO! It can wait. 20 years ago, we didn’t do this and we shouldn’t do it today. It teaches our children that other people are more important than they are.
Let people know that you will not be available for the next hour and that you will get back to them. Be present to your kids during meal times. Catch up on the day. Ask questions. Laugh and be silly. Meal times should be something a family looks forward to.
3. Talk About It
I don’t believe in hiding things from my children. If I am out of balance, and stressed, I let them know that there is something going on and it has nothing to do with them. Children often interpret the world as ‘me-centric,’ in other words, they lack the ability to disassociate an adult’s behavior as having nothing to do with them.
Consider a couple who gets divorced while their children are young. The children may eventually feel that the divorce was their fault even though it likely wasn’t. When we are stressed out, it is easy for a child to make an association that they are the cause of the stress. Let your children know that they are not the catalyst.
4. Teach Productive Ways to Manage Stress
Our son is on the autism spectrum and internalizes stress very easily. A few years ago, we began bringing him out to run with us. He complained initially however eventually he started enjoying it. He knows that running is a great way to manage stress.
We also encourage our kids to pray, meditate, and do yoga. We want our children to be able to handle stress in healthy, productive ways.
5. Laugh More
An article from the renowned Mayo Clinic suggests that laughter is indeed the best medicine. When we laugh, we relieve stress and households that laugh more tend to be happier. Instead of watching dark thrillers, or the latest superhero movie, find movies that the whole family can laugh at. Playing silly games like charades, or Pictionary, can also be great ways to lighten the mood at home.
6. Unplug as a Family
Getting away from ‘it all’ can really be cathartic. It won’t be if you are constantly checking your mobile. You can’t unplug and be plugged in at the same time. Getting away on a camping trip, going for a hike, or even an island vacation, can be a wonderful way to reset.
Lastly, the time with our children is precious and stressing about each little thing is never going to lead to overall health for you, or your family in the long run. Find some creative ways to lower stress in the family and teach your kids how to deal with their own stress. In the end, all of the things you thought were so important are never as crucial as quality time spent with your family.
Susan Sly is a keynote speaker, best-selling author, entrepreneur, and mother of five. She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. Susan is available for corporate consulting, and speaking, on the topics of work-life balance, time management, productivity, and transcending challenges.
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