Stress is a fact of modern adult life. The energy needed to maintain a career, home, family, and social life can be difficult to gather some days. When your personal reserves are running low, your relationships suffer. In addition to a number of serious physical symptoms, stress contributes to anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression. When you’re overwhelmed with these emotions, the normal antics and issues your child participates in could be just enough to send you into an adult tantrum.
It’s normal to encounter feelings of stress from time to time. However, it’s important to know how to manage the effects so that your negative emotions don’t compromise your relationship with your children.
Your Mood Sets the Tone
Don’t underestimate the power you have to shape your child’s thinking and habits. Numerous studies have connected parental mood to their children’s long-term mental and emotional stability. Children learn their sense of self-worth from the way their parents interact with them. When you are suffering from the effects of stress, you aren’t able to respond to your children with complete loving-kindness. A pattern of negative interactions over time erodes self-esteem. In extreme cases, children can suffer real neurological effects that threaten the development of healthy social skills.
Reducing the Effects of Stress
Parents can use some simple coping techniques to lessen the effects of stress on their daily mood.
- Prioritize self-care. Keeping up with your busy schedule wears you down bit by bit. Taking time to relax and make yourself feel good gives you the energy to tackle life’s problems without succumbing to irritability or anger. Make time in your day to exercise, eat a good meal, read, or partake in your favorite leisure activity.
- Extend your empathy and compassion to yourself. It is vital that you show yourself the same respect and consideration that you show to others. Give yourself a break when you’re having a hard day. Don’t force yourself to continue trying to fix problems when you honestly don’t have the mental and physical energy. Ask your friends, family, and support system for help when you need it.
- Maintain calm, no matter what. If your child confronts you with questionable behavior while you are already suffering from the effects of overwhelm, do whatever works to keep yourself from responding in anger. Excuse yourself to an isolated space for a few moments. Take some deep breaths. A brisk walk around the block, jumping jacks, or any activity that shakes up the body and clears the mind works to keep you from saying something you might come to regret.
The best way to combat the effects of stress on the parent-child relationship is to be proactive. By taking care of yourself on a regular basis, you increase your ability to handle stressful situations. With a mindful attitude, parents can keep their stress from negatively impacting their children’s future.
Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.