An American Psychological Association (APA) survey of 1,000 children found that they know when their parents are stressed – and it troubles them. It makes them unhappy, gives them feelings of anxiety, and can make them upset and annoyed. It is therefore vital that children are shown how to deal with stress effectively, which will enhance their biological functioning and competence.
When the body experiences toxic stress, it can have a detrimental effect on a child’s long-term development and biological processes, taking a toll on the brain and the body. Of course, the effects can range greatly, but stress can be a factor in causing anything from heart disease through to depression, anxiety, neediness, and the inability to learn new behaviours.
So as much as academia and schooling is essential, it is just as important to remember that play is essential for a child’s development. Playing allows children to not only express themselves, but helps build confidence, social skills, creativity, and promotes a healthy lifestyle. At the same time, when parents play with their children it helps develop strong bonds and gives and provides further opportunities for learning, and not to leave out that it can be a stress buster for parents.
It is also important to realise that it is quite normal to feel tired as a parent, even overwhelmed and slightly stressed at times, and learning how to deal with these emotions will really enhance day-to-day living. However, when emotions start to negatively impact other areas of life, or when it is no longer possible to enjoy activities that used to bring joy, it may be a good idea to seek help from a doctor, who will be able to decide what treatment may be best.
Research from the APA found that children who say their parents are always stressed are more likely to report having a great deal of stress themselves, as opposed to those who say their parents are never stressed (17% vs. 2%). Elevated levels of stress in early years have been linked to impaired emotional and behavioural development, in addition to several other health concerns later in life, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Consequently, parents need to be mindful of how they manage stress, as they play a key role in teaching children about the expression, regulation, and experience of emotion. Therefore, look for opportunities to have fun, and when needed take a break from it all, whether it is for a cup of tea or a walk outside. Prioritising what will bring you most fulfilment in life is really helpful in creating a more relaxed and happy environment. Last but not least, staying in a state of gratitude, and focusing on what is thriving in you and your child’s life will elevate your feelings of happiness and allow you to create a more positive outlook on life.
Sirin Ortanca is an International Life Coach and NLP Practitioner. As a graduate of King’s College in London, and coming from a long history in education, she specialises in helping people make the changes they are looking for in life.