Parents can pass stress onto children

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PROVO -- If you are a parent, the word "stress" is just part of life. There's the stress of paying bills, caring for kids, keeping the home in order -- even just getting dinner on the table can be stressful.

But could you be passing your stress onto your child?


One family life professor says yes, that stress can be contagious.

"It's going to affect your household situation," said Heather Johnson, a professor of Family Studies at Brigham Young University.

She says parents often pass on their worries to younger minds, unknowingly.

"Mothers have a lot of stress that they're dealing with. They're juggling a lot of things," Johnson said. "Oftentimes they don't mean to, but when they're dealing with their children they're kind of a hindrance, subconsciously, to what we're trying to accomplish."

Johnson points out certain information simply shouldn't be shared with young kids, like financial burdens.

"You're better off discussing that with your husband or with your wife," she said.

Johnson says there are several things you can do to lower the stress levels in your home, and it starts with good self-care.

Quality "nothing" time
When you have really good "nothing" time, your "something" time is all the better.
  • Schedule it in.
  • Work hard when it is work time.
  • Turn off your distractions.
  • Quiet that voice that says, 'You must be productive.'"
Source: Tsh Oxenreider, Simple Mom

"Lots of times women take their stress out on their kids, because they're simply tired or they haven't eaten anything, because they've fed everyone else and done all the other chores but haven't gotten around to taking care of themselves," she said.

Healthy eating habits, daily exercise and "down time" all top the list for maintaining stress levels. So does routine, for both parent and child.

"Keeping our children on a routine does a great deal to eliminate stress. When children know what's going to happen and things are predictable, they behave better," Johnson said. "A bedtime routine, a morning routine -- throughout the day, sleeping for children, that really helps a mother's stress."

The ability to multi-task is often a point of pride for women and mothers, but Johnson warns when you're trying to tackle more than one task at once, your verbal and even non-verbal cues communicate stress. She reminds parents to slow down and focus, especially when interacting with their children.

Johnson said dealing with stress is not only good for alleviating daily frustrations, it teaches your children how to cope themselves.

"We want our children to know how to deal with stress and we have to teach them that, and by example is how they'll learn that the quickest," she said.


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Brooke Walker


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