• High parental stress is linked to worse mental health, behavioral issues, and physical health outcomes in children.
• Parents should take breaks from work and talk to others about their worries.
• Practicing mindfulness, setting healthy boundaries, and getting professional help can reduce the effect of parental stress on children.
• Children may mimic or be sensitized by their parents’ behavior when stressed.
• Research shows that parental stress can lead to decreased self-control and academic challenges in children.
As a parent, you aim to give your children a happy and healthy life. However, with the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, the effects can trickle down to your child if you’re a stressed parent. Research has linked parental stress to various adverse childhood outcomes, from mental health issues to behavioral problems. Here’s what the research says about the effects of parental stress on children and what you can do to reduce the impact on your child.
Stress Among American Parents
Stress is no joke. It’s estimated that nearly half of American parents are struggling with stress and depression today. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 10 million adults aged 18-64 experienced severe mental illness in 2020. With so many parents facing stress, it’s essential to understand how it can affect children.
Impact of Stress on Children’s Mental Health
High parental stress level is associated with mental health problems in children. Children raised by parents who are more stressed than usual are more prone to anxiety, depression, and related disorders. When stressed, parents may be less friendly, less communicative, and less supportive of their children. Such behavior can trigger hyper-arousal, leading to long-term psychological problems in children.
Children from stressed-out households are more likely to have behavioral problems due to the effects of parenting on a child’s behavior. Here are ways that can happen:
- Mirroring Aggression: Children may mimic their parents’ aggressive behavior, resulting in impulsivity, fights with peers and siblings, and other adverse outcomes.
- Increased Reactivity: When children observe their parents reacting negatively to situations, they become sensitized to stress and more likely to respond aggressively when faced with similar circumstances.
- Decreased Self-Control: High parental stress levels may lead to heightened emotions in the home environment, making it difficult for kids to practice self-control. This can lead to behavioral issues, such as acting or lashing out at others.
Physical Health Issues
Research indicates that parental stress also affects children’s physical health. In particular, stress experienced during a child’s development can lead to lifelong health problems such as high blood pressure and heart diseases. Furthermore, children can experience a reduced immune system, making them more prone to diseases.
Children with highly stressed parents are more likely to face academic challenges than those from non-stressed households. Due to anxiety, the children may exhibit behaviors like lack of motivation, procrastination, and inability to concentrate, causing their studies to suffer.
5 Steps to Reduce the Impact on Children
Thankfully, there are various steps you can take to reduce the impact of parental stress on children. Here are a few tips:
Take a Break
Overworking yourself can only add to the stress load. When overwhelmed, take a break and clear your mind. Whether it’s an afternoon walk or an hour of yoga, prioritize self-care and make time for yourself daily.
Talk it Out
Don’t be afraid to talk about your worries with someone you trust; this could be a friend or family member. Talking about your concerns can help you feel better and manage stress more effectively.
Mindfulness is an effective way to cope with stress. Take a few minutes each day to practice mindful meditation or breathing exercises. This will help you stay in the present moment and gain peace of mind, even for a few moments.
Set Healthy Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries with friends, family, and coworkers can also help reduce parental stress levels. Ensure your children’s needs are met before taking on other tasks or projects that may add to your stress load.
Get Professional Help
Lastly, don’t be afraid to get professional help, especially if you struggle with communicating with your partner. A robust couples therapy will help you realize some things about your current situation. It can also bring back a spark to your relationship, reducing stress.
Parental stress can seriously affect children if it’s not managed correctly. However, understanding the impact of parental stress and creating a healthier home environment can go a long way in helping your child cope with adversity and lead a happy life. Implementing these tips into your parenting practice will help you better manage stress and ensure your child is safe from its harmful effects.