Is Stress Making Your Family Sick?
Most of us admit to being stressed at one time or another, but did you know that seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints? Or that chronic, untreated stress can trigger lifetime emotional disorders in more than 50% of people?
Stress is a Top Health Concern for U.S. High School Students
According to the American Psychological Association, stress is a top health concern for U.S. teens between 9th and 12th grade. Psychologists say that if your children don’t learn healthy ways to manage that stress during their high school years, they could experience serious long-term health issues.
Parents Don’t Realize How Stressed Their Teenagers Are Feeling
Research indicates that many parents are not aware of how stressed their kids are feeling. Even when children suffer headaches or other symptoms of stress, they can be reluctant to tell their parents, so their parents remain uninformed, and thus helpless.
In our fast paced society, where children and teenagers feel pressured to fit in with their peer groups, bullying is rampant in the schools, and relationship problems and opinions are broadcast worldwide in seconds via social media, it is vital for parents to model healthy stress management skills at home.
Healthy Approaches to Stress Management in the Home
The first thing parents must do is recognize their own level of stress and how they express or communicate their stress within the family. Then, they need to take positive steps to manage their stress effectively, and model healthy stress management to their own children.
Parents can lecture their children all they want, but in the home, “more is caught than taught” when it comes to behavior. Your kids are always observing and learning how to live by the example you set. So it’s important to first get a handle on your own stress, and include your kids in your own stress management plan.
There are many ways to do that.
Create a Safe Haven in Your Home
In healthy homes, judgment and condemnation are not allowed, but communication is encouraged. Labeling things good and bad, pretty or ugly, fat or skinny, easy or difficult in a judgmental way, sets you up to feel superior. No one is superior. We all need to be the best we can be, no matter what you weigh or what you look like or how smart you are.
Set Times for Family Activities and Make Them Fun and Stress-Free.
Don’t spend an afternoon at the amusement park talking about grades or cleaning your room. Those topics can wait.
Teach Kids How to Identify Their Stress-Related Emotions and Name Them.
Before you can be in control of something, you need to identify it. If you want to be in control of your anger, you have to know it’s there. Don’t put any emotion “off-limits”; but do put limits on how your feelings may be expressed.
Working through tough emotions is best done by physical exertion, talking it over, writing it out or drawing or painting it. You can’t expect your kids (or you, for that matter) to swallow all their anger and not have a physical reaction. Unexpressed stress can manifest as an eating disorder, an ulcer, immune issues, and heart problems, among other things.
Make it Safe for Your Children to Express Themselves
Even if you don’t agree with your kids’ opinions on things, they need a safe place to talk and explore without lecturing, teaching them the “truth”, or giving them a dose of “reality.” You can certainly explain to them why you feel the way they do, but they need to learn how to think things through and develop their own opinion.
Watch How You Self-Medicate Against Stress
If your kids see you “self medicating” all the time, they will think that is an acceptable way to deal with stress. Set healthy examples for eating, drinking and using medication.
How to Deal With Others’ Opinions
Teach your kids that other people’s opinions are just that: Opinions belonging to someone else. Everyone is entitled to have their own opinions — including your kid! One is not better, more correct or more valid than the other. Everyone brings their own unique experiences and perspectives to each situation. If someone tends to come from a critical or negative perspective, it is not a reflection of your child, it is a reflection of the person stating the opinion. That’s all.
Model Positive Character Traits
Model kindness, respect, truth, joy, peace and wisdom and your kids will follow. Not only will they follow, but they will feel safe at home and be more inclined to share their lives with you.
Practice these things at home and you will be creating a stress free environment where each person feels valued and respected. When they venture out into the world, they will carry that peace and security with them and be less vulnerable to the pressure of public opinion and peer pressure.
When the going gets tough, as it will, just breathe.
Marianne Clyde, also known as MommyZen™, teaches the principles of peaceful parenting through her website, www.Mommy-Zen.com, and her private counseling practice in Warrenton, Virginia. Marianne is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) who helps clients around the world overcome anxiety, depression, trauma and relationship issues. Visit www.Mommy-Zen.com for encouragement, meditation videos and uplifting advice on how to be the best parent you can be. You can also find MommyZen™on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mommyjustbreathe. Telephone: 540-347-3797