You are a loving, thoughtful and responsible mom or dad. You totally adore your kids! They are your life! There is nothing you would not do to keep them safe and happy. So you are rushing around trying to get all the stuff on your To Do list done. You’re watching the clock because the kids have to be fetched from school, then taken to extra-curricular activities, then get their homework done, eat a healthy supper and get to bed early. They also want your constant attention. They want to tell you stuff and ask you questions and perhaps they also want you to play with them. It’s an all- consuming job but so very worthwhile because you love your kids so much and it’s such a joy to be able to take care of them!
So with all this going on its no wonder than so many moms and dads tell me that they are stressed. Life is hectic, it’s like being on a treadmill that seems to go faster and faster. But parents are strong, even superhuman and so they keep going, like the energizer bunny, flop into bed at night and then start all over again the next day.
You Can Run but you Cannot Hide
The truth about stress that parents often don’t think about is that no matter how well you seem to cope, if inside, you are feeling stressed, you will be involuntarily broadcasting your stress to your kids. You may not be actually saying to them, ‘I am so stressed!’ but, whether they are newborns or teens, your kids are picking up your stress cues. And – get this – seeing your stress and sensing your stress actually changes their physiology in such a way that they too become stressed. Wow! That’s huge!
It means that your stress is contagious!
It is scientifically proven that no matter how hard we pretend to be okay, we cannot hide our stress from our children. So one of the most critical responsibilities you have as a mom and dad is to be sure you are not infecting your kids with your stress. Reducing your stress as a parent is the most loving thing you can ever do for your child. Every day I see how parents turn themselves inside out doing things that make the kids happy but you often don’t do the one thing, the most crucial thing that could literally change your children’s lives for the better – and that is to find ways to reduce your stress.
A Quick Neurobiology Tutorial.
I don’t expect parents to become neurobiologists. I am suggesting though that because we live in a high stress and pressure world, moms and dads need to understand that when you are in stress mode, your children’s neurobiology will also automatically go into stress mode. When your kids instinctively pick up on the tension around your eyes, the tightness around your mouth, your strained body language, your edgy tone of voice and the harsh words you may unintentionally utter, in that split second their chemistry shifts from healthy to unhealthy. This affects their ability to behave positively, learn easily and love life.
Your stress sets off an alarm in an area of your child’s brain called the amygdala which sends out a message to the hypothalamus, which alerts the pituitary, saying, hey dudes mom’s stressed (or dad’s stressed) and this doesn’t feel good. To deal with this alarm, stress hormones are secreted and the child’s brain goes into fight into flight. What you as a parent sees is a child who displays all kinds of angry or withdrawn behaviors. This child is then at risk for being diagnosed and treated for being defiant or depressed when actually the child is just stressed because mom, dad, caregiver or teacher are stressed – and their stress is contagious.
The only way to prevent this is to learn how to become a stress-less parent. Start with 4 easy and doable steps:
1. State your intention. Say out loud at least 3 times: My stress level is too high. This is affecting my child/my children. It’s enough! I am ready to do something about this. If this does not feel right for you it may mean that you are not ready for this. Don’t proceed to the next steps. Wait until you are ready but remember your kids are waiting too!
2. Craft your vision. Draw, write or find pictures that depict and describe how you will be different when you are living a stress-less way of life.
3. Change something. Identify 4 major things in your life that cause you to experience ongoing stress. Remove or reduce these stressors or drastically revise the way you deal with them.
4. Eat stress-less foods. Start by removing inflammatory foods from your pantry, your shopping list and your diet. Replace with non-inflammatory foods.
These are just a few steps you can take to begin the process of de-stressing. Once you take these first steps, you will notice how good you feel and how differently your children are behaving. This will encourage you to delve deeper into more ways you can remove unnecessary and often self-created stress and to learn new tools for a stress-less way of life. De-stressing truly has the ability to change your life – and your family’s life – provided you have reached the point where you can authentically say:
I AM READY!!!” That’s it! I want to stop stressing! I want to lead a stress-less life so my kids can feel safe and learn how to do the same.