are our kids absorbing our stress right now

Are our kids absorbing our stress right now?  

Are our kids absorbing our stress right now? Here’s how to know and prevent it! 

 

With the rising cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, vaccinations, and social distancing guidelines, we’re living in a time of global uncertainty, and the fear of an invisible threat. It’s pretty clear that we’re all under a certain level of stress. For many people, these are stressors that they may have never had to encounter or navigate to this extent before. This may very well indicate that our kids are absorbing our stress right now!

In my opinion, the consequences of the stress levels may become more apparent further down the line. One critical area that is already becoming very apparent is the stress that we adults are carrying, maybe even transferring to our children as well.

You might notice an uptick in different behaviors at home, or amongst children, that indicate signs of increased stress. So let’s address these very important issues.

In this blog, we are going to cover what you can do to become more aware of whether or not our kids are absorbing our stress, and how we can prevent it, or help reduce the impact on both you and your entire family.

These ideas are not only for anyone who has kids but is especially for those of you who are having to navigate work-life balance, running a  business, while still being unsure of what to expect in the future. We are also going to look at how kids may be interpreting our stress as their own.

Where is the stress coming from? 

 

Before we went into a lifestyle where quarantine was the norm, and where most of the world now walk around with masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves, stress has always been a part of our lives. In modern-day working culture, stress is expected and sometimes it’s even praised.

Stress is something that shows up in the way that we work, think, eat, and relate to one another. So it’s not one big stressful event that I’m talking about. It is a collective combination of ways we are absorbing our stress right now.  It’s all of the ways that we move through life that causes stress to show up and impact our nervous systems.

This may result in experiencing symptoms of:-

  • nervousness,
  • feeling unwell
  • always on edge
  • inability to rest
  • difficulty with sleep
  • unable to think clearly.

You might experience brain fog or digestive complaints. You’re possibly using caffeine and sugar for bursts of energy because the stress is depleting your energy!

Here’s the thing about stress, and as a stress practitioner, I emphasize it over and over. Stress is not bad in and of itself. In fact, it’s necessary for humans to survive. Stress is like our internal alarm system. It tells us when we need to fight, flee, or even freeze as a response to danger.

When we were more engaged with nature and relying on the land for food and survival, stress supported us in getting out of dangerous situations. It was meant to give us a burst of adrenaline in the moment so that we could move and protect ourselves or protect our loved ones.

In modern-day culture, we are experiencing the same alarm system, but it’s as if this alarm is going off all of the time. The volume might be turned down lower, but your body can still feel it. Imagine if you had a smoke alarm in the house that wouldn’t stop beeping, and every day you can hear it beeping but you can’t really get it to stop. That is going to create quite “ the disturbance “ in your mind and body, and your body will be absorbing stress. That’s how this stress feels when you’re having to live with it as the norm.

Now, we have to realistically accept that new stressors related to COVID-19 are showing up on top of the stress that was already there. Therefore, the symptoms might feel even more intense.

Symptoms can show up as:

  • The fear of getting sick
  • The inherent fear of loved ones getting sick
  • Fear of the future.

We can’t really predict what’s going to evolve with this Pandemic. We just don’t know what is going to evolve worldwide and how this is going to impact all of us socially, economically, psychologically, and physically down the line. So there’s this new fear, and this fear translates into stress.

There is also a build-up of resentment, bitterness, and frustration when being told what we can and cannot do.  With limited human contact, there’s also the stress of having a harder time socially, especially for the younger and the older generations.

There’s frustration in feeling powerless to choose how you live your life right now. And for many that actually goes against what they’ve learned about what it means to be an independent person. This is becoming more of a stress-trigger when these decisions do not make complete logic or sense to us. All of these feelings are additional stress to the mind and the body.

Worrying statistics indicate an increase in tension within the home. This tension, coupled with financial concerns for job security, may start being felt within the household or family unit.

It’s stressful having to be confined at home where you’re working and living and sharing space with your family.

All of this is a setup for some new tension that may not have been present before. The peak in reported relationship conflict and divorce right now is not a coincidence.

We are walking around with these stressors and yes, our children are also picking up on it and even absorbing our stress.

What are the noticeable symptoms:

So how do we know if our children are picking up on it and even absorbing our stress?

We know that a parent’s stress can actually impact a child, even while they’re in utero. Research has linked stress in pregnant women to the stress that the infant will have, and it may go on to affect their development in different ways. They are linking that stress to different neurological disorders. And that’s because the maternal levels of the stress hormone cortisol are triggering the fetuses’ brain to be more prepared for these threats in nature.

Research has also tied the stress of parents to the stress of their kids. What we know is that our kids watch us. Our kids are looking to us for cues on how to be in this world, and how to be an adult.

They are also looking at how to navigate different circumstances like:-

  • arguments
  • problem-solving
  • survival
  • career
  • relationship
  • and so much more.

So our children are constantly observing us, copying us, and even mimicking us.

On top of that, our kids look to us for their own survival and for their nurturing. If they pick up on something being wrong with their caregiver, it makes sense for them to feel alarmed because that threatens their safety. You being stressed is a threat to their security. So they worry, they might try to make it better. Depending on your kid’s personality, they might be trying to take on your emotions or take the load off for you.

 

Here are some symptoms to pay attention to:

 

  • If your children are experiencing a drastic change in their sleep patterns. Maybe they’re having a hard time going to sleep or staying asleep, falling back asleep. They might have a sudden increase in bed-wetting, especially if that’s a stage that they had gotten over.
  • Perhaps they might be changing their eating patterns, their appetite might be down, or they might have a very voracious appetite where it seems like all they want to do is snack and seek comfort through food, which is relatable.
  • There might be complaints of different symptoms like pain in their body. Headaches and stomach aches are very common complaints when a kid is experiencing anxiety. They may not have the words to explain the feelings they’re having, but they can recognize the physical symptoms.
  • They might be expressing concern about being sick. Worried about being around people. Constantly worried about you or other family members going out in public, and being around someone who could potentially get them sick. The conversation about the virus constantly circulating around the house or around them intensifies this. They are also aware that their life has changed. Schools are closing or closed, playdates are decreasing, activities have stopped for many.  All of that can plant a very large seed of worry and anxiety about their lives and the future.

kid clinging onto mom

  • Their moods might drastically change. They might feel angry, irritable, sad, and very tearful. They might become very clingy and have a hard time separating from you, especially if you are someone who works outside the home. Their action may even be the opposite, and withdraw, and isolate. If that wasn’t a common behavior before it could be a very strong sign of stress.
  • Finally, they have difficulty paying attention, focusing on learning, retaining information, or remembering what they were talking about. If you notice symptoms that remind you of brain fog or fatigue, those are also signs of stress.

How are you unknowingly expressing that stress at home?

 

So we know that our stress impacts our kids and that those stress symptoms can show up psychologically and physiologically. So what do you do?

To begin with, we have to understand how we are unknowingly expressing stress at home.

Let’s look at the way that you’re paying attention to yourself.

  • How quickly are you moving?
  • Are you rushed?
  • Finding yourself irritable, are you snapping?
  • Are you eating?
  • Getting sufficient rest?
  • Are you taking time off?
  • Do you find that you are talking only about what’s going on in the world and all of the stressful things?
  • Constantly worried about getting sick?
  • Are you talking about stories of people getting sick?

All of these things are the narratives that the kids pick up on as well.

Is there an increase in conflict at home or tension that needs to be addressed?

Are you able to pay attention to your own body and your own mind?

Notice all of the ways that you move through the home, talk, express yourself, and engage with your family members. It’s all being observed by your kids.

What can you do now to prevent your kids from absorbing your stress?

 

So what can you do once you start to really pay attention to the stress that has come home with you?

 

Number one: Become aware of how your body is absorbing stress

 

The very first step that I teach my clients as a stress practitioner is awareness. You have to become aware of yourself first. If you focus only on your kids then this could actually stress them out more.

Ask yourself

  • How are you stressed right now?
  • What are your needs right now?
  • Is your body absorbing stress now?
  • How can you help yourself get those needs fulfilled?

Remember our kids learn the most through observation. And so, what they’re observing is you. The very first thing you could do to support them is to become more self-aware.

Number two: Be honest and open about it

 

Now after you become more aware, it’s time to be honest with yourself and also open and honest with your family.

This doesn’t mean talk about stress all the time. But one thing that’s very stressful for kids is when they have to try and guess what is going on. So they may create a story or narrative for themselves to explain why things feel strange or why their parents are acting differently.

All open and honest communication is healthy for everyone. This could mean having family meetings, sharing openly about how you’re feeling, apologizing if you know maybe you said something, or raised your voice in a way that warrants an apology.

Sometimes just naming what’s going on, letting your kids know you have it under control can be enough to ease any stress or storytelling they’re doing about the stress.

Number three: Come up with a plan

Finally, after you’re more aware and being more honest and open, come up with a plan for yourself first and then as a family. You could come up with a plan together.

Knowing what you know about this time and the way stress is showing up for you, how your body is absorbing stress, how can you navigate this differently for yourself? What is within your power? Make a list of all the things that are in your control that are going to go a very long way to reducing any stress.

It can come down to the way that you wake up and start your day, how you eat your food, the pace you work, your time off, or the things you do for self-care.

Then, as a family, you can make that list together.

Most importantly, offer yourself grace and compassion right now. As a Mind-Body and Stress Practitioner, one thing I help clients focus on is Kind Mindfulness. Being present and relaxed in the moment requires kindness and love toward yourself. You’re not meant to be a superhero. You’re human and we are in very difficult times as humans collectively.

At Nourishment Vitality we have had amazing success in creating and implementing these important channels within many homes and families. If you have any questions about our programs and coaching, please contact us here 

Be kind to yourself, your family, and your community. Take care, keep safe, and healthy.