Can my stress rub off on my children?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A child who watches a parent respond to stress by being anxious or fearful or angry will learn to do the same thing -- and become hardwired to react that way in most stressful situations. Such reactions are emotional rather than logical, so it really pays to be in tune with your own signals so that you can control the messages you’re sending your child about how to handle stress and conflict.
YOU: Raising Your Child: The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade

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YOU: Raising Your Child: The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade

There’s little doubt that parenting can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences you’ll ever have. But it can be plenty tough, too: Around the clock, you’re working to keep your...
Michele Borba
Keep yourself strong to make sure your kids are stress-free. Don’t expect to be able to help allay your kids’ anxiety, unless you keep your own in check. Are you watching what you eat and reducing anxiety-increasers such as caffeine and sugar, exercising, getting enough rest, seeking the support of friends, or spending a quiet moment alone?

Remember, you can tell your kids you’re not worried about those world events or a troubled economy, but unless your behavior sends the same message your words have no meaning.

Our parenting priority must be to keep ourselves so we can keep our kids’ strong. That means we need to reduce our harried, hurried schedules so can model calmness to our kids. So just cut out one thing–be it the book club, the violin lessons, or cooking the “gourmet dinner” every night. Just reduce one thing! Your kids mirror your behavior and will be calmer if you are calmer.
Tamar Chansky
As much as children may ignore our repeated requests to sit up straight or clean their rooms, when parents are stressed, kids notice. Some children, those who tend toward anxiety may worry about their parents when they show signs of stress. These children may also blame themselves for the stress, or feel it is their job to make their parents feel better.

Yes, it is best for parents to manage their stress and not let it spill over into their family life, but that's not always possible. The next best thing is to explain, in child-appropriate ways, what's happening so kids don't worry. For example, say: "I have a lot of pressure at work right now, I'm sorry I've been less patient. I'm doing what I need to make things better at my job, but in the meantime, good teamwork at home will help everything go more smoothly."
Mia Redrick
First of all, there's a lot of truth to the old saying: "When mom's not happy, no one is happy." We are the models by which our kids learn how to conduct their lives. We set the example for the most basic things, including saying hello to someone or how we talk on the phone. We also show them how to deal with stress. If we scream and yell, they will scream and yell. If we go for a run or do something that manages stress in a healthy way, they will mirror those behaviors.

Also, kids are very perceptive to their parents' moods. They can become agitated, short-tempered, and moody if their parents--who should ideally be the most stable element in their life--are the same.

Try to filter the information you give to your kids. There is a tendency for parents to tell them too much. Allow them their childhood. Your problems should not be their problems.
Yes. Experts say a child detects a parent's worries about keeping a job or about a health crisis. Children are more likely to be happy when their parents are, even if their parents need some time away from the kids to feel happier. So don't feel guilty about having a date night. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.