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5 Ways Stress Can Turn You Into a Bad Parent
  • What keeps you up at night, mom? Stress wreaks havoc on a lot of areas in a mom's life including her physical and mental health, causing fatigue and even depression. It also affects her relationship with others. It underlines the importance of stress management notably because it changes how you parent as well. When you’re stressed:

    1. You take shortcuts
    Whatever you’re stressing about, whether it’s work, the family finances, or relationship troubles with a loved one, it’s undoubtedly taking up a lot of space in your head. Often, there’s little left for anything else, including your child’s complaints about nap time or his missing toy. It becomes too easy to set them aside as “pag-iinarte.” 

    “Your child's problems may seem unimportant, compared to what you are going through, but your child doesn't see it that way. Regardless, when we are at our wit's end, our first response to yet another demand can be whatever is quickest and takes the least energy,” said John D. Rich, Jr., Ph.D., an educational psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Delaware State University, in an article for Psychology Today

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    2. You become less patient and easily snap (read: you yell a lot)
    Stress builds up. After a long and tiring day, sometimes it’s difficult to control where that tension gets released. “Overwork has all sorts of negative consequences,” said Dr. Gilda Burian, a relationship expert and professor emerita at New York’s Mercy College, in a research report. “It’s a mental and physical stress issue, and if you have kids, it’s dangerous for them.” 

    Snapping or bursting out in anger at a defiant or troublesome child is a common gut reaction, but experts always encourage parents to practice patience and understanding instead. Some of the best ways to stop “matigas ang ulo” moments are with calm communication and thought-through techniques, like giving clear directions on what you want your child to do. Find them here.  

    3. You disengage and fail to connect  

    “Parents with high stress demonstrate less warmth, lower levels of responsiveness, less affection, and are more likely to use discipline that is either harsh or uninvolved,” said Rich. After all, it takes less time and energy to drag your child from his toys than get him to finish up playing on his own.


    "When we are at our wit's end, our first response to yet another demand [from our child] can be whatever is quickest and takes the least energy."

    Parent-child relationships develop over time, said Neil Farber, M.D., Ph.D., an adjunct professor of psychology at Arizona State University, in another article for Psychology Today. And, as one of the most meaningful and influential relationships in an individual’s life, the everyday effort from mom and dad, both big and small, makes all the difference. 

    “Active listening is one of the most important ways you can send the message, 'You're important to me.' Get down on the child's level, lean in and make eye contact,” child development expert Gill Connell wrote in A Moving Child Is a Learning Child.   

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    4. You deliberately opt out on teachable moments
    “If your son is trying to put two train cars together and is feeling frustration, it's easier and faster to just pick up the train cars and put them together yourself, than it is to sit down and talk him through strategies and alternate solutions,” said Rich. 

    A lot of what goes into problem-solving while playing is key to building the skills your child needs later in life. Opting out of these teachable moments is a big missed opportunity. Show your child how to try, fail and learn, and try again. Help your child develop a growth mindset and instill in him the self-confidence to face whatever problem on his own.  

    “A child can be motivated to reach a little higher when the trusted adult in the room uses supportive communication and open-ended questions to guide the task at hand and creates a safe environment for the child to make mistakes,” added Rich.

    5. You pass on your stress to your child

    Tension is “contagious,” according to David Code, author of Kids Pick Up On Everything: How Parental Stress Is Toxic to Kids. It's difficult to hide negative feelings, and children can easily spot them too.  

    Case in point, your child knows when you come home stressed. In a research report for Project: Time Off, a group in support of vacations and time off work, results showed that six out of seven kids notice when their parents bring stress from work home.  

    Don't let it catch! Take care of yourself, including your mental health. Find suggestions on how to destress here.

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