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Why Reducing Your Child’s Stress Today is Actually Bad for Them

Why Reducing Your Child’s Stress Today is Actually Bad for Them

Last week I went to hear a speaker at our school. The topic was stress. As a meditation teacher and happiness coach I would like to think that my children have been given all the tools they need to cope with the regular stressors in their lives however my family has a long history of anxiety so I felt a need to go just in case there was something I could learn about the genetics of stress.

Lynn Lyons was the speaker and I highly recommend her book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents. The evening contained some neuroscience, some personal stories and some practical applications but my biggest take away was this simple sentence:

Your child’s anxiety is your fault. If it’s nature, it’s your fault. If it’s nurture it’s your fault.

Pretty bold words but shatteringly true.

Science has not been able to discover an anxiety gene. What it has discovered is a pattern of anxiety that is somehow passed down from one generation to the next. North America currently reports its highest incidence of stress ever. One in five adults are medicated for stress or depression (two sides of the same coin). The part that scares me is that when asked, fifty percent of adults said they would prefer to have a prescription than to learn meditation or mindful breathing techniques to decrease stress.

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What Is Stress and Why Is It So Bad?

Anxiety is an overestimation of the problem and an underestimation of your ability to deal with the problem.

Stress is the activation of our fight or flight system. It was really useful in prehistoric times when we were in danger of being eaten by a dinosaur. When the dinosaur starts to chase you your body here’s what happens:

1. „Increase in blood pressure- this allows you to run fast and get away.

„2. Clotting of blood platelets- in case the dinosaur bites you, you are less likely to bleed out.

„3. Releases stress hormones – gives you that superhuman burst that lets moms lift cars off babies.

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„4. Decreased growth hormones, decrease circulation to digestive tract- these are all systems of the body that are not needed to flee or fight, so they are temporarily turned off to allow the other systems to use the body’s full available resources.

„5. Weakened immunity- the body takes its focus of the non-essential services to allow all energy to be involved in saving itself.

Here’s the problem; in today’s world stress is provoked not by dinosaurs but by encountering obstacles to getting what we want, things like traffic, public speaking, being misunderstood in conversation, failing a test or losing a job. The long term exposure to the chemicals our body releases when fight or flight is enabled causes health issues like coronary heart disease, insomnia, addictions, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, infections, cancer, heart attacks, strokes and digestive disturbances.

Knowing this makes a parent want to alleviate any potential stressors a child might encounter. We have seen a rise in organized sport teams where everyone wins. Some schools have a rule that if you invite one child from the class to a birthday party you have to include them all. Our kids are in helmets as they bike to after school tutors while eating gluten-free organic, free-range snack food while listening to moms and dads quote safety stats so they won’t be abducted.

We are setting our children up for failure! In their teen years, if we don’t allow as pre-teens to fail, to fall down, or to experience disappointment they are going to be entirely unable to cope.

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Instead of removing stress from our kids’ lives we need to teach them that they control their reactions.

How do we do this?

Help them identify stress.Talk about how stress feels in their body. Explain that it feels different to everyone and get them recognizing if they feel it in their jaw, in their tummy or in their chest.

Remind them of times where they had success in a stressful situation.Pointing out where they successfully overcame stress in the past actually strengthens the neural pathways that will allow them to resist stress in the future.

Teach them to talk to their stress. Using simple phrases like, “I remember you but you aren’t needed here” or “I’m in control stress.” Or “You bore me, every single time I see a dog you show up- boring!” makes stress seem manageable to them

Watch your pattern of communicating about potential stressors. It is important to teach your children about safety. They need to hear “look both ways before you cross the street.” They don’t need to hear “because if you don’t you will get hit by a car and you could die and I couldn’t handle it if you died.”

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Don’t change the situation, change the way your child deals with the situation.If your child experiences stress when you drop them at daycare, you are still going to drop them off. Make sure you reinforce how they made it without you. Adopt this behavior for other situations too. If playdates are another source of separation anxiety, parents frequently just don’t do them. This isn’t helping your child. Instead, suggest options. You could stay for 15 minutes at the beginning. Or leave the child wearing your watch or necklace to remind them that you are coming back soon. My children were anxious sleeping in their own beds so we planned where we would meet in our dreams so that they wouldn’t feel alone.

Remember, worrying about your child’s tendency to be anxious is only fueling anxiety’s flame. Showing your children how you deal with anxiety models for them how to deal with theirs.

The conversation about stress and children is relatively new but clearly a hot topic. Do you think kids today have more stress than previous generations or are we just parenting in a way that highlights their stresses? I ‘d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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