Parents exhibiting Back-To-School stress, giving into the pressures that come with changing routines and schedules, last minute shopping, and/or childcare arrangements, may actually be harming their children, says Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, leader in digital coaching for stress and resilience.
“Times of transition are tough on everyone,” Bruce says. “But if ‘Back-to-School’ is visibly stressing you, remember that your kids will pick up on the signals. That’s a very compelling reason for parents to learn how to identify and manage their own stress triggers so they don’t pass this unhealthy behavior on to their kids.”
Studies show that children absorb the stress of their parents, particularly at high-pressure transition times like the start of a new school year, adds Bruce. For example, a 2010 study from the American Psychological Association called “Stress in America,” showed that when their parents are stressed nearly half of tweens (47 percent) and one-third of teens (33 percent) say they feel sad; one third of tweens (36 percent) and 43 percent of teens say they feel worried; and one-quarter (25 percent) of tweens and 38 percent of teens say they feel frustrated. Studies show that children as young as 8 years old are now experiencing some of the physical and emotional health consequences often associated with stress.
These teens and tweens are also more likely to have trouble falling asleep (48 percent versus 33 percent), headaches (43 percent versus 28 percent), eating too much or too little (48 percent versus 16 percent), or feeling angry or getting into fights (22 percent versus 13 percent). All symptoms are commonly associated with stress.
How Stress Hurts American Families
Parents also tend to underestimate the impact their stress has on the family as a whole, which could have deeper health implications then they realize. Over two-thirds (69 percent) of parents of teens and tweens say that their stress has slight or no impact on their children, yet only 14 percent of children say that their parent’s stress does not bother them.
However, children who say a parent is always stressed are more likely to report having a great deal of stress themselves than those who say their parents are never stressed (17 percent vs. 2 percent).
Tweens and teens turn to sedentary behaviors—listening to music (36 percent of tweens and 66 percent of teens), playing video games (56 percent of tweens and 41 percent of teens), or watching TV (34 percent of tweens and 30 percent of teens) to make themselves feel better when they are worried or stressed.
Says Bruce: “One of the healthiest things parents can do is learn to manage their own stress to immunize their kids from catching the stress disease.”