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Moms & Stress: Modeling Stress Management For Your Children

July 6, 2011

In our Moms & Stress series, Lea Curtes-Swenson talks with leading experts on stress management and life balance. She brings you tips, tricks, and advice for understanding your stress and getting it under control—so you can enjoy your time with your kids and teach them to live stress-free too.

Parenting can be full of tension. Anyone who’s lived with a colicky newborn, tried reasoning with a sleep-deprived toddler, or matched wits with an attitude-filled preteen knows that stress and parenting are a buy-one-get-one free package deal.

As rewarding as parenting can be, the truth is kids can put a strain on your time, financial resources, and relationships. While most experts acknowledge that some stress is good, because it “pushes us to grow, create and accomplish, and motivates us to act,” Elizabeth Scott, M.S., says parents in particular need strategies for dealing with stress.

Stressed Moms Can Mean Stressed Families

Scott, a wellness coach and stress expert with training in counseling, family therapy and health psychology, says that how moms deal with pressure affects everyone in the family. With little eyes and ears tuned in to your every move, you can’t throw a tantrum when simply everything goes wrong.

“It’s crucial for mothers to learn and practice stress management skills,” says Scott. “Chronically stressed mothers may have less patience, feel less resourceful, and have a diminished ability to handle new stressors that arise.”

Scott points out that children are generally intuitive enough to pick up on their mother’s tension, and it can also transfer to her children.

And because children learn coping skills from their parents, Scott says, “mothers who are adept at managing their own stress can naturally pass these important skills to their children.” By contrast, mothers who manage stress poorly may leave their children less able to manage their own stress.

Stress Management via Social Support

In an age where distractions are many and time seems to evaporate, how can busy moms manage stress and save their sanity?

First, parents need to take care of their own emotional health and make sure they have enough social support, writes Scott in About.com’s How to Combat Parenting Stress.

Scott points out that today, many parents live far away from family support networks, work long hours, and have little time or energy left at the end of the day. Reaching out to others in their community helps moms feel they’re not alone, and creates a buffer from the effects of stress.

Beyond seeking outside support, Scott’s other six tips include:

  1. Practice time management and organization techniques to create more time for family bonding and down time.
  2. Practice stress management techniques—experiment to find what works best for you.
  3. Develop interests that “feed your soul”—it’s not just the kids who need to learn and grow!
  4. Take care of your body for the obvious physical and health benefits, but also to feel good about yourself.
  5. Be smart with your finances.
  6. Enjoy your children! Each day, try to see beyond what “has to” get done—connect with your kids, hug them and tell them what you love about them.

By seeking support, you can reduce your own stress level and mirror good habits for your children. A worry-free mom sets the foundation for a worry-free family.

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