Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Do Stressed Out Parents = Stressed Out Kids?

Do Stressed Out Parents = Stressed Out Kids?

 I am not afraid to kill bugs.  Spiders?  No problem.  I squash them without a second thought.  Hubby works so much that I really had to learn the art of killing bugs very early in our marriage.  Here is a bug I found in Little Buddy's mouth one time.  Did I freak out?  Nope.  I just fished it out of his mouth and went about my day. 

However, wasps and anything that buzzes really scares the you know what out of me.  For some reason I have the impression that I will avoid being stung if I squirm around while flapping my arms and squealing like a little girl.  So far, it does actually seem to work fairly well.

Last weekend the weather was amazing.  We had the back door open and we ate breakfast on the patio and the kids played outside while we sipped our morning coffee (and tea for me).  It was pure bliss until I had to go inside for a refill.  While I was inside, I heard a buzzing, followed by "Mommmmiiiiiee!!!  Big buuuuuug!!!!"

I ran over and found the biggest bee/wasp you've ever seen.  Little Buddy innocently wandered over there to see what was making all the noise.  I must admit that I freaked out a little.  Okay, a lot.  I rushed over, grabbed him and told him to stay with me.  I held him tight while screaming at the top of my lungs, "Get in here!!  We have a huge wasp.  Hurry!!!"

Hubby calmly came in, got the fly swatter, killed the wasp, and then went back outside.  The chaos was over, but then Little Buddy didn't want to go back outside.  He started saying, "Mommy scared." His eyes were wide with fear.  I had thoroughly terrified the poor little guy.  I tried to take him outside to show him everything was fine now.  I let him sit on my lap and I patted his back and assured him that I wasn't scared anymore.  I tried to distract him by reading him a book and then pointing out the birds and the trees.  Unfortunately, every time I said something and asked for a response, his reply was always, "Mommy scared".  He was literally almost shaking.  Oops.

I guess I can see why it's hard for kids to see their Moms be scared about something.  They certainly don't like to see us cry. This made me realize that I need to simmer down a bit, and an article I read recently really seems to confirm this.  A study in the April release of Pediatrics found that premature babies whose parents were stressed or depressed were more likely to develop behavior problems by the age of three.  Now, of course, my kids weren't premies, and they aren't even babies anymore, so this study probably doesn't strictly apply, but I do think that the overall premise makes sense and was demonstrated that day when my own personal bias toward wasps scared Little Buddy so much.  When I think back, I was incredibly stressed with my first baby and she was also a very excitable child.  She used to panic if her room wasn't exactly the same very single night.  We worried that she would end up with OCD or high anxiety, but I have mellowed a lot as she's gotten older and I think she's mellowed with me.  Coincidence?  Could be, but I think not.  To me, stress breeds stress and this just reinforces that I really to chill out.  On that note, I think I'll go pour myself a bubble bath and a glass of wine.

PS...Don't worry...we ended up going to the zoo later and when we came home, Little Buddy had forgotten the entire thing and ran outside with Big Sis. I didn't permanently damage him for life.  Phew!

PPS...Please don't take this to mean that I am blaming every parent who has a child with OCD.  I fully understand that there around dozens of other factors that contribute to behavior problems, and some are simply genetics or a fluke, but I do think kids learn by example and so for me personally, I am going to try to portray a nice, calm, Zen exterior even if I am squirming and squealing in my own head.  We'll see how it goes.

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  1. OK that bug is freaking me out what kind of bug is that. I to believe that kids feed of their parents. I am a very hyper person and so is my daughter. I am trying to calm down for her sake so she does not become OCD neat freak like me..

    1. Haha it's a June bug...harmless!! And you sound just like me!

  2. I hear you. I am irrationally afraid of anything that flies and buzzes. I try to hold it in around my kids but it's an instinct to freak out, I think.

  3. Well if this is the case, Taylor is going to grow up with no patience whatsoever. I need to work on this. Hmmm....

  4. PS: I changed my domain to www.sittinginatree-blog.com. If I'm not showing up in your feed, can you fix it? I so love your blog and feel like I learn something new every time I visit. Your visits to me are like getting comments from my favorite advice blog ever. :)

  5. I agree with you:) Sometimes it's difficult not to stress and then the children also stress a bit but they calm when I calm down. Great post:) Happy Easter:)

  6. Kids inevitably mirror their parents' behaviour, I guess. But we're only human :)

  7. Great post! I really enjoyed reading this. I'm having to work on that. I'm naturally a worrier and I definitely don't want that for my baby.

  8. Haha- I am the same way. If I see a bug near me, I freak out and then my daughter freaks out!

  9. My question about that study - how did they find any parents of preemies who WEREN'T stressed or depressed to use as a control group?

    But no doubt, when I'm stressed my child seems to "catch" it, just like I "catch" it from my husband or he from me.

    I think the key is, yes, try to be aware of it in ourselves, then try to model the behavior we want in our kids. I take a deep breath, tell my kid I'm feeling cranky (or whatever applies) and I'm going to ________ - take a walk, have some alone time or apologize if I've been snappy.

    Or if it's ongoing - like when my mom is in the hospital again - just know it's going to be a bad time, for a week or two, and try to be gentle with us all. I'll tell my child that I'm sad and worried about my mom. I try to cut down non-essential tasks - but then the extra disorder adds to the stress. It can be hard on all of us, but hey, life is like that and we just have to keep chugging along, don't we?

  10. That's why I started taking medication for my PPD. I thought I should just "tough it out" but then I watched a PBS documentary on stress and it said something about mom's stress affecting her relationship with baby, and that was it. I knew I HAD to do something about my PPD, and that seemed to be the best idea.

    1. That's interesting Katie! I've never seen that documentary but I would love to!