This post is in partnership with Stress Health, an initiative of the Center for Youth Wellness. All opinions are my own.
I heard myself say to my son, “Dry your face and stop crying.” Immediately more tears fall from his eyes, yet he had to figure out how to obey my command and stop what he naturally felt. He feels more stressed than ever. You would think that as emotional as I am as a person, I would understand how to handle my son’s mirrored emotions. Nope, I didn’t handle it well at all. As a mother, my expectation is for my son to be better than me. In general, that’s what a parent wants.
How to put too much stress on your kids
But I soon realized that my expectation for my son to be better than me will cripple him in the future. Every day that I don’t give him the opportunity to be vulnerable, I cause him emotional stress. I catch myself wanting him not to appear too weak, to neither have lazy speech nor to appear so polished that people will think he is “stuck up.” There are nights when homework ends in tears because without realizing it, I force him to be perfect in every subject. I had been dictating his every move instead of nurturing and guiding his personality.
What stress and anxiety in kids does to future Relationships
I learned that my own childhood trauma and expectations were causing stress on my children. Stress is often unspoken, and trauma interrupts the physiological design of children once it’s experienced. It was time for me to be more conscious of the kind of parent I needed to be. It’s difficult to be a little boy today. There is the expectation they should never cry or show weakness. But what about when that little boy does cry and gets in trouble?What about when his classmate, Cindy beats him at dodge ball and bruises his ego, but he’s not allowed to show it? What about when that little boy picks up a doll, and his dad shouts to put it down? Those little boys can grow into hard men, too tough to express their feelings. It becomes a vicious cycle of stress and expectation passed down from generation to generation.
What can I do to Comfort my Son and Prevent Stress & Anxiety
Consider your children’s emotions and what might be causing their behaviors. For example, if your child throws a tantrum to gain attention,it’s okay to correct that behavior. It’s also ok to give your children tasks and guidance to help them to become strong adults. But it’s not ok to allow them to shut out their emotions and vulnerability. Here are five tips to help your child deal with their stress:
- Ask what’s wrong
- Get eye level and keep your tone gentle and calm. Believe it or not, this is one of the first signs in welcoming a loving conversation.
- Allow your children to express themselves. If they are doing something you do not like, ask them why they choose to do that thing. Discuss what other choices they could make.
- When guiding your children be patient, study their personality to tailor your parenting to that child. If you have two or more kids, they may not learn or take discipline the same way.
- Hug your children and let them be vulnerable. Show them that you accept who they are in that moment by saying “its ok to feel sad, angry, happy or mad.”
- If they don’t feel like talking, let them know you are there for them when they’re ready.
For parents, especially those who’ve experienced trauma as a child, the website Stress Health has more tips on raising healthy, resilient kids.
Do you allow your children to be vulnerable? How do you handle their stress? Give us your tips and answers below.