Students may learn stress from parents, study finds
PARENT stress is highly contagious, with kids struggling to deal with their personal problems.
A new study has found almost 40 per cent of upper primary school students think they worry too much, and that their parents’ stress may be the source.
Parents needed to encourage kids to focus on their strengths to keep calm, the study found.
Michelle McQuaid, who researches positive psychology and who partnered with Officeworks, said parents were key in teaching kids about how to deal with stress.
“Researchers have found that stress can be highly contagious,” she said.
“As parents it’s important to be aware about how our emotions can impact our children and find authentic and responsible ways to manage them and give our kids the same skills.
“We need to show kids that stress in itself isn’t bad, it’s about knowing what to do about it.”
She said parents could help children to cope with everyday stress by praising their child’s strengths.
The report, the Relationship between Strength-Based Parenting with Children’s Stress Levels and Strength-Based Coping Approaches, involved more than 100 upper-primary-school-aged children.
Anxiety House child psychologist Dr Emily O’Leary said stress could be a toxic cycle.
“As adults and parents, we model certain behaviours to those around us and when children are young, they pick up on those behaviours because we are their benchmarks of how to deal with stress and other situations,” she said.
“If we don’t have good coping strategies and ways to manage our emotions, it can filter down to them.”
But she warned parents shouldn’t make emotions like stress and fear seem psychologically abnormal.
“We build up emotions like anxiety or sadness into a culture of fear that are to be avoided,” Dr O’Leary said.
“It’s about how you deal with it and it can have a positive effect.”
Mum Nicole White said she tried to avoid putting any of her stress onto kids Jordan, 13, and Rhys, 11.
“I try never to take out how I’m feeling if I’m stressed — I try not to let them know about it,” she said.
“Sometimes I say I’ve had a tough day at work and need a bit of space but I don’t want to bring my work home — for me, it’s all about the kids.”
She said despite trying to juggle school, work and extra-curricular activities, the family tried to stay as organised as possible to avoid stress.
“I like to be as realistic as possible for them and that things don’t always go the way you think they might,” Mrs White said.
“We are so frantic going from one place to the next … it’s challenging but it’s something you as a family learn to manage.”