- Ways to manage stress at home
- How to make a healthy environment
- How obesity contributes to stress
An online survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), conducted by Harris Interactive in August 2010, found that 73% of parents report family responsibilities as a significant source of stress. The survey also found that more than two-thirds of parents think their stress level has slight to no impact on their child’s stress level. However, only 14% of tweens and teens reported that they are not bothered when their parents are stressed.
Furthermore, the connection between high stress levels and health is alarming, with 34% of obese parents experiencing high levels of stress (defined as an 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale) as compared to 23% of normal-weight parents. It is important to consider the way a parent’s stress and corresponding unhealthy behaviors affect the family. For example, the APA survey found that parents who are obese are more likely than those who are normal weight to have children who are obese. In addition, overweight children are more likely than normal-weight children to report that their parents are often worried and stressed.
Children model their parents’ behaviors, including those related to managing stress. Parents who deal with stress in unhealthy ways risk passing those behaviors on to their children.
Alternatively, parents who cope with stress in healthy ways can not only promote better adjustment and happiness for themselves, but also promote the formation of critically important habits and skills in children.
APA offers tips to get you and your family started down a healthy path:
Evaluate your lifestyle. If your whole family practices healthy living and good stress management techniques they will be less likely to associate stress with unhealthy behavior. So, ask yourself―How do I respond to stress? Do I tend to overeat or engage in other unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, when I feel stressed? In what ways could my stress coping skills be improved?
Talk about it. Having regular conversations can help a family work together to better understand and address any stressors children are experiencing. Low levels of parental communication have been associated with poor decision making among children and teens. Talking to your children and promoting open communication and problem solving is just as important as eating well and getting enough exercise and sleep.
Create a healthy environment. Altering your environment can help alleviate stress. For example, cleaning up a cluttered environment can help. Clearing up your home space for the family is something you and your children can control, and it teaches children to focus on those things they can control when feeling stressed.
Focus on yourself. When you and your family are experiencing stress, make a conscious decision to take care of yourselves. Get adequate doses of nutrients, physical activity, and sleep. Research shows that children who are sleep-deficient are more likely to have behavioral problems. A healthy dinner followed by an activity with your family, such as walking, bike riding, playing catch or a board game, and topped off with a good night’s sleep can do a lot to manage or to lessen the negative effects of stress.
Change one habit at a time. Changing behaviors usually takes time. By starting with changing one behavior, you and your family are more likely to experience success, which can then encourage your family to tackle other challenges and to continue making additional healthy changes.
If you or a family member continues to struggle with changing unhealthy behaviors or feels overwhelmed by stress, consider seeking help from a health professional, such as a psychologist. Psychologists are licensed and trained to help you develop strategies to manage stress effectively and make behavioral changes to help improve your overall health.
David Palmiter, PhD, and Mary K. Alvord, PhD “American Psychological Association (APA).” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 18 Oct. 2018, https://www.apa.org/. “Managing Stress for a Healthy Family”
Ackard, D.M., Neumark-Sztainer, D., Story, M., & Perry, C. (2006). “Parent-Child Connectedness and Behavioral and Emotional Health Among Adolescents.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Vol. 30, pp. 59–66.
Aronen, E.T., Paavonen, E.J., Jallberg, M. F., Soininen, M. & Torrenen, J. (2000). “Sleep and psychiatric symptoms in school-age children.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vol. 39, pp. 502–508.
Patrick, H. & Nicklas,T.A. (2005). “A Review of Family and Social Determinants of Children’s Eating Patterns and Diet Quality.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 24, pp. 83–92.