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Family dynamics are fascinating. Parents in particular have an effect on their children that they may not even realize. If they are experiencing stress, for example, their reaction to and methods of coping with that stress are probably observed by their children — and eventually imitated — even if the parents are not aware of this dynamic.
This has been well researched and documented, and it will be interesting to see whether and how the pandemic alters this cycle of behavior. In an article on APA.org, the authors cite “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 parent is stressed.”
Think about that. Most parents cite their family duties as a source of their stress — and don’t recognize it affects their kids! But it does. “Children model their parents’ behaviors,” the article continues, “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.”
The lesson is clear, with ramifications for both parents and their kids. Parents might to think about the sources of their stress, how they handle it and, if appropriate, alter their behavior. To focus on developing healthy lifestyles and habits — and modeling that process — one might want to:
- Evaluate your lifestyle
- Talk about it
- Create a healthy environment
- Change one habit at a time
For further discussion of each of these steps, see the full APA article here.