Why we should not ignore our own anxiety

When people are spending so much time at home together, recent research shows that parents suppressing their feelings of stress around their children can actually transmit those feelings to the children.

In a paper published by Washington State University a week ago on interactions between parents and children aged 7 to 11, it was found that children had a physical response when parents tried to hide their emotions. “When we tell kids that we're fine when we're not. It comes from a good place; we don't want to stress them out. But we may be doing the exact opposite.” says Sara Waters who conducted the research.

 

The more out of control parents feel - and during a global pandemic that feeling is likely exacerbated - the stronger they have an impulse to reassure their kids that everything is ok. "Research shows that it's more comforting for kids to have their feelings honoured than just be told “It's going to be fine”," Waters said. For instance, if a child tells their parents they’re upset not to see their friends anymore, don't immediately try to fix that problem, Waters said. "Just sit with them and give them a chance to regulate those emotions on their own," she suggests. "Try not to solve their problem. And give yourself permission to be frustrated and emotional."

6 ways to reduce anxiety or stress

1. Accepting and processing feelings

2. Identifying the worrying thoughts and finding alternative thoughts

3. Practicing breathing exercises

4. Expressing worries though words, drawing or role play

5. Focusing on what we CAN control and taking purposeful actions

6. Taking the time to practice a hobby or relaxing activities 

Out notebook on Managing Stress and Anxiety is full of stories, practical tips, techniques and activities that you can practice as a family and which have been designed by coaches and psychologists as a self-help guide.

 

Journal Reference: Sara F. Waters, Helena Rose Karnilowicz, Tessa V. West, Wendy Berry Mendes. Keep it to yourself? Parent emotion suppression influences physiological linkage and interaction behavior. Journal of Family Psychology, 23 Apr 2020

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