Author David Code goes beyond warning parents about the effect their stress has on the lives of his children. He even blames their stress for “damaging their development and altering their DNA, because of crushing worry and anxiety.”
“Stress is highly contagious,” says David Code, an Episcopal minister and author of Kids Pick Up on Everything: How Parental Stress is Toxic to Kids. “Parental stress can weaken the development of a child’s brain or immune system, increasing the risk of allergies, obesity, or mental disorders.”
So calm down and socialize more. Resolve to start the new year with peace on hearth – it’s not only good for your health but your children’s physical and mental health too.
If you really want to make your kids happier, forgo the Xbox or iPad and invite friends over. The greatest gift you can give your children is your own, healthy relationships with other adults, Code says.
“That Xbox or iPad will placate the kids for a while, but soon they’ll demand even more. Far better to take the kids over to your friend’s house – you and your friend can relax with a drink while both sets of kids entertain each other. That means better social skills for your children, and lower stress levels for you as you ‘scratch that primal itch’ to bond, which reduces your stress,” he adds.
According to Code, research shows children can catch their parents’ stress just like they catch a virus. “Children are like little sponges, soaking up the free-floating stress in today’s anxious households until their developing nervous systems hit overload, at which point they act out, or develop symptoms of mental or physical illness.”
The mind-body connection strongly factors into almost every child’s behaviour –the parent’s mind affects their child’s body “through a kind of emotional pipeline,” Code says. The more stress a kid picks up from the parent, the more ill health – even if the parent is unaware of his or her own anxiety.
Personally I think Code goes over the top with the prognostications of DNA damage but I agree with his main contention. There is no doubt that stress from parents has effects on their offspring.
Code offers the following advice:
Steps to raise healthier kids, according to author David Code:
• Set up a no-screens-after-5 p.m. night: Turn off all screens, big and small and socialize.
• Socialize more with other parents while your kids play together. “If I could wave my magic wand and reduce the stress of today’s parents, I would give them a glass of wine, a friend, and an Italian village square to go socialize in every evening.”
• Bring on the potluck: Once a week dine with friends. “Since you have to make dinner anyway, a weekly potluck doesn’t suck that much time away from your current schedule.”
• Exercise with your spouse. Build muscle and your marriage too. “It’s easier to discuss tough topics and get emotional when you’re side by side on the treadmill or jogging down the street. It’s easier to be emotional in motion.” Even a short evening stroll together is great marital maintenance.
• Take a vacation every three months for a complete change of pace and a healthier family.
• Practice the daily vacation – lunch hour. “Instead of building stress over eight hours, you’ll start over again after lunch and not get so wound up by quitting time.”
• Establish the one-minute instant intimacy builder with your spouse. “When you both get home from work, while changing or preparing dinner, share your highlight and ‘lowlight’ of the day. Try to focus on one moment in time,” he says, adding that sharing one specific lowlight each day builds bonds because we won’t feel so alone in our suffering.