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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Are our kids inheriting our stress?

As a working mom with huge to-do lists, I'm often stressed. And, my kids know it. Sometimes I'll be trying to do a few things at the same time and one of them will say to me, "mom, you looked stressed.'' But after reading an article this weekend, I'm having second thoughts about showing stress in front of my kids.

The article said college kids are so stressed out from everyday worries they are having trouble eating, sleeping and studying. Four in 10 students say they endure stress often and one in five say they feel it all or most of the time. Darker still, one in six have friends who have discussed suicide and one in 10 have considered it themselves.

So what's stressing these students out? Most attribute it to school work and grades, financial problems, relationships and dating, family problems and extracurricular activities. Sadly, college women have a more stressful existence than men, with 45 percent of females and 34 percent of males saying they face frequent stress.

I asked my kids whether they ever feel stressed. Without hesitation they said yes. They told me homework is what stresses them. As a kid, I remember worrying about getting my homework done. But I don't remember feeling "stressed" over it. So, I have to wonder, are kids emulating their parents?

I just started making a point to spend at least ten minutes a day doing something fun for myself ---reading a magazine article, walking around the block, doing a crossword puzzle. Sometimes, I include my kids in the activity, to show them how I unwind. But I wonder which message is stronger. Do you kids are feeling stressed too early in life? Are we doing a good enough job of teaching our children how to cope with stress? Are we doing a good enough job of learning how to deal with our own stress?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Stress" is a common term used today. And it is really nothing to be stressed about. Children hear and see and emulate the words and attitudes that surround them, parents, friends, media...if you show "stress" they will show "stress". If you show that life is filled with "responsibility" and you have a good attitude towards it, they will too. If you show that you have many things to do within your day, and that you enjoy it, they also will enjoy the many tasks that stand before them. Help them to enjoy their day and their responsibilities by showing that you enjoy yours. - Aron Neelie

9:32 AM  
Blogger Cindy Goodman said...

Great advice, thanks for your post.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Michael L. Gooch said...

I agree with Aron. One way to deal with what we call stress today is to use a little humor. In that vein, in my management book, Wingtips with Spurs, I give a few examples of stressor at work. Maybe you can identify with a few of them. (I identify with all of them!)Here are a few simple but real-life examples of what I mean:

• Your passive-aggressive coworker can hand you stress that will give you the gift of high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat (arrhythmia), blood clotting issues, and atherosclerosis. Stress also triggers coronary artery disease and heart attacks. Your death will only please the coworker and the funeral home. Well, at least, you’ll be going to your grave knowing that someone will be getting pleasure out of your early death.

• People who have jerks for bosses tend to have various muscle pains caused by stress-induced tension. A disgruntled boss can even lead to rheumatoid arthritis. That’s okay. Your children will understand that your back spasms prevent you from playing catch. The boss certainly trumps the kids. Am I correct? When did the kids ever give you a paycheck?

• The self-important, know-it-all down the hallway can deliver stress to your cubicle that plays a role in gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcer disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. You always thought he made you sick. Now you know.

• An overloaded work schedule can result in painful menstrual periods, decreased fertility, and erection problems. The $40 a week that you make in forced overtime is worth every penny of your non-functional reproductive system. Besides, who has time for a love life? Your life is rich enough. With any luck, you’ll receive the three percent annual increase.

• A mind-numbing, repetitive, meaningless job with no chance for advancement will generate stress that can worsen your asthma and COPD. Oh well, your job is certainly worth a portion of your oxygen. Blue lips are not that bad. They’ve been selling lipstick for years. At least it’s better than starting a new job. Now that’s scary.

• The boss who won’t listen to your ideas can give you acne and psoriasis. He’s probably too important and busy to hear your suggestions. Besides, what’s a little chronic skin condition characterized by inflamed, red, raised areas that develop silvery scales compared to the important stuff he has to deal with?

• The insulting, backstabbing department head can weaken your immune system, making you more vulnerable to colds and minor infections as well as major diseases. Actually saying something to this department head might make him mad so you can put up with a few major diseases.

• Your incompetent partner, who also happens to be the boss’s nephew, can shovel enough stress your way to give you headaches and even panic attacks. Rather than confront the obvious, you’d rather take aspirin and run your car into the occasional telephone pole.

• The “fight or flight” response elicited by the promotion of the twenty-three-year-old recent college graduate—your new boss—has raised your blood glucose levels, making it harder to control your diabetes. I hope that this unjust promotion will not cost you your foot or leg. If it does, your new twenty-three-year-old boss will probably send his secretary over with a condolence card. He’s thoughtful like that.

• The coworker who continually steals your cost-savings ideas and always refuses to share credit can provide enough stress to give you a good case of insomnia and/or depression. You had a good idea on how to rig up a hose to your car exhaust, but he’d probably steal that, too. Standing up to him might cause you social embarrassment. Carbon monoxide may be the easier route.

• Since 1993, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has recorded more than eight hundred workplace homicides per year. How many of these homicides at work do you suppose were stress-related? You’ve now moved from being really sick and suffering from possibly life-threatening conditions to pennies-on-your-eyes, graveyard dead.

Michael L. Gooch, SPHR

10:47 PM  

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