Today’s parents are devoted to their kids, there’s no mistaking it. But the vast majority of these same parents are stressed at work and they’re taking it home, and research shows that what’s stressing kids the most is how stressed their parents have become. Most parents are oblivious to the impact their stress level is having on their kids and fueling the problem is the fact that 83 percent of Americans are doing little or nothing to alleviate the stress in their lives.
This bodes poorly for children because mom and dad’s stress opens the door to kids having problems at school and even later in life. A parent’s stress registers with the kids and sets off stress reactions that send unhealthy amounts of stress hormones coursing through the child’s developing brain, and that can mean learning and behavioral problems.
The area of the brain most vulnerable to stress is the prefrontal cortex or higher brain. This region generates everything we think of as human intelligence, and provides the top-down regulation for emotions, desires, and impulse control. Stress hormones shrink the prefrontal cortex, debilitating higher brain functions. It weakens memory and learning, and it can even alter a child’s DNA in unfortunate ways.
And it all starts with the work stress mom and dad bring home.
One child in the study said, “I know when my mom has a bad day because she doesn’t smile.” Another child feels it in the slow way his dad walks into the house. Another child voiced what the researcher concluded from the data. He said, “If our parents were less tired and stressed, kids would be less tired and stressed too.”
Another study asked kids what they wanted most from their parents and then asked parents to guess what kids said. The parents thought it was for more quality time or a trip to Disneyland.
Not so. What kids wanted was a stress free parent. They want their parents to handle work stress better, so they have less of it to bring home. It’s a wake-up call for parents as they face the annual rite of passage called “back-to-school”.
Kids mirror their parent’s attitude, so the ball is in the parent’s court to learn to rise above stressors at work, and, happily, there are proven ways that strengthen our capacity to be calmer, more creative and optimistic as we face problems. These techniques could not be simpler.
One example is The Clear Button. This tool is an effective way of busting stressful thinking. We human being think our way into all sorts of stressful event purely in our heads, exciting upsetting emotions that produce a misperception of threat that can send the mind and body into an uproar. This pattern generates the vast majority of stress reactions people experience and it’s all linked to mere thoughts. Michel de Montaigne summed it up 500 years ago, when he said, “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.”
Nature gave us a 90 second window to bust stressful thinking before it takes a long walk off a short pier, and The Clear Button gets us through the window in time.
Here’s all you do. You image a button at the center of your palm. You press it and count to 3, thinking of each number as a color.
- Breathe in, count 1, think red.
- Breathe in, count 2, think blue.
- Breathe in, count 3, think green.
- On the exhale, completely let go of thinking anything for a moment.
The more you bust stressful thinking during the day, the more likely you will be the parent kids are hoping to see at the end of day.
What is the neurological basis for why this technique work? The part of the brain that causes stress reactions literally has the intelligence of a toddler. And every parent knows you don’t stop a tantrum by appealing to a child’s logic. You distract them. This tool distracts the terrible two-year-old in your brain from going off the deep end.
There are other such tools. I present 20 proven tools and processes in my book. These processes are neuroplastic in nature, meaning that – with practice – they can rewire the brain to extinguish knee jerk stress reactions and make a person relatively stress-free. All in a matter of four to six weeks.