The other day my eleven year old daughter told me that she was “stressed out”. She used the phrase correctly and in a moment where she truly was feeling very overwhelmed and quite possibly stressed out. But something happened to me when she used that phrase.
It put me in pure panic mode.
I know what stressed out feels like, I didn’t want my daughter even know what that was let alone know how it feels.
Not only did I freeze and panic, it put me in a ‘wake the fuck up’ moment of parenting. You see, I not only feel stressed out all the time, I say it all the time, I ooze the feeling out of my pores.
It’s in my face when I check my phone for work texts first thing in the morning. It’s in my voice as I check the schedule to see if there is anything special due at school that day. It’s the furrow of my brow as I start organizing what we have after school for activities. It’s in my voice as I yell for them to ‘hurry up or we will be late for school’.
And this is only the first 10 minutes of our day.
I remember seeing my Mom stressed. I hated it. It made me uncomfortable. I internalized it deeply. If my Mom was stressed it was because of something that I did. I always thought it was my fault. I have carried that with me my entire life, yet when it comes to being stressed out in front of my kids- it is 100% nothing to do with them.
But, how do I not put it on them? How do I let them know that it is my stress to carry? That my stress is due to me not them?
I know, that sounds weird because being a parent is full on stress. But, the stress isn’t their fault. I never thought of it as anyone’s fault but my own, yet my kids see my stress and feel it and internalize it just as I did.
I don’t wear stress as a badge of honour, but I wear it.
It’s not helping me.
It’s obviously not helping my kids.
How do you deal with stress in front of your children?