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Video: How your stress impacts your kids

By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/8/2011 10:03:49 AM ET 2011-09-08T14:03:49

What are you worried about? Chances are, it won’t happen.

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Only 15 percent of what we worry about actually comes to pass, according to researchers at the University of Cincinnati. As Mark Twain quipped, “My life has been filled with calamities, some of which actually happened.” So does this mean we should take the song “Don’t worry, be happy” as a motto to live by? Worrying is something most of us are familiar with. It can give us the feeling we have control over the uncontrollable.

Worrying and stress are part of living in a fast-paced, over-stimulated and sometimes dangerous world. Add parenting into this mix, and you have even more reasons to drive yourself insane thinking about the unthinkable. Health issues, bullying, childhood obesity, the evils of cyberspace, premature sex, drug use, unsavory characters … the list goes on. How is a responsible parent to relax and worry less?

When done within reason, worrying can be useful. It can help us resolve potential problems and prepare appropriately for future events. The problem is that instead of solving problems which need to be solved, chronic worriers often generate more concerns for both themselves and their children. Not only is worrying a significant problem for the person who is overwhelmed by it, but this contagious tension can be equally as hazardous for their kids.

Studies show habitual parental worrying interferes with a child’s self-confidence and self esteem. Parents who over-worry send the message to their kids that they expect the worst to happen, or that they believe their children won’t be able to handle life’s challenges. These kids become victims of their parent’s fears. It’s no secret children are very sensitive to parental attitudes and emotions. Parents who over-worry teach their children that life’s problems are unsolvable. This is a scary message for children to internalize, especially since most worries are based on unwarranted fears.

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So, how can parents learn to worry less? The good news is you can control  worrying if you use the right approach. Here are some tips:

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Worry Well
Worriers can turn any situation into a possible catastrophe. Learn how to analyze the accuracy of your thinking. Identify when it’s unrealistic and extreme. Ask yourself if you’re responding to something in your imagination or your circumstances, then train yourself to think more realistically.

Decatastrophize
Instead of chronically worrying, ask yourself what if your worst nightmare did happen. How would you handle it and what would you do? Having solutions will give you the sense of being more in control of your life and less helpless.

Take Action
The best antidote to worrying is to take action. If there is an action to take to lesson the chance of the dreaded outcome happening, then take it!

Parents, keep your habitual worrying away from your kids!
Become aware of your voice and facial expressions when interacting with your child. Practice expressing genuine confidence in their ability to succeed and problem-solve. And talk out your fears with trusted friends or a support group.


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