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When Your Stress Becomes Their Stress

imageI fly quite a bit and most of the time I’m flying alone.  It’t pretty easy to fly alone.  I can find a seat in a crowded terminal and I don’t have much stuff to look after.

However, I know what it’s like to fly with kids.  We’ve flown domestic and international with our girls.  We’ve flown on little planes and the huge ones with meals and lack of sleep. We’ve had smooth flights and ones that made my girls giggle with glee due to bumps while other passengers were terrified.

We’re pretty good travelers once we are in the air but it still can bring out the worst in us. I’ve learned something from the way they act when we are flying.  They act up when we’re leaving the house, they become really cranky in security and then we seem to have an emergency just when we are trying to get all our stuff together and get on the plane.  If we are racing to the gate they seem to find an even slower gear and it isn’t unusual for one or both girls to cry, pout or scream.

What makes this strange is that my girls don’t normally act this way.  I’ve seen other perfectly reasonable kids do the same thing.  And I think I’ve found the secret to their behavior:  ME!

I tend to get a bit stressed during the pre-flight process.  I love to fly but I run a low (my wife would say high) level of impatience and jitteriness up until the time that I’m in my seat and the door is closed.  I’m the guy that needs to be at the airport over an hour before departure.  I have a system to get through security efficiently and it bugs me to see people bumbling through the line oblivious to how it is supposed to work.

I’ve recently watched my dad travel and he seems to run on the same slow burn that I am until he is sitting on the plane with his Bose headphones on.

Back to the secret to my kids acting out. It is me, specifically my emotional slow burner.  When my oldest was a baby she would need a diaper change right when we were boarding.  It was because I made her poor little stomach turn because of my stress.  I wasn’t shouting at her but she knew her daddy was uptight so she became uptight.  My agitation made them walk on pins.

Each of us do things that cause some anxiety in our lives.  For some the routine of getting ready for church carries all sorts of hidden traps.  Mom may be stressed getting everyone “ready” but deep down is remembering her mom who years ago said, “you’re not dressing like THAT to church!”  Dad may remember his dad sitting in the drive way honking the horn and the fight that followed.  The reality is that us parents can get stressed out and that stress seems to hop to our kids and result in some crazy situations.

So what can we do?  Watch our kids for those times in which they seem a bit keyed up, emotional or acting unlike themselves.  When you notice their behavior, do a quick self check and ask how you’ve been acting leading up to that moment.

My guess is that through introspection, asking your spouse and maybe even asking your kids, you’ll learn that you have a opportunity to grow and change your thoughts, beliefs and actions which will lead to your kids being more relaxed and engaged.

Do you notice your kids reacting to your emotional patterns?

One Comment on “When Your Stress Becomes Their Stress

  1. This is so totally me. I grew up perceiving the world around me as a scary and threatening place. I have realized what an effect this has had on my kids I have sought out ways to not only change my own perceptions and behaviors but also ways to encourage my children to be more curious about the world around them hoping that they will not be as fearful as I am. Stress is contagious but so is peace and as I am bearing out my fears and taking an active role in setting an example of trust in God’s providence and peace in understanding along with a good dose of rolling with the punches, I am seeing a change in my kids attitudes to new adventures and that makes me glad 🙂