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No matter how intent we are onhiding our stress from our children it inevitably wears on them.  I’m not talking about Acute Stress, like waking up late or hitting all red lights on the way to drop off.  That will stress your child out too, but with less long term affects.  I’m talking about Chronic Stress, the kind of stress that comes from illness in the family, career changes, moves or a bad economy.

You may think you are a master thespian when it comes to hiding stress, but our children are hardwired to trust their intuition, so no mask in the world is going to prevent them from knowing that something is eating at you.  Recently I asked my children how they know when I’m stressed.  My daughter who is 12 took her hands and separated them while making an “explosion” noise.  I had to laugh, she’s correct.  If I’m stressed I carry it outside of my body and like a force parting the Red Sea I  can move things out of my way just by looking at them.  I then asked them how they know when their dad, a total introvert, is stressed.  Again with the hands, my daughter drew them in, clasped them tightly and hunched her back.  She said, “It feels like this.”  So even though my husband thinks he has a fool-proof mask he’s busted by the kids.  She was correct.  My husband retreats emotionally afraid to let anyone know he’s out of sorts.

How do we know when our kids are stressed?  They have their own tells.  One becomes completely withdrawn and picks her nails the other walks around the house checking on everyone.  Here are some other common “tells” that may indicate your child is internalizing the family stress. 

Signs of Stress in Your Child(ren):

1) Sudden Behavioral Changes

2) An inability to keep track of their belongings

3)They become super clingy or anti-social

4)The whine factor increase (making you want to increase your own wine factor)

5)Grades start slipping

6)Self sabotage can occur (nail biting, thumb sucking, scratching themselves etc.)

For tips on how to break the stress patterns and bring back balance, read next week’s blog.  In the meantime, share with us what you’ve noticed about stress and your children.

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