Dad’s Bad Moods Matter, Too
A mom sits in my office, flooded with tears. She uses words like, “overwhelming”, “anger”, and “outbursts”. She describes interactions that trigger anxiety for her, sometimes resulting in panic attacks. She tries to find the balance. She tries to remain calm, mindful, and present. She tries … but she always feels like she comes up short.
She isn’t talking about one of her children. This isn’t a case of frequent tantrums or emotional overload. She isn’t talking about her own emotions, although she admits that she sometimes cries at night when the kids are asleep. She’s talking about her husband. More specifically, she’s talking about the stress he carries with him, how he processes it, and what happens when he finally lets it out.
As much as she tries to suggest therapy or to teach him some of the relaxation strategies she has learned to cope with her own stress, the fact is that he’s not ready to learn. His job is stressful. Finances are tight. Time feels nonexistent some days. He’s in survival mode. His bad moods are overwhelming. The problem, of course, is that his survival mode negatively impacts the whole family.
Moms often take the blame when it comes to the trickle down effect that stress ignites within families. “Remember, your kids learn from what you do, not what you say,” is tired advice that leaves moms feeling guilty and overwhelmed at the end of a bad day.
The emotional health of parents can and does impact children, and it’s important that parents care for their own needs.
A new study from Michigan State University shows that a dad’s bad mood is every bit as impactful on the emotional and behavioral development of children as a mom’s.
Using a questionnaire, researchers studied 730 (primarily low-income) families to determine the effects of parenting stress on children. Results showed that when dads are significantly stressed and show symptoms of depression, toddlers’ language development is impaired and father’s depression during the toddler years negatively impacted children’s social skills down the line.
In short, both parents impact the development of their children.
Parenting can be stressful at times. Add to that financial stress, marital stress, and various other forms of stress (job related, health related, etc.), and symptoms of depression and/or anxiety can emerge. Parents often report feeling pressured to care for the needs of their kids first, but this can backfire. The emotional health of parents can and does impact children, and it’s important that parents care for their own needs.
So how can you do that?