By Vicki Thrasher Cronin
Licensed Parent Educator, Pre-K Teacher
The addition of a baby to the family brings great joy, but the changes and additional responsibilities that come with your new baby can be stressful. It is important right from the start to ensure that you and your family members are open to recognizing and talking about all the feelings each of you is experiencing; your children are learning how to deal with stress from you.
Feelings are our individual emotional response to our own personal interpretation of what’s going on in our life. During times of change, like adding a new family member, our emotional selves are working overtime. Adapting to change takes a lot of management skill as well as understanding that, as adults, each of us is responsible for our actions and/or reactions. Babies and young children are still learning about feelings. They have to learn names for each of the feelings they have, what it is that elicits the various different ones, and how to react. And they are learning all of this from us. So, while you are “stressed,” what you do and how you manage your stress will be an example – positive or negative – for your children.
The first step in dealing with family stress is to acknowledge that it exists. Name it. Specifically what is it, (there may be several different stressors) that is causing the frustration, concern or sense of being overwhelmed. Once you have named it, you can tame it so to speak. Then, decide how you want to respond to each of these named stressors, and share these decisions with your family. Don’t be surprised to learn that others in the family share some of your stressors as well as others. It is here, at the intersection of the shared stressors, that family members will find support for each other.
Young families can think of themselves as a team. Pick your favorite team sport: think about the rules of the game, the gear necessary for the team to be successful, etc., and draw an analogy to what it is that your “team” needs to be successful. What are the positions or roles that need to be filled? What are the specific skills and/or equipment necessary for each position to make each player successful? What are the words or the “coaching” terms needed to help team mates through difficult moments or exhaustion.
Stress is always a part of life. It’s how you think about it and how you respond to it that makes the difference. As a parent you are the leader, the coach and the teacher. Your children are learning from you. Be aware of the power that your modeling has on your children.