Dr. Inna Leiter
How to Raise a Resilient Child - Part 2
Updated: Feb 15, 2019
Build Your Own Distress Tolerance
As parents, we are models for our children when it comes to everything. Our kids are like little sponges; whether they want to admit it or not, they look up to us and end up emulating what we do. Knowing this, many parents do things like teaching their kids manners by making it a point to always say their pleases and thank you’s in front of the little ones. Some parents try to provide examples of benevolence for their kiddos by demonstrating acts of kindness for others while with them. Many even start eating at little healthier when they become parents in order to promote that behavior in their children. But one area that often gets overlooked is how we, as parents, display our own distress tolerance in the face of stressful events or even just everyday, ubiquitous risks.
It’s hard not to audibly gasp when our toddlers trip and fall or jump out of our skin when our school-aged daughter is doing something that we deem risky. But the “frantic-ness” (reactiveness) with which we respond to these situations shapes the “frantic-ness” with which they will respond to the things that scare or stress them. We can’t control for the hereditary component of anxiety, so being thoughtful about the environmental contributors (that we bring) to the development of anxiety in children is particularly important. Parents of anxious kids tend to be more anxious themselves, so it’s something that can take some extra effort on the part of mom and dad. Being conscious about acting less reactive and more calm is easier said than done, but it’s certainly possible – and highly advantageous for our little ones.
This also extends to the way that parents deal with their own stressors, child-related or not. As kids get a little older and start understanding adult discussions, they are picking up on how you handle the stressors, curve-balls, decisions, difficult situations, and ambiguity that life throws your way. If you react by catastrophizing (talking about the worst possible outcome of an action or event), panicking, and ruminating in front of your children, they are passively learning that these are the ways that one deals with anxiety-provoking events.
Of course, it is not possible to completely avoid acting frantic, stressed, and jumpy in front of our kids. As parents, we’re only human. But bringing a level of effort and thoughtfulness to modeling how we react to anxiety-provoking triggers can go a long way in shaping the ways our kids do the same. Identifying the methods that help you act and feel less reactive is a very personal process of trial and error. If you’d like to read about some tools that are specifically tailored toward parents, check out this article (N.B: I am not a big fan of the title, but these ideas are feasible and effective, so give it a read as a good place to start): 7 Tricks to Help Stressed Moms Chill Out.
To learn more about CBT for anxiety, please feel free to contact the office of Dr. Inna Leiter (in Media, PA) for an initial 15-minute consultation at 267-551-1984 or send an email to email@example.com.