Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: My stress, your stress, our stress

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: My stress, your stress, our stress

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Japan

If you are alive, there is stress in your life, and in your family life. Some people wake up screaming. Some people can’t sleep. Some people stay in bed most of the day. Every human being reacts differently to stress. And, within the family dynamic certain stressors such as arguments, fighting, lack of communication and poor negotiating (fighting) skills can add more stress to your life. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered every aspect of our lives from health, work, education and exercise. The American Psychological Association warns that in the long-term, the negative mental health effects of the coronavirus will be serious and long-lasting.

Pandemic or not, stress does not stop and it’s also affecting our children especially in their relationships with members of their family: "Even though children know when their parents are stressed and admit that it directly affects them, parents are grossly underestimating the impact that their stress is having on their children," psychologist Katherine C. Nordal, PhD said. Knowing what the triggers are, how to manage stress in a healthy manner are important skills parents must teach their children, Nordal added.

In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, results showed parents underestimated how much stress their children experience and the impact their own stress had on them. Raising a family is rewarding and demanding even in healthy, social, and economic climates. Setting an example for your children on the right way to tolerate uncertainty and build resilience is not an easy task, so it’s okay to say, “I don’t know…yet,” to children.

The American Psychological Association found that 73% of parents reported family responsibilities as a significant source of stress and an overwhelming two-third of those surveyed thought their own stress had little to no impact on their kids. While we know now this is not true, one good first step is to increase communication. 

Talk about it. If you notice that your children are looking worried or stressed, ask them what’s on their mind. Welcome their questions. With the confusion of COVID-19 and so many other issues affecting today’s youth, kids are bound to have questions. Starting a conversation is helpful to better understand and address feelings of stress amongst members of the family unit.

Chores are an opportunity to set the emotional tone and have a conversation about stress and the virus.  Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe. An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the safety precautions that you, and others around you, are taking. Ask your kids to tell you anything they heard about the virus, and how they feel. 

If you are struggling to cope with today’s life events, don’t act like a turtle and withdraw. Family Advocacy Program services are available at every military installation where families are assigned. Trained professionals offer a range of services and programs, including skill building for healthy relationships, communications, conflict resolution, and support for expecting parents, to name a few services. FAP’s priority is safety for individuals and families in the military community encouraging violence-free relationships, nurturing parenting, and building on individual and family strengths.  

Instant Insights: We are all in this together; one family.

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Hilary Valdez is a retiree living in Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle. Learn more about Valdez and contact him at www.hilaryvaldez.com or at InstantInsights@hotmail.com.

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