Is it wrong to make children aware of your stress?

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If there’s one thing guaranteed to make a parent feel stressed, it’s when their offspring accidentally hits another child on the head. This is exactly what happened at the swimming pool the other day when Izzy, my youngest daughter lost control of a ride-on toy boat she was using and, bump, collided with a small boy in the pool. As the responsible adult overseeing my child’s behaviour, I felt the need to apologise and give the boat to someone else, all the while my stress levels were going through the roof.

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Is it wrong to tell your child when they are making you feel stressed? Pic credit: Max van den Oetelaar on unsplash.

With the ride-on toy dispensed with, I did something, the wisdom of which I am questioning. I very calmly told Izzy that her behaviour was causing me stress.

I’ve felt a bit awkward about this ever since. Should I really have done that? Aren’t us mums and dads meant to shield out kids from stress?

On the other hand, we all go out of our way to tell our kids when they make us happy. We also tell them when they make us cross because they’ve done something wrong. If you make clear to your child their behaviour is making you stressed, well, that just doesn’t seem to be the done thing, does it? It’s an emotion us adults talk about freely but not something we seem to discuss with children.

As ever, there is a little back story so let me tell you exactly what happened. This incident occurred while Mrs Adams was in Scotland visiting family. I had been flying solo with the kids for a couple of days. I’m quite used to this, it’s no big deal, but parenting is always harder work when there isn’t someone there to share the load (single mums and dads, I salute you).

Earlier that morning there had been a couple of minor behavioral issues. I’d had words with Izzy when I caught her treating my iPad roughly.

When the kids asked if I would take them swimming, it seemed like a good idea. Even so, I knew it would present a few challenges.

When I take the kids swimming on my own, I have to stay by Izzy’s side because she is not an advanced swimmer and can also be over confident in the water.  Helen is a very strong swimmer so can be left to her own devices but I do keep my Dad-dar switched on so I always know where she is in the pool.

You can probably see my mistake already can’t you? After a stressful morning, I should have taken the kids to the cinema or a pilates class or something. A crowded swimming pool was not going to do anything to reduce stress levels that were already higher than normal.

Just before the incident with the ride-on boat, Helen and Izzy had an argument. Helen didn’t want to play the same game as Izzy and then Helen was upset with me because I was spending all my time with Izzy. Things were not going well.

It was seconds after this disagreement took place that Izzy lost control of the toy and it hit this boy in the head. It was of a tap, truth be told, but I’d spent quite a bit of time navigating that boat through the crowded pool, ensuring Izzy didn’t bump into anyone.

I simply couldn’t keep an eye on Izzy, the boat, other people and Helen at the same time. The bickering siblings, the knowledge I was on my own with the children for another day, oh it was all too much.

I didn’t snap and I didn’t shout. I was very matter of fact about it. Although I was calm and measured, my words got a very poor response from Izzy, although she soon calmed down.

Stress is something we all experience. As I say, we talk about all manner of emotions with our kids. Should communication like this be a one way street? If we want kids to open up to us, shouldn’t we, as parents, be open with them, even if it means be open about our stress levels?

What do you think? Is it correct to tell your children when their behavior is having a negative impact on you? Is it correct to let your children know they’re making you stressed? Was I simply being daft by taking them to the swimming pool on my own? Feel free to leave a comment below.


4 thoughts on “Is it wrong to make children aware of your stress?”

  1. I don’t know if it is single parenthood or just me but my kids have seen me completely melt down, I tell them they’re stressing me out and I have cried in front of them. I’m not sure it’s the best parenting option but their behaviour has at times pushed me to the edge (and this may well have been, at times affected by what was going on with the divorce etc). I don’t think you can or should shield your children from everything negative though – and my children have grown a little empathy and understanding that the consequences of their negative actions don’t just impact on them (with a time out etc) but impact on the emotional well being of others too. I think that’s genuinely an important lesson.

    1. Interesting. My earliest years were spent in a single parent household (more of an extended family household but my father wasn’t present). I grew empathy for my mother over time. That said, i don’t think it is a single parent thing. It must be harder and I can imagine the melt downs and a bit more frequent, but I am aware of nuclear families where the parents have total melt downs. Anyway, I’m inclined to agree. You shouldn’t shield your children from every stress of difficulty. That will simply never work and do them a dis-service.

  2. Let me cover this first: I admit it that I hate taking the girls swimming – I always have. The whole stress of a dad with four girls in a unisex changing area is one thing. The stress of getting out of the warm(ish) water and then having 4 cold girls to coral through the trauma if drying and dressing. No, hate it. I don’t apologise for hating it either. I do, however, apologise that my girls aren’t as good at swimming as they should be – but they can do a mean eshape so that’s ok.
    Anyway, not I think letting them know is a good thing. Kids have this bubble around them that often means they are oblivious to how us parents are feeling. If you don’t tell them they wouldn’t know. We are always very open with the girls (probably too open at times). Be it stress, how we’re feeling or money worries – they know.

    1. Phew, so I shouldn’t feel too bad then? I hear what you are saying about the stress of taking four girls swimming. I only have to cope with two of them but that, as you can tell, has its’ interesting moments!

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