You only have to do an internet search to see the reality faced by fathers, mothers, grandparents and children. If you Google the words stress and parents, approximately 23 million results appear. If, in addition, the report of the National Mental Health System is opened to look for official data on disorders, one finds that anxiety is the most frequent. Specifically, it affects 6.7% of the population (8.8% of women and 4.5% of men) and its symptoms reach 10.4%, according to the document. "Its frequency is relatively stable throughout adulthood: between 10% and 12% of women between 35 and 84 years have registered this disorder and reaches 16%-18% when symptoms are included," he says.
In addition, sleep disorder is the most frequent symptom and affects 5.4% of the population (especially women, since 15.8% of women suffer from it, compared to 5.1% of men). This also appears in children, adolescents and young people (about 1.5% in both sexes), but increases with age, stabilizing from 75 years. In this case, women (13.5%) are also more affected than men (11.6%). In fact, the data extracted from the graph of the Ministry of Health show that the prevalence of these diseases is much higher in women than in men at all ages, doubling in some age ranges.
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The gender factor has a lot to do with these results. It is noticeable, for example, in the weekly time spent on care activities and household chores. In Spain, the percentage of women aged 18 and over who in 2016 dedicate at least several days a week to the care or education of children, cooking or doing housework, caring for relatives, neighbors or friends with disabilities is higher in all cases than the percentage of men aged 18 and over who perform these same tasks, according to the INE.
But there are aspects that are difficult to combat, as indicated by the INE's survey of living conditions in relation to the economic difficulties of households in 2022. In it, 8.7% of the population said they reached the end of the month with "great difficulty". In addition, 35.5 per cent had no capacity to meet unforeseen expenses, compared to 33.4 per cent the previous year. 33.5% of the population could not afford to go on holiday away from home at least one week a year, a percentage 0.8 points higher than that registered in 2021. If both statistics are combined, it is understandable that the level of stress in the family increases and, as a consequence, both parenting values and relationships at home and time spent with children are affected.
How to avoid family stress
Stress is like a washing machine, it keeps spinning and sometimes spinning and makes everything seem impossible to face. That is why it is very important to know how to stop. Firstly, so that this stress does not affect the children and, secondly, to try to generate a positive environment at home and relationships not conditioned by problems. To cope with stress you have to ask for help and go to a professional who, beyond identifying the stressors, can also recognize the limits of each one. Their support, in addition, can be essential to get out of that washing effect and enjoy relationships with the family.
As Vanessa LoBue, a psychologist at the University of Virginia (USA), points out in the journal Psychology Today, "parental anxiety and domestic stress have been linked to emotional problems in children," including behavioral problems, aggression, anxiety and depression. "Maternal stress has also been linked to factors in infancy that predict later anxiety as babies grow older, namely a difficult temperament or a temperament characterized by many negative emotions. In addition, maternal anxiety and depression are associated with children's impulsivity and attention problems," she explains. I always say that at home we have to be able to look for spaces for quiet dialogue that encourage conversations not related to work, school or homework. However, it is surprising the number of families who do not eat or dine together and who, therefore, have a very high deficit in good communication at home.
A protective factor at home against stress is to look for spaces for reflection with sons and daughters. We can call them emotional spaces where we can speak without blaming or without being continuously conditioned by unfavorable environmental conditions. And while it's a difficult exercise, it shouldn't be. In addition, it has a double benefit, since properly carried out these meetings foster positive attitudes and perceptions and mutual care. That is, both children and parents will find a mutual benefit that can serve to relax and leave stress away from those moments. Of course, we must remember not to discuss or face conversations from authority: to overcome stress, it is important to know how to give space.
These spaces of understanding, calm and sharing, such as lunch, dinner or breakfast without the mobile or television in the background, are a good exercise to cope with stress at home. In addition, children can be taught that these family moments are also learning spaces, and perfect moments to seek help, trust and relief that also allows them to be helped to know how to face their conflicts and difficult situations. Getting out of stress to help those in need puts everyone in a reflective position and is something that as parents relaxes them and they love to do.
César de la Hoz has a degree in Psychopedagogy and is an expert in mediation and resolution of school and family conflicts, behavior modification and educational guidance and change management.
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