This blog was originally written for and published at MLJ Adoptions, Inc. While the subject is the adoption process and the research is from an adoption research institute, I believe the theory can apply to all parents. How well you manage stress will impact how socially and emotionally well-adjusted your children will be. Do YOU manage your stress well? Remember, your children will do what you do, which includes how well they manage stress....
Stress - it's been a major focus of my career as a mental health therapist. I know the adoption process is stressful (on top of your daily stressors) and we talk about stress management during our adoption preparation classes, but that is barely an intro. When parents become more stressed than normal during the adoption process, developing health issues, becoming volatile, etc... I often wonder just how well they will handle parenting, the teen years, and/or transracial challenges. My gut tells me that those parents will not respond well to normal teenage rebellion or tantrums that result from a child's fear of being abandoned again.
While reading a report from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute my fears were validated. The report confirms that adoptive parents ability to manage stress is correlated with the psychosocial adjustment of the children they adopt. In other words, how well you deal with stress is directly related to how well your children will deal with adoption. Unmanaged stress is damaging to you and dangerous to your kids. Parents, you are so important to your kids!
You cannot be the best parent that you want to be when you are stressed, but this does not mean that parents who are more easily distressed and have more difficulty dealing with stressors are bad parents. What it does mean is that children who have parents that are more easily distressed and have more difficulty dealing with stressors have a harder time managing their own stress, and this is amplified for children who are adopted who have more stressors with which to deal and losses to process. In fact, some of the adoptive parents that appear the most ideal are the same ones who have the most difficulty managing the stress of the adoption process.
It is my hope from this observation that, at least after reading this, the parents who are experiencing the most stress will be motivated for their children to seek out ways to better manage their stress, whether that it is in one on one counseling to support services, reading books like Wherever You Go There You Are, taking up an exercise regime, taking control of their calendar, or taking the online course It's A Jungle Out There: taming lions, catching monkeys, and surviving stress like a zebra.
If you are struggling with how well you manage your stress or concerned about how your stress may be impacting your kids, register your interest now for a group videoconference section of It's a Jungle Out There! taming lions, catching monkeys, and surveying stress like a zebra to be offered this Fall.