How to deal with stress from parents – it’s common for parents and their kids to collide. Recently, one such collision played out in the media as the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and her father exploded with commentary about their rocky relationship. Supporters of the Duchess were swift in their response, telling her father to just let his daughter be happy. Unfortunately, this particular parent-child tension played out in public. However, the truth is that these types of tensions are not uncommon in the lives of ordinary people.
Children can be affected personally and psychologically when they feel stressed. The child can experience a lot of conflicting feelings like love, disappointment, guilt, or anger. Such turmoil can affect their mental health, as well as how they perform at school.
So, how do you deal with stress from parents or guardians? Read on to get some helpful tips.
What Causes Stress?
An article by the American Psychological Association (APA) states that the cause of stress is often a disconnect between the parent and the kid. For example, the parents may have pressures within their career that make it hard for them to spend time with their children. On the other hand, children worry about performing well in school, their family’s financial difficulties, and getting into a good college. The report also indicated that in most instances, parents don’t understand what is stressing out their kid.
A lot of people find changes in their life, including positive ones, to be stressful. For instance, not having control over your environment and having too much to do and not enough time, is also a large cause of stress. For adults, changes such as the arrival of a new baby, dealing with a toddler that has tantrums in public or job obligations, can cause stress.
How to Deal with Pressure from your Parents
When dealing with pressure from parents, your first step is to identify your own emotions and work on setting the necessary boundaries. Most of the time, when we’re dealing with family members, we focus on their mistakes more than our own. As such, it’s important to pay attention to your emotions first.
Try to comprehend where your parents are coming from
It’s a common occurrence for parents and kids to both have different expectations for themselves and for each other. Therefore, if you want to find a common ground, it is important to understand where your parents are coming from. Their expectations stem from the right place because they just want you to lead a successful life and be happy.
However, issues arise when their vision is different from yours. Or their expectations of you might be connected to the expectations they had of themselves.
If you feel that your parents expect too much from you, try to talk to them about how it makes you feel.
It’s Important to Work On Your Own Communication Skills
Talking to your parents/guardians about what you want out of life can do a lot of good because it gives them an insight into the dreams you have for your own life. For example, you could begin by saying, “I know that you want me to pursue a law degree, but I really don’t think it matches my skill set. I’ve always been really interested in pursuing business instead”
Additional tips that can help you with this conversation include:
- Timing – pick a moment that your parents/guardians are available and relaxed. Depending on their schedule midweek might be a hectic time for them, which as a result can cause them to be a little tense. Look for a quiet half-hour on the weekend to tell your parents that you want to talk.
- Explain that you’re concerned that you can’t meet their expectations.
- Communicate to them what the future looks like for you, even if it’s not completely clear yet. Proving that you’re thinking about your next steps, even if you’re not 100% certain can make them feel more secure.
- Listen to their opinions
- If you feel that you are not able to agree, then agree to disagree.
Consider Your Own Expectations
Take a moment and think about your own expectations. Are they too high? It’s important to have goals, but those goals shouldn’t be so burdensome that you are constantly stressed out. Consider your expectations and how they make you feel. Are you stressed? See how to set SMART goals here and check how you’re feeling here.
What Can You do if it’s Really Getting to You?
You may have followed all of the steps mentioned above and still be disappointed with the outcome. Perhaps, your parents weren’t on board with you wanting to complete a business degree instead of a law degree. In situations like this, it is important to remember that you and your parents may not always agree. Instead, think about the other areas of your life that your family is excited about and acknowledge that balancing their expectations with yours can be tricky.
Make sure that you are compassionate and patient with your parents/guardians. Avoid the blame game and be sensitive because parents have their own stresses as well.
If the first conversation with your parents didn’t go the way you thought it would, instead of simply not talking about it again. Organize another time to talk with them. Express with them why you want to pursue a different direction and where you see yourself in the future. Sometimes when more context is provided, it can help our family get on board with the decision we have made or are wanting to make.
If you’re still stressed, you can try talking to another trusted adult or friend to get their opinion.
How to Deal With Stress From Parents as an Independent Adult
Handling stressful parents as an independent adult is so important and differs greatly from handling this type of stress as a child. Most people experience everyday normal stress, which comes with keeping up responsibilities, handling people, friends, family, work, studies, etc.
However, when stress becomes chronic, it can harm your physical and mental health, for instance, mood and behavioral changes, fatigue, depression, poor concentration, heightened anxiety, weight loss/gain, decreased motivation, etc.
Stress takes away your ability to focus on the positive and good things in life. Also, it negatively impacts your ability to continue with healthy choices, routines, and relationships.
But what do you do when the cause of stress is your family? As much as we love them, our parents can sadly be a major cause of stress throughout our adult lives. The level of stress can be so high that it harms our daily routine and relationship with others. In cases such as these, the following steps can help.
1. Identify why the relationship is stressful to begin with
More often than not, relationships with family can be stressful because they interfere with your decisions. For example, they may be incredibly opinionated about the person you date, want to marry or even how you decide to raise your kids. Some parents’ aggressive behavior can also be the cause of stress, such as, they can be verbally abusive.
You may be a caregiver to your aging parents, and stress may arise due to the pressures you feel when caring for them. It can also become an issue if you’re neglecting yourself and other responsibilities. It can be stressful caring for aging parents, and in such situations you need to ensure that you are getting support, undertaking self-care, and utilizing healthy coping skills.
Don’t neglect your parents but modify your plans to help them while still addressing your own needs.
When you take a look at what you find stressful within the relationship to begin with, you can then understand how to address the root cause of the stress.
2. Consider the Positive Aspects Within the Relationship if There are Any
Take a minute and ask yourself these questions: How is the relationship impacting your life? Are there any positives? Would your family be willing to listen to you if you raised your concerns with them? If your answer is yes, then you will more than likely be able to work on improving the relationship and raising your concerns.
For example, you can begin setting boundaries or engaging in open and honest communication with your family. In some situations, they may not have realized that they were overly opinionated with how you raise your children and when this is raised with them, they back off.
However, if your family is not willing to listen to you and the relationship can at times be toxic, then something needs to change because your mental health will be negatively affected.
3. Work on Adjusting your Expectations
Once you have identified what brings you joy and what causes you stress in the relationship, your next step should be to reflect on your expectations. Are the expectations that you have for the relationship with your parents too much? Are you trying to control something that’s beyond you? You need to let go of unrealistic expectations so that you don’t end up feeling stressed.
Sometimes our parents or family are unable to give us what we need within a healthy relationship. Take for example that you have a father that struggles with a drinking problem. In this situation, it may be unfair to expect that father to always be present, supportive and sober, when it is something that they can not commit to doing. It essentially becomes an expectation that is never fulfilled and the reality is that it only causes us more hurt.
Instead, in some relationships we need to adjust or lower our expectation of that person or family member. This is because it isn’t fair to expect something from someone that they are unable to give you.
4. Try to Maintain the Relationship
It is important to try to resolve the issue with your parents by being honest with them. Share your feelings and concerns, as well as how their actions are affecting you. An open and honest communication might motivate them to change. You can also go to a professional together to talk it out and get to the root cause of your stressful relationship.
Make sure to set rules and boundaries, and communicate with them that it’s best to have boundaries to preserve the relationship. It is also important to consider your role in the conflict and be ready to address this with your parents, so that you can take their needs and concerns into account.
As mentioned earlier, when looking to maintain the relationship, also remember to have reasonable expectations of how the relationship can or should be.
5. What if They Are Unwilling to Change?
If your parents are unwilling to change even after you talk to them, then it would be best if you created some distance between you and them. Give them some opportunities before you suddenly disappear and limit all contact with them.
You can provide them with some context as to why you are no longer willing to see them all the time. Such as, “I feel discouraged, stressed, or negatively affected when you continue to do abc. It is an unhealthy environment for me to be in and if you continue to do those things, I’ll limit my contact with you to alleviate the stress that I’m feeling.” or “I’ve shared my concerns about this and have made every effort to mend our relationship, but I don’t see any effort to move forward from your end.”
You can also decide how close you want the relationship to be, such as, you may be happy to see them at family functions where cousins etc are also invited a couple of times a year because they are less pushy or vocal when other people are around.
Alternatively, if the relationship doesn’t improve and there’s no support from your folks, then you may decide to cut them off from your life completely, so that you can focus on your personal well being.
6. Prioritize Yourself
It is important to make time for self-care to relax and boost your energy. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Have you been giving your folks so much attention that you have forgotten to care for other relationships in your life? Whatever the case, you need to identify your priorities (not theirs) and work towards accomplishing your own goals.
7. Feel Comfortable with the Decisions You Have Made
Don’t feel guilty about the decision/s you make. Instead, be comfortable with the boundaries that you set, and if those boundaries aren’t working then you can change the plan. However, it is essential that you are making decisions based on your health and not what you think other people’s expectations of you are.
The Bottom Line
The sad truth is that stress from home can significantly affect your emotional and physical health. For example, you could struggle with sleep and maybe be frustrated because of a lack of family support. Yet, it’s essential to be compassionate with your folks and engage in honest communication. It’s important to avoid blame and consider your role in the situation.
If they are unable to support you, are constantly critical or engage in other unhealthy behavior then it may be time to look at your options and make decisions that are based on what is best for your health.