5 Tips for Stress Behaviors

Irritability. Potty accidents. Night wakings. Tantrums (child AND adult). Difficult behaviors can increase during times of stress. In today’s episode we are discussing the implications of stress and uncertainty on child and adult behavior. Because most of us are feeling it at this time, right?

Show Notes/Links:

Simple Families Foundations

Hi, there it's episode 209. And today we're talking about stress behaviors. I'm giving you five tips to understand and manage them a little bit better. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple Families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my PhD in child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.

Hi there! Glad to have you tuning in today. This is episode 209, and we are talking all about stress behaviors. Now, what are stress behaviors you might ask? These are behaviors that arise in times of stress. You may or may not be surprised to understand that stress and overwhelm and uncertainty can absolutely influence the way that children and adults behave and understanding them a little bit better, helps to give us empathy. It helps us to understand, and it helps us to be able to manage them better. Whether these are behaviors that we are experiencing ourselves or that we're seeing in our kids, or maybe even in our partners for anyone listening to this on launch day Wednesday, April 1st, I'll tell you that today is the very last day for the early bird pricing for the Simple Families foundations program. If you're looking for an A to Z approach to simplifying your family and you want to join us, go to simplefamilies.com/foundations.

And like I said, today is the very last day for the 50% off early bird price. Now we have a new sponsor on the podcast that I am excited about something I was already loving and enjoying before they came to me. The sponsor for today is goodnight stories for rebel girls. Some of you might be familiar with goodnight stories for rebel girls, the book, well, they have a podcast now, goodnight stories for rebel girls podcast. It's an expansion of the bestselling book. They tell hundreds of bedtime stories about the lives of extraordinary women from the past and present. I'm a huge fan of podcasts for kids. I love when my kids listen to stories rather than screen time, because it causes them to tune in and to create the pictures in their brains, makes them work a little bit harder. And I'm a firm believer that stories about powerful and inspiring women are not just for girls.

They're for boys too, because if women are ever going to break through the glass ceiling, then we need to be raising boys who are just as aware of how capable and amazing females are. So, to inspire all the rebel girls and the boys in your life. Go and find good night stories for rebel girls and your favorite podcast player. Now, not only do they make good bedtime stories, but they also make good wind down stories in the afternoon. In yesterday's episode, we talked about putting in place, quiet time in your house. And sometimes afternoons are a great time to turn on a podcast and let your kids sit down and listen in. So be sure to check out rebel girls. So let's get on with today's episode. We're talking about stress behaviors. So I don't know about you, but I think pretty much every human on the planet is experiencing some stress right now, some uncertainty.

And even if you're trying to hide it, your kids are going to feel it. Now, I don't like to expose my kids to a lot of direct news. I do like to filter it before it gets to them, but they don't need to hear the news to know that there's something going on in the world. It's hard to strike a balance because we want to be reassuring and we want to be calming. And we don't want our kids to panic. However, if we are feeling scared and nervous and on edge, our kids can pick up on that. They can read us like a picture book. They know. So if your kids are noticing that you're stressed out and you're on edge and they're asking you what's wrong, or they're looking to you trying to figure out what's going on and you say, Oh, it's fine. Everything's fine.

There's no problem. That can be confusing because they definitely know from watching your verbal and nonverbal behavior, that everything is not okay right now. So, by denying that anything is going on on the world, it can be a little bit confusing. So, that brings me to our first point, which is we can talk to our kids about what's going on in the world. We just really need to simplify it. Now, depending on their age, they might be able to understand different things. But for my foreign six year old, I kept it really simple. And this is what I said. I said, there are a lot of germs in the world right now in particular, there's something called Coronavirus. You're going to be hearing a lot about it. We're going to be talking about it. You might catch a couple blips of the news that talk about it.

So we're going to stay home. So we don't catch those germs and we're going to stay home until the Coronavirus goes away. Now, obviously that's a very simplified way of explaining it, but this idea that there's a lot of germs out in the world, those germs are called Coronavirus, and we are going to stay home mostly in her house, a little bit of playing outside so that we don't catch those germs. And we don't give those germs to anybody else. So lead with a simple explanation and strive for authenticity. You don't have to hide all your feelings because your kids are picking up on them. So you can explain how it makes you feel. I would recommend not being an alarmist, but acknowledging how you feel acknowledging that the world is changing, acknowledging that. Yes, in fact, something is out of the norm. Don't be afraid to talk about it.

So you may be seeing stress behaviors that come in a variety of forms. Maybe it's irritability, potty accidents, tantrums night wakings. We're seeing pretty much all of the above of those. And these can happen in the kids and in the adults, you might be losing your patients smart quickly. You might be getting frustrated more quickly. Your fuse may be shorter, especially if you're being asked to do like six jobs at once, like homeschooling and full-time employee and full-time parent, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It's totally okay to be stressed out, to lose your cool, to get upset, to yell. You're stressed out and these things are going to happen and you need to forgive yourself when they do. So, moving on to number two, after you've been striving for authenticity and opening up the conversation about what's going on and how you're feeling, open yourself to managing some of these difficult behaviors with love and affection and playfulness, we're striving to be calm and understanding when we can, but also recognizing that we are human and that is not always going to happen. and that's okay.

Now, I do something with my kids called externalizing, and this is a therapeutic technique I used to use when I worked as a therapist many years ago, and it's not going to work for every kid and it's not going to work for every situation. It works really well for us. This is an example of using playfulness to diffuse, but feel it out with your kid. If your kid doesn't respond well, stop. It just don't do it. So I have a kid who gets really hungry, really hungry. And when I start to see that hungriness come on, I can usually feel it coming. I can head it off before it gets too bad because we've been dealing this with us for a long time. So when I start to notice the hungriness coming on, I will turn to playfulness. Now I could just, yeah for my son a snack, but since the hungriness is coming on, usually he's going to say, no, I'm not hungry or whatever it is.

So instead I try to lead with playfulness. So we have an alter ego called a Hungry Mckungerson. And usually when my son is starting to show very slight signs of hangriness, I'll say, Oh no, Hungry Mckungerson is here. Who invited him? And it immediately makes my son laugh. And it starts to bring awareness that he's feeling some of these hungry feelings and they are impacting his mood. It definitely lightens the atmosphere in the room. And usually I can get them to sit down and have a snack at which time he rapidly recovers. Now it's important that my kids know it's okay to feel all the feelings, but sometimes techniques like this can work when we're trying to head off big tantrums. And when we know what's going on, like in the situation I can tell he is getting hungry. I look at my clock.

I know about what time it is. I know that food is probably the solution to this problem. So we make the lighthearted joke that Hungry Mckungerson is in the house. And I usually turn to my daughter and I said, well, what are we going to do? And she's like, well, let's get him some food. And we get him some food and we feed him. And then he goes away very rapidly. So it's become kind of a fun joke that helps my son to kind of pull out of that angry, irritable mood. And he starts to laugh with us a little bit. Now this would never work if he was already too elevated, if he was so angry and out of control, this wouldn't work at all. It only works because I catch it on the early side. So where am I going with this story you might ask?

So we have another alter ego called Grumpy Mcgrumperson. And sometimes he comes out too. And my daughter actually named Grumpy Mcgrumperson and usually Grumpy Mcgrumperson makes less frequent appearances than angry Hungry Mckungerson. And usually that's just when my son kind of has a generalized irritable mood and it's just starting to come on and we start to see it. And I asked her, I said, well, what are we going to do about grumpy Grumpy Mcgrumperson? And she looked at me and she said, we're going to love him. And she ran up and gave him a hug. And I just absolutely adored that response because she knows even at four years old, that love and hugs and connection can be the answer to so many of our worries. So while I'm not recommending everyone go around naming your kids, alter egos. I do think there can be something powerful in the idea of separating the behaviors from the child.

The last thing that we want is for our kids to think that they are bad to think that they are innately bad, something about them as bad. And because our kids think thinking so black and white often they think that they're good, or they think that they're bad. It can switch back and forth really rapidly. So externalizing behaviors like this by sort of creating this behavior. That's outside from yourself. It can help kids to see that, Hey, this quote unquote bad behavior doesn't define me. It visits me. It comes and goes, but it's not who I am. And it's okay if it comes. And it goes now and again. And my family is here to help support me through that. So try playfulness with some of these difficult stress behaviors. It feels good for us as adults. And it also feels good for our kids too.

Especially if Grumpy Mcgrumperson has been visiting your house more often lately. So that brings me to tip number three, which is love. So hugs, connection, compassion, trying to muster up as much as we have and can offer to our kids at this point. And we can offer to ourselves at this point, because we're all feeling a little bit short fused right now, when your kid generally sleeps through the night and then they start waking up suddenly in the past couple of weeks, it's probably a stress behavior. And once the world calms down, these behaviors are probably going to fix themselves. So tip number four is that our kids are mirrors. They reflect the feelings and the behaviors that we have. So if you see your kid acting out and getting frustrated easily, are you feeling those behaviors too? Are they seeing those behaviors? And if they are that's okay, because we have to let ourselves feel those stress behaviors too, but just recognize that they're humans, humans of all ages have tantrums.

I know that I certainly have tantrums from time to time and tantrums don't necessarily need to be met with shame. Tantrums are big feelings that get out of control. And when our frustration tolerance is low, we're going to have more tantrums. When we're more stressed out in dealing with uncertainty, we're going to have more tantrums. We're going to have more irritability, grownups and kids. A lot of times when we see these kinds of behaviors erupting in our kids, we get so frustrated about them because we feel like we're doing something wrong. If our kid is quote unquote, behaving badly, you know, if they're doing something we don't want them to do, like maybe they peed on the sofa. We feel like inherently, we maybe have done something wrong as a parent that might've led this when that's not true at all. The truth is no matter how well we're doing as a parent, we're still gonna see stress behaviors in kids.

Not only are they going to come out in times of crisis, they're going to come out at the birth of the new sibling. They're going to come out at a divorce of parents. They're going to come out. When you move into a new house, stress behaviors are things that kids are going to feel on and off throughout their whole lives. So my last tip for today is that kids are like puppies. I know I've said this before, but I just have to reiterate it because I know a lot of you are stuck in the house right now. You have to remember that your kids need to move. If you've ever had a new puppy, you know that it would be a disaster waiting to happen. If you left that puppy in the house all day without exercising and in the morning, you have to exercise them or they will tear your house apart.

And the same holds true to many children. Most children, they need movement. They need exercise. Even if you can't get them outside, finding ways to move in doors. I can't say that enough when kids and adults get the movement that they need for their bodies to feel good, their brains are going to feel better too. They're going to be more calm. They're not going to be perfect because we're never striving for perfect. We're just striving to do a little better, to take a little better care of ourselves so that we can take a little better care of our kids. So to go back and recap, our tips for today, number one is to strive for authenticity, recognize and acknowledge to your kids that you're having some uncertain and stressed out feelings. Number two is to try playfulness. You might try externalizing and naming some behaviors.

You might try jokes. You might try other humorous ways to disarm your kids. When they're feeling a little bit irritable. Number three is love, lead with love and hugs and connection, even in the hard times. And if you don't succeed, if you lose it and you don't show love, you show the antithesis of love. That's okay, forgive yourself. You can always do better tomorrow or the next day or the next week. Kids are so resilient and they will keep on loving us through our mistakes. Number four is kids are mirrors. They reflect back to us what they see from us. Sometimes we don't even notice it. And number five is that kids are basically like puppies. They need lots and lots of exercise, or they may tear our houses apart. It's a biological need that will serve their body and brain well, thanks so much for tuning in this has been episode 209. I appreciate you. I appreciate you being a part of Simple Families. And if you are interested in the foundations program, go to simplefamilies.com/foundations. Thanks for tuning in and have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.