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Kathy Marshack News

Does Good Parenting Mean You Shield Your Child from All Adversity?

Monday, July 16, 2018


The key to good parenting is not protecting kids from everyday adversity, but encouraging a healthy attitude toward stress. Everyday we see headlines that say, “Stress: The Killer Disease,” “Stress Is a Silent Killer,” or “Why Stress Is Deadly.” It’s no wonder people have adopted the opinion that all stress should be avoided. While I do agree that long-term, chronic, acute stress is harmful, some stress is beneficial and necessary for personal growth and development.

The stress response can be an asset for raising levels of performance during critical events such as a sports activity, an important meeting, or in times of crisis. Appropriate and controllable stress also provides interest and motivation for greater achievement, while a lack of stress may lead to boredom and depression.

When we experience life’s challenges or adversities, our bodies secrete the hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol stimulates the release of glucose for energy and activates the immune system, while adrenaline increases focus and attention. It also stimulates neural growth in the brain, which is critical for learning and memory.

The key to good parenting is not protecting kids from everyday adversity, but encouraging a positive attitude toward stress. Studies, like the ones at Stanford University, show that it’s possible to change our emotional and biological response to stress, just by adopting a healthy attitude toward stress.

As children overcome adversities, their self-confidence grows. They’ll feel more in control. And when people feel in control during adversity — whether they really are or not – they’re less impaired by stress. As parents, you can help your children adopt a confident, can-do attitude. Help them understand that perfection is not the goal. “Failing, learning from it, getting up and trying again until you succeed,” should be the message they receive.

It’s a difficult balancing act for parents, because we hate to see our children suffering. The temptation is to become an overly protective helicopter parent. However, parents who shield children from anxious-making experiences are preventing them from learning to be unafraid. Short-term stress promotes resilience.

The most helpful thing we can do as parents is to provide a supportive, loving environment that teaches them a healthy lifestyle – nutritious food, exercise, and plenty of sleep – and helpful coping skills. Paramount is teaching them to develop Radiant Empathy, so they can show compassion for others, while protecting themselves from the users and abusers in the world today. My new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS,” is a practical guidebook for developing this quality.

Do you see room for improvement in your family’s stress management skills, but don’t know where to start? If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.



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