Modeling Healthy Stress Responses to Your Children 

Julie Bitely

| 4 min read

Teen son talking to his dad
Many daily stressors are unavoidable. Work deadlines, unanticipated expenses and the demands of being a working parent can all build up to quickly make life feel unmanageable.
If you routinely feel stressed out, the way you react and respond to stressors can either help or hurt the way your children process their own emotions. The influence of a caring, steady adult can mitigate many of the negative effects that household stress can pass on to children. And if you think your kids aren’t picking up on your personal stress levels, evidence suggests they likely are.
According to the American Psychological Association, children “model their parents’ behaviors, including those related to managing stress.” So, what are some ways you can model healthy stress coping mechanisms to your kids or children in your care? These are three good places to start along with tips and encouragement to model the behavior: 

Examine what’s causing your stress and make a plan.

It’s hard to effectively manage stress if you don’t have a handle on what’s causing it. Some stressors are unavoidable, but many can be dealt with and minimized. Identify your unique stressors and establish goals to overcome or reduce them. You might find that simply naming your stress and taking steps to overcome it can help you feel more in control.
  • Role model motivation: As you learn to tackle your stress head-on, you’ll be better positioned to teach your kids to handle their own stressful situations. 

Work on unhealthy stress responses.

We intuitively know that taking a walk is a healthier way to respond to stress than eating comfort food, but ingrained habits can be hard to break. Think about the unhealthy ways you respond to stress and see what it feels like to replace unhealthier habits such as smoking or drinking with healthier methods such as exercise and meditation.
  • Role model move: Recruit the family to join you in your efforts and to establish accountability to one another.

Be honest and establish open communication about feelings.

Parents feel they need to keep stress hidden from children, but kids are very perceptive. It’s OK to talk to your kids about what’s stressing you out, although it’s important to keep their feelings of well-being and security in mind.
  • Role model motive: Talking to kids openly about your own stress and how you plan to handle it can help them feel empowered to turn to you when they’re dealing with stress of their own.
Your mood is an important factor in the overall happiness of your household. Finding the coping tools that work to reduce your stress is a worthy pursuit because doing so will better position you to be your best for your family and for everyone counting on you.
If you feel that managing your stress is out of reach or that it’s interfering with your ability to handle your responsibilities at work or at home, consider seeking treatment. 
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below: 
PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382 
  • A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7. 
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982 
  • Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider. 
  • Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Crisis Assistance: 
  • If you feel that your condition is an emergency that’s not life threatening, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support at 1-800-273-8255. 
  • If your situation requires immediate emergency help to prevent death or serious harm to yourself or others, please seek help at the nearest emergency room or call 911. 
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at 
Photo credit: Getty Images

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