“Beware the secondhand stress!” Practicing patience today with my children. I grew up inhaling secondhand smoke every single day thanks to my dad, and I’m terrified I’ll die of lung cancer, but maybe secondhand stress is just as deadly for children?
As Kevin DeYoung points out in this insightful article titled Children and Secondhand Stress, research has shown that it’s not the parents’ ability to make their children feel loved or appreciated that’s the problem…it’s the anger.
It’s Mom or Dad with a short fuse of patience because what they’re really worried about is how to pay the bills or make the dinner or find the time to do everything they’re juggling, and it’s overwhelming to the point of explosions of stress that shower down on the children, wounding like sharp bits of shrapnel that never really get removed.
The interesting thing about blast injuries that involve shrapnel is that the deadlier physical trauma actually occurs from blast overpressure, or shock waves. Especially when the explosion occurs in a confined space. External injuries aren’t evident, but inside? Lungs can be collapsing, hearts can be bleeding, brains can be swelling.
Really. It’s that deadly. We should be more intentional about removing stress triggers in our family life.
Maybe we schedule fewer family activities that require the hurry and rush that inevitably causes stress. Are there other ways to simplify our lives, like downsizing and eliminating things that cost more, so there’s less financial demand on the parents? Maybe take time at the beginning of each week to schedule meals so the family dinner isn’t a grab-n-go scramble, but a thoughtful and peaceful event?
The next time I’m driving down our gravel road late for life and spilling out my anger and stress-laced piercings on those absorbent souls, I hope I remember my dad’s old Ford rumbling down Havasu Way, a trail of dust pluming into the Arizona sky behind us rivaled only by his toxic smoke irreversibly penetrating my lungs. And I will pause, pull over if necessary, roll down the windows, and breathe slow.
If we’ve blown it, parents?
Pray. Always pray. Both alone and together. Ask forgiveness. Hold tight one another. Breathe fresh clean air and listen. And make the necessary course corrections.
Blessings on us all as we pursue peace and patience.
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20