Beware the secondhand stress!

“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

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7 Responses to Beware the secondhand stress!

  1. Gina says:

    This is such a great reminder today, we’ve been busy and going to fast around here and the stress level is a bit too high. I forget how my stress affects the kids, and then I don’t always remember to pray. Thank you for the encouragement.

  2. Jen says:

    Gina, oh, I needed this reminder so much myself! Praying with you for us all for patience and slowness. It’s that time of year, from now ’til January, I’m afraid, when life has the tendency to go at warp speed, flinging stress everywhere. ~blessings on your {slow} weekend, xoxo Jen

  3. e-Mom says:

    An important post, Jennifer! Our daughter often misinterpreted her father’s stress and took his “stoneface” personally. Girls tend to think it’s because THEY are unlovable. (How do we ever make it through life?)

    Perhaps we need to teach our children to be less self-centered… along with reducing the stres points and flying shrapnel.


  4. Anita says:

    What a lovely and thoughtful post. I watched The Social Network on Friday, and thought that being an entrepreneur was so much fun when it worked. But the sacrifice of free time, and slow time, and leisure would just not be worth it for us. None of us thrive on stress, though perhaps there are people who do!

  5. Jen says:

    e-Mom, daughters can do that, can’t they? I LOVED your thought about teaching our children to be less self-centered – that is a great challenge, and something to seriously and prayerfully address. And how about me learning to less self-centered, too, while I’m at it?

  6. Jen says:

    Anita, I haven’t seen The Social Network. But I’ve lived through an entrepreneur (my husband) starting a few businesses, and yes, it’s a big sacrifice of time and pace and leisure. Don’t enjoy that part at all, but we are learning ways to do it better. Like being not quite so grandiose, for one.

    There are definitely people out there who thrive on stress, and I avoid them like the plague.

  7. This is such a wonderful post and encouragement for me. I needed to read it. I wish I could take each one of my stressed out or snappy statements I’ve made and do them over. But praying with them and alone, yes, it helps and I need Him daily to help me. Yet it also takes time. It takes more to undo what’s been done than doing it right in the first time. Thanks for this post. :)

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