All children grow up with an innate need for the love, praise, and affection of their parents. And whether they mean to or not, our parents can sometimes make us feel like we have to be a certain way or do certain things for them to accept us and be proud of us. When the pressure to be perfect and please our parents becomes too overwhelming for us to bear, it can lead to a lot of guilt, shame, anxiety, and most of all, stress.
It’s not good for a child to grow up with parents who make them stressed. Exposure to chronic stress can lead to a lot of detrimental effects not only on your physical health, but on your mental and emotional well-being as well (read “7 Signs You’re Emotionally Burnt Out” if you’re interested in learning more). So it’s important that you learn to recognize the signs of stress early on and know when it’s becoming too much for you to cope with.
Have you been feeling stressed out lately? Do you wonder if your parents might be the ones triggering it? Here are 8 warning signs your parents are making you stressed:
1. You avoid them as much as you can
You take any excuse you can get to be away from your parents and avoid them as much as you can. Avoidance behavior usually indicates that a certain stimulus is too stressful or too distressing for us to bear (Haller & Bakos, 2002), and in this case, that certain stimulus is your parents. You hate having to be alone with them and dread going home after school because of them. You spend as much time as you can with your friends and busy yourself with your work or your studies. And as soon as you could, you jumped at the chance to move away and be independent of them.
2. You feel anxious when you see them
Do your parents constantly compare you to your siblings? Do they always set their expectations for you unrealistically high? If so, it’s normal to feel anxious whenever you see them. Even though you love your parents so much, their presence is so overwhelmingly stressful for you. They make you feel uneasy and nervous whenever they’re around. Every moment you’re with them, you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something to go wrong. You worry they’ll criticize your choices, pressure you into doing something you don’t want to, give you unsolicited advice, or tell you how you’ve disappointed them this time. So is it any wonder that, the moment they knock on your door, you’re already counting the minutes for them to leave again.
3. You can’t concentrate around them
Do your parents always nag you about what you’re doing wrong whenever they’re around? Do you always get an earful and feel down on yourself whenever they do? Maybe that’s why whenever they tell you they’re planning to visit soon, it suddenly becomes the only thing you can think about. You can’t focus on doing your homework, planning events, or turning in that project anymore because you’re already stressing out about what to do. The fact that you’re having difficulty concentrating shows that your parents take such an emotional toll on you that it doesn’t leave you with much time, energy, or attention for anything else (Lupien, et al., 2007).
4. You get more emotional when they’re there
Do you notice yourself getting more angry or upset when your parents are around? Are you quicker to lose your temper or cry when they’re there? Or suddenly become more irritable or down when you find out you have to see them again? If your relationship with your parents takes you through a constant emotional rollercoaster, then that should already be your first clue that something is very wrong here. Mood swings are one of the most common signs of serious stress (Marin, Pilgrim, & Lupien, 2010). You feel a lot of emotional distress because of them and it makes you more defensive.
5. You worry about what they’ll say all the time
When you spend a lot of time and energy worrying about what your parents will think, it’s a definite sign that they are causing you a lot of stress (Spielberger, et al., 2014). You’re consumed by thoughts like “Will my parents approve of this?” or “What will they say when they find out?” And you always consider their feelings (sometimes even more than your own) when it comes to making a decision. Even when you’re no longer living under their roof, they’re still influencing the things you do, the way you dress, the way you act, the people you spend time with, and so on.
6. They disrupt your eating/sleeping pattern
Just like how you have trouble focusing on anything but your parents whenever they’re around, they also make it harder for you to eat right and sleep well at night. This is because you lose a lot of your appetite when you’re stressed or anxious, and it can lead to restlessness or difficulty sleeping as well (Britz & Pappas, 2010). So if having your parents around disrupts your eating or sleeping patterns, it’s most likely because of all the stress they are putting you through.
7. You start to have physical symptoms
Stress is known to trigger headaches, chest pain, and fatigue, especially in high levels or with long-term exposure. It’s also closely associated with low energy, chronic pain, and a weakened immune system that often results in frequent sickness. Other symptoms of severe stress include shaky hands, muscle tension, palpitations, and increased blood pressure (Farias, et al., 2011). So if you start to notice physical symptoms arise as a result of something that happened with your parents, then they might be to blame for you feeling so under the weather lately.
8. You usually feel better when they leave
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, you know your parents are making you stressed if you immediately heave a sigh of relief when they leave. Every moment with them is tense and painful for you, but once they’re gone you feel like you can breathe easy, as if a weight has suddenly been lifted off your chest. All your cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms disappear and you feel a hundred times better now that they’re not around. Why? Because they were the ones causing you so much stress in the first place!
So do you relate to any of the signs mentioned here? Do you feel like your parents might be making you stressed?
While your mother and father might have your best interests at heart, parents sometimes overstep their boundaries and fail to see when they are doing more harm than good to their children. It can be hard for them to understand that they are partly to blame for all the stress you’re feeling, especially if you keep it to yourself and suffer in silence instead. But it will do you a lot of good to open up to your parents about what’s wrong and show them how you are hurting. Are they putting too much pressure on you? Acting too emotionally distant? Have an honest conversation with them about it, and your mental health will certainly thank you for it.
- Haller, J., & Bakos, N. (2002). Stress-induced social avoidance: a new model of stress-induced anxiety?. Physiology & behavior, 77(2-3), 327-332.
- Lupien, S. J., Maheu, F., Tu, M., Fiocco, A., & Schramek, T. E. (2007). The effects of stress and stress hormones on human cognition: Implications for the field of brain and cognition. Brain and cognition, 65(3), 209-237.
- Marin, M. F., Pilgrim, K., & Lupien, S. J. (2010). Modulatory effects of stress on reactivated emotional memories. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35(9), 1388-1396.
- Spielberger, C. D., Sarason, I. G., Strelau, J., & Brebner, J. M. (2014). Stress and anxiety. Taylor & Francis Publishing House.
- Britz, J., & Pappas, E. (2010). Sources and outlets of stress among university students: Correlations between stress and unhealthy habits. Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences, 9(1).
- Farias, S. M., Teixeira, O. L., Moreira, W., Oliveira, M. A., & Pereira, M. O. (2011). Characterization of the physical symptoms of stress in the emergency health care team. Revista da Escola de Enfermagem da USP, 45(3), 722-729.