Parents Who Suppress Emotions Can Negatively Impact Their Children
Jim Liebelt Jim Liebelt's Blog
- 2020 Sep 24
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on Study Finds.
Some parents attempt to hide their true emotions when things are going bad, but this may be doing more harm than good. A study finds kids can spot when their parents are under stress, especially with families spending more time together due to COVID-19.
According to Washington State University researchers, parents often signal their suppressed emotions to their children, which can be harmful to the youngsters. Assistant professor Sara Waters and her colleagues analyzed interactions between 107 parents and their children, who were between the ages of seven and 11. Their findings reveal children experience a physical reaction to their parent’s hidden emotions.
“We show that the response happens under the skin,” Waters says in a university release. “It shows what happens when we tell kids that we’re fine when we’re not. It comes from a good place; we don’t want to stress them out. But we may be doing the exact opposite.”
The study asked parents and kids the top five topics that spark conflict within their households. The parents were also separated from the children and asked to perform a few stressful activities. Researchers say stressed parents who suppress their emotions are less engaged with and colder towards their children.
“That makes sense for a parent distracted by trying to keep their stress hidden, but the kids very quickly changed their behavior to match the parent,” Waters explains. “So if you’re stressed and just say, ‘Oh, I’m fine’, that only makes you less available to your child. We found that the kids picked up on that and reciprocated, which becomes a self-fulfilling dynamic.”
The study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology.
Source: Study Finds