Psychotherapist warns parents dealing with pandemic stress to control outbursts

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The pandemic has all of us facing situations we never imagined. From wearing a mask to social distancing, to being stuck at home for months. For many parents, it means more stress with no end in sight.

Experts are warning parents to control their emotions. That resilience we had back in March and April has now likely transformed into fatigue and frustration. Although outbursts might feel OK at the moment, experts say continually blowing off steam in front of your child can cause problems.

Fran Walfish is a psychotherapist and author of the book Self Aware Parent. She says the real damage is done if the screaming is directed at the child. Even more upsetting than the words are the tone and facial expression the words are delivered.

A book familiar to many parents is Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on The Block. He says constant yelling can trigger a young child’s stress response, resulting in serious long-term consequences, including changing the structure of our brains. Karp goes on to say persistent yelling and the stress it causes have been linked to increased risk of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders, as well as to chronic pain and other long-term health issues. It also doesn’t curb misbehavior. It tends to make kids more likely to act out.

It’s not just young children who suffer when parents yell and scream at them. Studies have shown that harsh verbal discipline increases behavior problems in adolescents.

The good news is that children are resilient and parents can positively influence outcomes with their own behavioral changes.

Finally, be kind to yourself. Know this is a process, not a quick fix. be sure to hold on to your motivation to raise happy, healthy, disciplined, loving children.

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