Stress Is Messing With Babies – And The Rest Of Us, Too

shutterstock_123688984__1383592736_142.196.156.251Parental stress can have a huge impact on an infant’s development, says a new study. I just got even more stressed.

A major study from Trinity College Dublin is being published today. 11,000 five-year-old children were studied to see how different situations effected their development. It found that “parental stress can result in less sensitivity towards children, meaning parents are less likely to respond to their needs and help them in times of distress.”

Co-author of the report, Dr Elizabeth Nixon, said being tuned into the needs of the child and being able to read signals was an “important skill”, but that stress levels impacted on the ability to read these signals. “What this analysis does is highlight some of the processes which feed into how infants are doing,” she said.

This really hits home for me, and frankly scares me a little. I have a sick toddler, a breastfeeding infant and a new work schedule I am trying to negotiate. Often times I feel like I am not totally focused on my kids because of financial stress that is wearing me down. It’s not that I am constantly dealing with these stressors – it’s just that they are always in the back of my mind. I’m not at ease. My children must sense this  – and if they can’t sense it on their own – I certainly can.

“We’re identifying things like parental stress and depression and their effect on parenting.

“These findings show that, even from a very young age, the sensitivity that parents show when interacting with their babies is important for their development.

“Parenting is a challenging task. The reality is it may have nothing to do with what the parent is doing, the child may be, by their nature, more difficult. It’s about the parents learning about how their baby is and appreciating them as individuals. What works for one baby, may not work for another.”

I’m not writing about this story to say, Hey! Look how bad we’re effing up our kids again! I’m writing it to say, hey, nobody’s perfect. But the one thing I can do is give myself permission to leave my shit on the back burner for a few hours a day and really only focus on what is important. The constant stream of stress that is playing through my mind like some kind of bad-mommy-film-noir isn’t doing anybody any good – least of all my kids. If you feel like you are in a similar situation, I just want to be the person that says to you today: You’re a good mom. Don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine.

(photo: MitarArt/ Shutterstock)

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