A recent study from the University of Florida found that major childhood stresses—things like divorce, economic hardship, exposure to substance abuse, or domestic violence—have an almost immediate negative impact on a child’s health. In fact, kids in the study who were exposed to three or more major stressors were six times more likely to suffer from a physical, mental health, or learning disorder.
Sometimes, negative life events are beyond your control as a parent. But for those things you can influence and protect your child from, your efforts are well worth it. Whether it’s a matter of working hard on your marriage to prevent a divorce, dealing honestly with your substance abuse issues, or being responsible with your finances to give your child more stability, your decisions have an impact. Be encouraged by the fact that you have the power to make choices that will benefit your child for a lifetime, starting today.
Protecting your child from the stress of divorce.
We realize that divorces happen for all kinds of reasons, and many times it’s beyond the control of one spouse or the other. However, there are times when marriage is hard and couples quickly buy into the “we fight a lot, so the children will be better off if we just split up” philosophy. Parental arguing isn’t ideal for children, but neither is divorce. To give up on the marriage just to avoid the hard work of healing and restoring the relationship simply trades one set of (possibly temporary) problems in your kids’ lives for another, permanent set. If divorce is already part of your family’s story, there are still ways to protect your kids from the negative impact by co-parenting well and reducing conflict.
Protecting your child from the impact of substance abuse.
You may be able to hide your excessive drinking or your prescription drug addiction from the outside world, but do you know who’s painfully aware of your problem? Your kids—and it worries them. It scares them. Sometimes, it may even make them feel ashamed. Whether the problem is with you or your spouse, substance abuse issues in the family are terrible for your kids, and set them up for similar problems in the future. You owe it to your children to sacrifice your own pride, admit that there’s a problem, and seek real help for you or your spouse. Trust us, you may be able to hide this problem from the neighbors, but the impact on your kids is real.
Protecting your child from the impact of economic hardship.
Many U.S. families have experienced major economic hardships during the most recent recession including job losses, home foreclosures, and forced moves to find new jobs and regroup. You can’t prevent a national recession, and you can’t ensure that your company won’t downsize and lay you off one day. What you can do to protect your children is to be smart with your money while times are good. Living from paycheck to paycheck guarantees that even small unexpected problems are a big deal. But by paying down your debts and putting away some emergency cash, you can create a safety net that allows life to go on pretty normally for a time when something goes wrong. It buys you some time to find the next job or take other steps to deal with the problem without causing your kids unnecessary stress or fear about the future.
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.