Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Stressing Your Kids Out

It's harder than ever for parents to leave their stress in the office. Now work stress may be rubbing off on the kids.

With people working longer hours and more families bringing in two incomes, it's harder than ever for parents to leave their stress in the office. But for their children's sake, they should.

"Parents who experience more pressure at work feel more overloaded in general and are more prone to arguing with their children," explains Ann Crouter, Ph.D., professor of human development at Penn State University. "In turn, their kids feel less good about themselves," becoming depressed or developing feelings of low self-worth. Parents under pressure may be less tolerant of tempestuous adolescent behavior, Crouter believes, causing additional conflict.

This domino, effect is worst when fathers are stressed: Crouter has found that a father's work pressure intensifies both his and his wife's feelings of overload, while working wives' stress has little effect on their husbands' overload. She suggests that a father's job may still be perceived as the important one in the family, or that while women are distracted from anxiety by domestic duties, men may have more free time to feel it.

In any case, "parents need to structure respites from stress," advises Crouter, by taking a "time out" when they walk in the door, or decompressing during the ride home.