Is Dad feeling the pressure? Then your toddler is more likely to be a little turd because of it, according to a new study.
That’s right, according to new research, there’s a link between Dad’s stress levels and a child’s behaviour and it’s not looking good for dads who are under a lot of stress.
Behavioural issues in toddlers such as crying, tantrums, and aggression have been linked to fathers who are highly stressed during a child’s early development.
The tantrums and stress connection
King’s College London (KCL) found that, after looking through data from more than 1,800 parents, when a father is stressed during a kid’s first years, his child is two to three times more likely to have behavioral issues as a toddler.
To find their results, the study asked new fathers to rate how stressed they were on a scale of 1 to 20. Anything over 10 was deemed to be a “high” stress level. Of the dads who were two years into fatherhood, 1 in 10 fathers met this “high” stress criteria — and those dads had kids who were two to three times more likely to experience behavioral problems.
Another study found that 72 percent of working dads feel emotionally and physically worn out.
Which is pretty scary if you think about it.
After all, most families are under a lot of pressure during the first few years of a child’s life. Financial strain is high, the change in lifestyle is crazy and let’s not forget the fact that there is a tiny human who has completely transformed the structure of the family. In a good way, of course.
But, yeah, we mums feel the strain so dads will too. Sure, they don’t have to mourn their now-deflated boobs, but it’s a lot to take on.
Often dad pressure goes under the radar too. After all, men aren’t exactly known for their communication skills and often they keep what’s bothering them bundled up.
The leader of the study and Clinical Psychologist at King’s IoPPN Dr. Fiona Challacombe touches on this as well.
“Men may be reluctant to seek help or express their needs during this time and may feel excluded from the maternal focus of perinatal services,” she wrote.
COPE offers a few good tips for dads who are feeling stressed:
- Accept that you can’t fix everything – Just being there is often all mums and kids need.
- Talk to others – Your partner, your mates, a help line, a doctor.
- Make some time for you – This is tricky because one of the biggest stress factors is that dads do feel stretched thin with work and family commitments. Going away for weekend golf tourneys every month is probably off the table for now, but a bit of time is needed. Go for a run. Go to the gym. Have a drink with a friend. Hit some golf balls at the driving range. Short me-time bursts are priceless and will cause less family strain.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff – Keep the big picture in mind.
- Learn about emotional and mental health conditions – So many men simply don’t realise that what they are feeling may be anxiety or depression or something else.
- Make time for you both and your partner – Start with a date night, once a month and go from there.
Toddlers are turds, whether dad is stressed or not
Of course, we can’t actually blame our partners for our toddler’s tantrums. It’s not nearly that simple.
Toddlers are known for their fiery spirits, OTT tantrums and difficulties regulating emotions. Even if you are the most chilled-out person in the world, odds are, your toddler is still going to freak out in Aisle 3 of Big W when you tell him he can’t have a Kinder Surprise.
What we can take home from this study is this – our mental health matters. Mum’s mental health. Dad’s mental health. Perhaps knowing that stress levels may impact our kids’ behaviour will be the starting point to get so many more men (and women) seeking the professional help that everyone needs.
If your partner is feeling stressed, sit down and ask them to talk to you. If not you, then a doctor. Or a helpline. Or a mate. Here are some telephone and online resources to try: