Parents with a stiff upper lip who refuse to talk openly about their emotions with their children could be damaging their offspring, scientists have discovered.
Research has found that children have a better relationship with their parents if the adults show when they are aggravated, stressed or angry.
The study dispels the belief of not arguing in front of the kids as youngsters are able to tell when their parents are hiding something and this can cause confusion.
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Parents with a stiff upper lip who refuse to talk openly about their emotions with their children could be damaging their offspring, scientists have discovered. Children have a better relationship with their parents if the adults show when they are stressed or angry (stock)
Seven to 11-year-olds become ‘less responsive and positive’ to mums and dads who suppressed negative feelings, the study of 109 American parent-child pairs found.
Assistant Professor Sara Waters, of Washington State University in the US, said: ‘Kids pick up on suppression, but it’s something a lot of parents think is a good thing to do.
‘We wanted to look at how we suppress emotions and how that changes the way parents and kids interact.’
Researchers asked the parents, which were split evenly between mothers and fathers, to speak in public and received negative feedback from the audience.
Parents were then tasked with completing a Lego project with their children.
Some were told to suppress their emotions and others were instructed to act naturally.
The youngsters received instructions on a piece of paper and were not allowed to touch the Lego pieces.
Parents had to assemble the project without looking at the instructions so had to work closely with their children.
The pairs were hooked up to a variety of sensors measuring their heart rates and stress levels.
Researchers then watched all 109 videos of the interactions to mark every instance of warmth, guidance, and other emotions.
Dr Waters said: ‘We were interested in behaviours. We looked at the responsiveness, warmth, quality of the interactions, how the parent provided guidance for the child.
‘The act of trying to suppress their stress made parents less positive partners during the Lego task
‘They offered less guidance, but it wasn’t just the parents who responded. Those kids were less responsive and positive to their parents. It’s almost like the parents were transmitting those emotions.’
Dr Waters said previous studies showed children were good at picking up ’emotional residue’ from their parents.
She said it was better to let kids see ‘healthy conflict’ from start to resolution than suppress their feelings.
Dr Waters said previous studies showed children were good at picking up ’emotional residue’ from their parents. She said it was better to let kids see ‘healthy conflict’ from start to resolution than suppress their feelings (stock)
HOW CAN PARENTS PROTECT THEIR CHILDREN ONLINE?
A recent study found when sharing parenting advice on social media, common topics included:
- Getting kids to sleep (28 per cent)
- Nutrition and eating tips (26 per cent)
- Discipline (19 per cent)
- Daycare/preschool (17 per cent)
- Behaviour problems (13 per cent)
These common topics of conversation often reveal key information about a child, including: name, age/date of birth, school name and even their appearance.
Whilst it may be very difficult to protect the privacy of children in the digital age, there are some things that can be done to shelter children from online dangers.
Know your privacy settings
It is amazing how many parents leave on their Instagram location settings. Set your location settings to off if you do not want people to be able to figure out where you and your children live.
Only share with people who care
Ask yourself if all the people you’re sharing your photos with really want to see them and will they protect them in a way you would.
Explore private social networks
Private social networks offer a secure way to share the pictures of your children with your family and friends.
Don’t take any digital photos
Ultimately the only way to be 100 per cent sure that you don’t have a digital footprint is not to have any digital photos taken but this isn’t a road the vast majority of people want to go down.
She said: ‘Kids are good at picking up subtle cues from emotions.
‘If they feel something negative has happened, and the parents are acting normal and not addressing it, that’s confusing for them. Those are two conflicting messages being sent.
‘Let them see the whole trajectory.
‘That helps kids learn to regulate their own emotions and solve problems. They see that problems can get resolved. It’s best to let the kids know you feel angry, and tell them what.’
The researchers found emotional suppression made kids more sensitive to their mothers while the effect was less pronounced for fathers.
Dr Waters said more research was needed to understand the gender difference, adding: ‘We just don’t have much research on dads because it’s really hard to get dads to participate in research projects.
‘It took a lot of work to get enough dads in this study.’
Previous research have shown men are more likely to suppress their emotions.
Dr Waters believed the impact was lessened as children were more used to their fathers suppressing their emotions.
She co-wrote the paper with researchers from the University of California, Berkley and the University of California, San Francisco.
The findings were published in the journal Emotion.