Effects of Parents Who Lack Coping Skills

The ability to cope with life's stresses, or resilience, as described by research compiled by the health information resource Women and Children's Health Network, is an essential component to anyone's overall well-being 1. Parents who find it difficult to positively cope with life's difficulties will not only model poor coping strategies for their children, but will be unable to teach their kids effective coping strategies, which simply perpetuates a cycle of poor resilience. For parents, it's never too late to learn positive coping skills so that your child will not have to make the mistakes that you made.

Poor Modeling

Research compiled by Purdue University finds that children learn by what they see their parents do and what they hear them say, and they tend to copy what they have seen. Parents who use violence to manage anger or drugs to cope with difficult emotions and situations are modeling these negative coping strategies for their children. Conversely, parents who are able to demonstrate effective anger management techniques, such as deep breathing, inevitably teach their children to utilize these tools as well.

Lack of Coping Skills in Children

Poor parental modeling can lead to a lack of coping skills in children whose parents also lack these skills 1. Dr. Tian Dayton, clinical psychologist and author, writing for the "Huffington Post," urges parents to repair situations in which they displayed negative coping strategies with their children, such as:

  • yelling angrily
  • instead of wallowing in shame
  • despair as a result of making a mistake

Parents can also use the experiences where they did not use effective coping strategies to learn the importance of behaving differently in the future.

Substance Abuse

Using drugs and alcohol to cope with difficulties in life is a negative coping strategy. Research from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network notes that some teens turn to drugs and alcohol when they have difficulty dealing with stress and trauma in their lives. Substance abuse can have lasting effects on the brain, and can create more problems than solutions. Parents who use mind-altering substances to cope with difficult problems fail to teach their children to focus on true solutions to life's challenges.

Low Self-Esteem

The Pan-American World Health organization reports that "persons with good self-esteem tend to cope better with stressful situations because they view such situations as challenges rather than stressors." A lack of effective coping strategies can lead to low self-esteem in both parents and their children 4. Parents can learn that life has its ups and downs, and can learn effective ways to handle challenges when they arise, and teach their children to do the same.