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What’s more stressful: a newborn child or a teenager?

We analyse whether a mother’s stress levels are impacted by the age of her children.

Are a mother’s stress levels impacted by the age of her children? One might imagine a newborn, or toddler going through their terrible twos would take the biggest toll on the mother’s mental wellbeing, but data from the Medibank Better Health Index has revealed this may not be the case. According to our research, mothers of children aged 12 to 15 are slightly more likely to suffer from stress than mothers of children of any other age.

So why could this be the case? These early teenage years are often the period in which a child undergoes the most change — both physically and mentally. Puberty kicks in, their primary influence shifts from parents to peers, and they begin to experiment with new behaviour.

“From my experience, the issue with the changes that can occur in a child during puberty is marked by how quickly they seem to happen. Sometimes, these changes appear quite dramatic and can lead to a stressful period while the family adapts to a new dynamic,” says mother of two (now grown up) girls, Gweneth Taylor.

“With my girls, what I found to be particularly challenging was negotiating the fine line between their increased desire for independence and the responsibility felt by us as parents. This therefore caused tension and inevitably stress when expectations did not align. This, coupled with general moodiness and an air of disdain which puberty can bring on, definitely tested our patience at times!”

The Index also observed a small increase in more serious mental health conditions among mothers of children aged 12 to 15, including anxiety and depression.

Medibank Medical Director, Dr Kevin Cheng says that while this is an important finding, and we should prioritise the identification, support and treatment of stress, anxiety and depression among mothers, and particularly those with children aged 12 to 15 – we should also consider additional factors.

“Women with children this age may also be entering menopause, returning to the workforce, juggling other pressures such as financial, relational and meeting expectations, such as engaging appropriate education for their kids,” he says.

“It’s important to look out for mental health issues in mothers during this challenging time, and seek the support of qualified medical professionals if the mother appears to be struggling.”

If you or a loved one appears to be feeling the effects of stress, check out these five stress reducing techniques.

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