Transgenerational inheritance of small RNAs challenges basic concepts of heredity. In C. elegans nematodes, small RNAs are transmitted across generations to establish a transgenerational memory trace of ancestral environments and distinguish self-genes from non-self-elements. Carryover of aberrant heritable small RNA responses was shown to be maladaptive and to lead to sterility. Here we show that various types of stress (starvation, high temperatures, and high osmolarity) induce resetting of ancestral small RNA responses and a genome-wide reduction in heritable small RNA levels. We found that mutants that are defective in various stress pathways exhibit irregular RNAi inheritance dynamics even in the absence of stress. Moreover, we discovered that resetting of ancestral RNAi responses is specifically orchestrated by factors that function in the p38 MAPK pathway and the transcription factor SKN-1/Nrf2. Stress-dependent termination of small RNA inheritance could protect from run-on of environment-irrelevant heritable gene regulation.