Managing the Stress of Parenting
April 04, 2020
Managing the Stress of Parenting
Being a parent provides many fulfilling and beautiful moments. Often, parenthood can encompass the majority of your schedule and is at the forefront of your mind. Occasionally, you might have more trouble coping with the responsibilities of parenting. Learning about stress can be a valuable life lesson.
Most of the time stress is easy to identify. However, sometimes you might prefer to blame how you are feeling on something else. If you are noticing any of the following symptoms, you might have a high stress level:
- Headaches, stomachaches, or chest pain/heavy chest
- Muscle tension/pain
- Fatigue, sleep problems
- Anxiety, feeling restless, feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability, anger
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Depression, sadness
Many of these symptoms can be attributed to other causes, but if you notice that you also have had a significant lifestyle change – increasing drug or alcohol use, increasing or decreasing how much you eat, are fighting more often, or are not participating in activities that you enjoy – you could be experiencing stress.
Stress is a normal reaction to environmental changes and helps to prepare the body to prioritize and act as necessary to respond to the changes. At times, stress can become constant. The changes that stress causes in the body are helpful in short bursts, but can be hurtful if prolonged, leading to high blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and mental health issues.
Another important side effect of your stress is the impact it has on your children. While many parents think that they can hide their stress, children are able to notice and when parents are stressed and be bothered by it. Stress can make you less understanding and more critical of your child. It can also decrease the quality of your relationship with your children. Furthermore, how you handle your stress is one of the first examples that your children have for how to handle their own stress.
Tips to Handle Stress
Even if you are not feeling the effects of stress, incorporating these tips into your family’s activities can help to prevent stress and teach healthy coping.
- Do a stress self-assessment – Increase awareness of your own habits by asking yourself how you handle stress. Do you drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes? Eat a special treat? Blow off steam by yelling? By paying attention to what choices you make when stressed, you have a firm basis for knowing what might need to be adapted.
- Take some “Me Time” – Being a parent is a 24 hour job. However, taking some time to be you and to relax and rejuvenate can make a significant difference in the quality of parenting that you can provide. Spend time with friends, read a book, go for a walk, take a bath, or re-connect with your spouse over a date night. If finding or affording a babysitter is a challenge, look into community events or gyms that offer free childcare.
- Build healthy habits – Developing a solid routine full of the fundamentals of health can prevent stress from taking over. Make sure to eat as many nutritious foods as you can and eat regularly throughout the day. It is also important to stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and get regular physical activity. Bonus: most children also respond well to consistent schedules.
- Increase quality time – Maybe it is time to say no to extracurricular activities and yes to spending a night at home with the family. Or find a creative way to build quality family time into your schedule.
- Talk – If you are feeling stressed, or notice that your child is, talk about it and help them to understand what role emotions play in life. You may also want to consider talking to a mental health professional, if your stress does not seem to be improving.
If you are raising children on your own, you face some unique stressors. The following tips can help to keep stress at a minimum.
- Know your budget – Financial issues can add up quickly, so keep to your budget. If you need a job or financial assistance paying for groceries or bills, contact employment agencies or local community services for assistance.
- Use support systems – Join a single parent group, keep regular contact with friends, and make connections with other community services. No one can do it totally alone and you need to find appropriate sources of support and sympathy. Your pediatrician or doctor’s office can provide helpful connections to community services if you feel like you do not know where to start.
- Plan child care – Have a list of trusted babysitters ready for any instance where you may need to go somewhere without your children.
- Use consistent discipline – Perhaps your child will be alternating between the home of each parent. Try to work together to provide as consistent a discipline method as possible.
- Talk – Provide time to allow your children to express their thoughts and feelings on any changes in the family, and talk with them – at an appropriate developmental level – to keep them in the loop.
Want to talk to a counselor today about this?
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