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Stressed Out Parents

Ways to Relieve Parental Stress

When your child was first born, you had a lot of basic needs to meet. When your baby cried, you checked whether your baby was hungry, sleepy or needed a diaper change. As your baby became a toddler, you wanted to protect your toddler from bumps and bruises and falls. You began wondering if your toddler was meeting all the developmental milestones.

And parental stress begins?

Perhaps worries and anxieties resulted. Maybe you read parenting books or took parenting classes–which is super! But when you stressed out, did you resort to the same parenting techniques of your parents, grandparents, former teachers and other caregivers—after all, you didn’t turn out too badly. Some of these techniques worked miracles on you but you may have vowed to NEVER do other techniques with your children…except when you become stressed. Then those old words and actions seem to just pop out of you.

The old ways of being overprotective are no longer the sign of the times. They tend to promote entitled kids with high expectations, except rather than of themselves, they have
high expectations and demands of you! If you want your child to learn resiliency and self-reliance, your child may need to suffer the consequence of a bruised knee or hurt feelings.

If the old ways were to put the fear of wrath in your child, you may discover a child who is either timid and withdrawn or aggressive. Moreover, these ways can encourage kids to feel like victims or bullies. Obviously, neither of these scenarios is ideal for your child’s strength of character and self-esteem.

What are the signs that you have parental stress?

Do you experience considerable irritability and frustration?
Do you have restless sleep or deny yourself enough sleep?
Are you suffering from health issues, especially headaches and muscle aches?
Do you notice more conflict with your co-parent?
Are you feeling inadequate in your effectiveness as a parent?

What now?

There are a variety of steps parents can take to care for their own stress levels, which in turn, will benefit their children.

  1. Accept that you are not expected to be a “perfect” parent. Cara Goodwin, PhD, Parenting Translator, explains that “Much of our stress as parents involves feeling guilty about how we have failed our kids or worrying that we might make the wrong decision.” 
  2. Prioritize sleep. Not only do your kids need to be on a good sleep schedule, so do you. If your kids are resistant to bedtime, seek professional guidance from a psychologist or pediatrician. If you are resistant to a bedtime, you can research helpful tips or also seek professional guidance, this time for yourself.
  3. Work on being fit. This means healthy eating and exercise. If you are fit, you are in a better frame of mind to deal with challenges of daily living, in particular, those that involve your children.
  4. Socialize with other adults. Rather than hyper focusing on your children and living vicariously through them, model how healthy adults take good care of themselves. Everyone needs a break and time to unwind. Schedule a date night. Ask a friend, family member or babysitter to watch the kids.
  5. Identify your parenting style. Overcontrolling parents, whether helicopter parents or drill sergeant parents, may increase levels of worry and social anxiety in children. These parents communicate to their children that they do not have the skills to successfully navigate challenges in their environment. The better approach is to learn your role as a consultant parent to guide your children and give them the room to make mistakes and learn from them. A good, sound parenting program to follow is Love and Logic Parenting.
  6. Seek professional help. If after implementing the above steps, you still find it difficult to deal with the extremes and uncertainties of parenting, seek support from a mental health specialist (psychologist, counselor, social worker). They may even recommend that you get assessed for medication that could help relieve the intensity of your stress.

Strive to be a good role model…not a perfect parent.

For further reading:
Goodwin, C. (2022). How to feel less stressed as a parent. Psychology Today.