Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world – you are a caretaker, an educator, a manager, a disciplinarian, a chef, a coach, a nurse, an entertainer, a provider – to name a few roles you fulfill as a parent. With all this responsibility there is bound to be stress and while most parents may consider stress to be the “norm”, there are means by which you can manage it and reduce it from your life.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to situational pressures or demands. For parents, stress often comes from the feeling of losing control. Physically, stress can manifest itself as headaches, stomachaches, fatigue and/or frequent colds or infections. Emotionally, stress can cause frustration and moodiness, depression and/or anxiety.
While some stress is actually healthy for our systems, there is no reason to accept stress in your life that can be reduced or eliminated. Try these tips and tricks to help manage the stress your experience as a parent:
- Have realistic expectations of your children. Kids make mistakes and, until a certain level of maturity, do not possess common sense. Part of being a child is to act inconsistently and impulsively. Holding your child to a higher standard than they are capable will lead to disappointment and, ultimately, stress. Recognize what your child’s capabilities are and celebrate when they exceed them.
- Take time to do something for yourself. You may be everything to your child but you are still you and deserve some time to yourself to nurture your needs and wants. Any hobby or activity that makes you feel happy and content – exercise, reading, painting, etc – will help to reduce any pent up stress you may be holding within yourself. It is okay to enjoy activities away from or without your children.
- Get help. There is nothing wrong with asking for outside help in order to have a break or manage other aspects of your life. If this is difficult for you, remind yourself that you are parenting at your best when your stress is at its lowest. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for a parental reprieve so you can focus on yourself or other ongoing issues.
Stay calmer than your child. As human beings, our initial reaction to stressful situations is often to get upset and become defensive in an attempt to diffuse the other party. What happens is that everyone gets worked up and angry, nothing gets solved and stress levels go through the roof. Do your best to stay calmer than your child when they are upset or angry – take a deep breath, leave the room for a moment or simply repeat to yourself: “Stay calm and kind.”
- Your children learn from what you do. As a side note, remember that children learn through modeling your behaviors. The more you do to manage your own stress, the more they will learn to manage their own.