Parenting can be rewarding yet riddled with anxiety and stress. From the moment your child enters the world, nothing will ever be the same again, and neither will you. It is an emotional rollercoaster with all of the ups, downs and loop-the-loops you can think of. But unlike a rollercoaster where you can see the track clearly in front of you, life as a parent is simply not something that can be predicted or anticipated. Parenting is a wonderful blessing but it comes with difficult situations and stress. That is why I am happy to share some coping skills for stressed parents. Stress management techniques are essential for parents to keep a healthy state of mind and function at their best.
What Is Parenting Stress?
Part of being a parent is being able to juggle a million demanding and important things all at the same time. This pressure can start to become stressful after a while, especially if it is not managed effectively. Parents are just human after all. When it feels like all you do is run around and put out a number of ‘’fires’’ all day, it’s time to reassess your stress levels as a parent. Stressed parents are a reality of a world that has an ever increasing pace and this can take a toll on our mental health.
If you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, mentally, physically and physiologically exhausted and the thought of cutting yet another piece of toast into a cheesy triangle makes you want to lie in a dark room and listen to the tap drip – then you will be delighted to know two things. One, you are not alone. And two, it is possible to alter the amount of parental stress you are experiencing every day. Healthy coping skills will provide you with healthy ways to deal with negative emotions in a stressful situation.
Why Does Stress From Parenting Happen?
There are many different causes of stress, and in most cases, there is not one clearly identifiable cause, but a mixture of subtle factors working in unison. Listed below are some examples of why parenting can be so stressful:
1. A newborn
For new parents – especially during the first 6-12 weeks with a newborn baby – the exhaustion, frustration, inexperience and momentous changes all contribute towards massive parenting stress. Sleep deprivation is often the biggest culprit in the scenario, but after the first few months, new parents get into the swing of things and life as a parent becomes more manageable.
2. Single Parenting
Single parents are constantly under pressure and huge parental stress all the time. And depending on the resources and help they have available to them, it may be difficult to manage the huge amount of stress they have. But people love to be needed, in fact they have an inherent need to be needed, and the biggest lesson a single parent needs to learn, to help them manage their stress, is to be able to ask for help.
3. Busy lives
A hectic schedule and no time to relax is one of the most common precursors to parenting stress. As is the case for most parents, they might have all the love in the world for their child, but fall victim to the intensive daily routine, the lack of sleep and the isolation.
Very much a modern cause of parenting stress is a parent’s insecurity over their own suitability as a parent, and the significance of their own actions in regards to the child’s future. With exposure to aspirational parent lifestyles in the media and societal pressure, parents often obsess over every tiny detail and let almost anything run them into the ground.
All of these things and more may lead to parenting stress and we need parent coping skills to help us meet the challenges we face.
Stress Management For Parents
Stress is a very real and debilitating part of every parent’s life. If left unchecked, it can start to unravel to the point where the parent suffer from a lower emotional well being. Stress management is something that takes self-discipline and assistance, and parents need to understand that asking for help shows signs of maturity and strength. Being proactive enough to say “I can’t do this on my own” and getting the help and support you need, is not a sign of weakness. While deep breaths can certainly be helpful, sometimes you need more types of coping skills to and relaxation techniques to deal with external stressors.
Recognizing that parental stress is problem and searching for stress management techniques is the first step.
Set Boundaries And Get Help
Routine, clear family boundaries, help from other family members and quality family time, will keep your family team strong and healthy, and will reduce the stress levels significantly. If one parent or both parents feel like they are slaves to a demanding family who never help – and even 3 year olds can pick up after themselves – the stress levels are going to be high. Ask for help if you need it (in an assertive way, not an aggressive way). Or hire help if you can.
Sometimes it is just a matter of feeling seen and being heard. Talking about how you feel stressed with your partner may be a great way to vent some steam and even come up with constructive ideas together for how to reduce trigger points.
It is a good idea for parents to take time to sit down together and work out a game plan for where they feel the big stress areas are and how they can work together to manage them. In this way they are able to implement change using a process that involves the whole family.
Take Quiet Time And Plan Ahead
Part of effective parental stress management techniques for parents is planning ahead and being organized. Staying up an extra half an hour to pack school lunches or iron shirts, will greatly enable parents to feel less chaotic, rushed and frantic when schedules are tight and everyone is always feeling like they are running late. Working to improve your time management skills will definitely pay off.
Parent Coping Skills That Work
There are many different coping skills for stressed parents to help reduce stress and feel better. Some parents turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism and that merely masks the stress and often makes the problem worse. Finding healthy coping methods is key!
Check your mindset. Does it need an adjustment? You are blessed to be a parent and lucky to have someone you have to make dinner for. I am not saying to ignore your stress. I am just saying to remember what is important to you and that it may take some work to provide for your family. It is natural and normal. Sometime adjusting your expectations and being grateful for what you have is the first coping skill you need to employ from your tool kit. Try some positive self-talk to put things into perspective and see things in a positive light.
Take Some Time Out
Parenting is often an unbalanced affair, with the parent giving so much of themselves to the child. Parents need attention too. Some parents can recharge their batteries better through time alone to pamper and think. Others need social time to with other adults to feel more connected. To address this, the parents should set aside time where they can reward themselves in a way that works for them.
This could simply be an hour of relaxation, a dinner out, a massage or a movie. Listen to some music and dance or meditate. Try some breathing exercises or different things to see what you need. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher. Self care is not optional.
Find Your Tribe
A parent should never feel isolated. Indeed, isolation can cause stress in itself. Local community events that give parents the opportunity to communicate with others are important. This type of social support allows parents to see when others are going through a similar stage. You are not alone and you will get past this stage. It is good to talk with family and friends, but speaking with other parents who can directly relate to your problems can be even better.
Don’t neglect your physical health. Getting exercise is shown to reduce anxiety significantly. If you have pent up stress or anxiety, go for a walk or a run. How does it work? According to the ADAA.org, “Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy, even breathing deeply can cause your body to produce endorphins.”
A qualified counselor can help you address trigger points and solve patterns that are creating stress. A few sessions could help put you back on track handling things in a more productive, happier way. EveryDay Health even offers some resources for free online therapy.
This Too Shall Pass
Coping as a parent is extra hard because you can feel like you have the weight of the world on you. The responsibility of steering your life and the showing up for your children all at the same time can be a lot on occasion. When raising kids, remember that it is all moving and changing as you pass through the different ages. The first two years are a tremendous time suck but they are also so special and wonderful. Each age will have its demands and rewards.
As your children get older, relationship building becomes important for strong ties and emotional connections. This in turn helps to promote a healthy family environment and eliminate the build up of stress and associated family problems. The more effort that is put into the family relationship, the better the chance is for a happy and loving future. One of the best coping skills is just remembering that you will get through this and it will get easier.
Make sure to avoid unhealthy coping strategies like drugs and alcohol. They provide only short-term relief and they dig you deeper into a pit that is hard to escape.
Releasing unrealistic expectations and adopting positive coping skills will help you deal with difficult times. Times of stress test us all. Suffering from parenting stress is completely normal. However, working to develop stress management techniques for parents is also completely normal. It is a great way to deal with things before they get out of hand. I hope you find these coping skills for parents useful. Enjoy these special years as they pass quicker than you think!