Parents experience an immense amount of stress on a daily basis. While most parents are thrilled to have children, every one of them will agree that there are days when the pressure and demands of the role feel impossible to meet. Add on to that the responsibilities for maintaining a marriage, going to work and keeping up with a social life and the stress levels can sky rocket.
Reducing stress for parents is essential because even if you don’t talk about it in front of the children, they still pick up on it and are greatly effected. Research has shown that children with parents who experience chronic or high stress commonly experience physical and emotional symptoms.
If you are a parent, here are some tips to reduce stress:
1. Learn to say no. Being the best parent, partner, friend or employee does not mean agreeing to do everything. This only contributes to feeling overwhelmed, which negatively impacts your ability to be the best you can be in any role you play in life. It is very easy to over-commit to children, which can increase the overall stress in the family. Know what your limits are and re-prioritize your schedule and your children’s activities.
2. Ask for help. Many parents, especially mothers, feel that it is their responsibility to do everything themselves. Unfortunately, the myth of the Super Parent is just that, a myth. If you don’t have family around, call on friends and neighbors to help you or if you prefer, hire a professional who can take care of things around the house for you. Building a strong network of people to rely on and learn from can significantly reduce parenting stress.
3. Make time for self-care. Another common misconception about parenting is that the more you give and do, the better off your child will be. Unfortunately, this also does not hold true in reality as the more we give in any part of our life, the more likely we are to burn out. This in turn affects our ability to be patient and flexible. Schedule time in every week to do something rejuvenating for yourself. Engaging in a pleasurable activity, such as exercise, a massage or watching a movie, reduces the stress hormones that run rampant in many parents.
4. Strengthen your relationship. Parenting stresses can be a result of a variety of factors, one of which is marital strain. When the primary relationship of the family is not nurtured, it has a trickle down effect onto the children. Research has shown that parents function at their best as parents when they feel satisfied in their marriage.
5. Learn to recognize the signs of stress. The sooner you can identify that you are becoming overwhelmed, the faster you can make changes in your life to combat them. Keep in mind that avoiding, minimizing or suppressing your emotions does not make them go away but can exacerbate them.
6. Be honest with yourself. Many parents, especially new parents, feel guilty for not being ecstatic about their new role. Accepting that frustration, stress and disappointment are all normal experiences for parents may help reduce stress. Also, when you feel overwhelmed, stop and ask yourself why. If you can be honest with your answer, you will gain invaluable insight into how to reduce your stress for long term relief.
Parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world, with unending demands and 24 hour expectations. Experiencing stress from time to time is normal but if you find your stress levels are high for an extended period of time, it is a red flag that something needs to change. Without addressing the problem, your marriage, family and children will all feel the negative impact which will only add to your stress.
How do you manage your stress as a parent?