Top tips to cope with parenting stress
Parenting is one of life’s most rewarding and also most challenging experiences. Let’s look at ways to manage it when you feel overwhelmed.
If you have noticed that you are quick to reach boiling point and you react in an excessive way when your children misbehave, and have even been told that you’re overreacting, this can be a strong sign that you need to consider making some changes. Here are some tips to see if you overreact, and suggestions as to what you can do about it.
Parenting is tough work! It can be exhausting and demanding. Having a child is a rollercoaster and it’s normal to experience moments where you feel overwhelmed. From the moment your little one is born, you are always ‘on’, responsible for figuring out the many challenges that come with each new stage in their growing up.
Don’t worry if you find it hard at times – you are not alone in struggling to cope with parenting stress! However, it’s important to manage any negative feelings like anger and frustration so that you enjoy your role as parent and maintain a safe, positive environment for your child.
WHAT DOES PARENTING STRESS LOOK LIKE?
Here are some common ways stress can appear for parents:
- Trouble sleeping.
- Feeling overwhelmed by the demands of parenting.
- Feeling irritable, losing patience more frequently.
- Inability to stop worrying about your children.
- Feeling guilt or fear over not doing enough or the right thing.
- Doubt over your abilities as a parent.
- Feeling distressed over a lack of resources to cope
HOW TO COPE WITH PARENTING STRESS
Acknowledge your feelings
It can be very helpful to actually acknowledge how you feel. When we become caught up by stress, it’s easy to forget that we aren’t feeling like our usual selves. There is always something keeping a parent busy – so you may not recognise your own feelings or that perhaps you need some help.
Many times, parents ignore the building pressure and throw themselves into daily chores and things to do, but putting it to the back of your mind will only increase your stress levels. Once you give yourself permission to acknowledge it, there is a greater chance that you will prioritise taking the right steps to reduce your stress rather than let it dictate your emotions and reactions.
Have a plan
Stress amplifies our reactions to the smallest of mishaps or frustrations. This hypersensitivity easily paves the way to feeling fully overwhelmed, so it’s important to have a plan for when you feel this way. Once you have acknowledged your stress, enact this plan to de-escalate the pressure you feel. Some short-term suggestions include:
- If possible, leave the room for a minute.
- Go outside for some air or for a walk.
- Take a number of slow, deep breaths.
- Be aware of your body language – try to adjust it so that you are more relaxed.
- Put on some soothing music – classical or jazz can be very calming.
- Make yourself a comforting warm drink.
- Have a hot shower
Take care of yourself
Becoming a parent changes your priorities completely, leaving you with far less time to yourself than you once had. However, it’s good to take care of your own needs and feelings and look after your health and mental well-being. No matter how loving and selfless you are, it’s impossible to sustain giving to children if you aren’t getting enough emotional nourishment yourself.
You can’t pour from an empty cup – you can only give as much as you have within yourself. If you struggle with feeling guilty for putting yourself first for once, remember that self-care will only have a positive impact on your capacity to give to your kids. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner, family or friends for their help. If they agree to watch the children for a while, you can take some much needed ‘me’ time. It may not always be possible to find large pockets of time but begin by making it an essential part of your weekly or fortnightly routine.
This could be anything you like, from reading in a quiet room, to meeting a friend for coffee, getting a beauty treatment or anything else that makes you feel good! When you take time to relax and recharge, it will improve your patience and behaviour as a parent.
Other ways to relieve pressure
Some other ideas that can have a positive impact on your ability to cope as a parent in the long term include:
- Stress management practices like yoga, meditation or regular exercise.
- Making time to maintain your relationship with your partner.
- Learning about child development, so that you can better understand and anticipate your child’s behaviour.
- Working on any underlying problems, such as financial stresses, marital difficulties or work pressures, that may be affecting your relationship with your child.
- Talking to supportive family members, friends or counsellors.
- Joining a parent group that has the same philosophy and values as you do.
- Seeking out like-minded people who will encourage you and build your confidence as a person and parent
There are a million and one things to think about as a parent! It can be so easy to get carried away with everything you have to do and forget to actually have some fun with your children. It can be so rewarding to take a few minutes and play together – pulling silly faces, making jokes or even dancing to your favourite music together. Sometimes it can do your relationship with your child the world of good to let tasks take a back seat and just be present and enjoy the moment together, having fun.
Some days are especially tough and testing as a parent. It’s on these days that overwhelm takes hold. Parents are not superhuman and can feel tired, sick, stressed or angry, like everyone else. The thing is, children also feel these things and often ‘act out’ their feelings through behaviours. When parents are under pressure themselves, it’s harder to take a moment to work out what your child is trying to tell you.
Parents may react to the behaviour instead and feel guilty afterwards. However, it’s on these days that it’s helpful to focus on all the things you’ve done right. Whatever you do well, remind yourself of it when you feel overwhelmed because ultimately, you deserve to remember that you’re doing a great job!
Parenting has its fair share of challenges and difficult days. It’s reassuring to know that kids are very adaptive and you don’t need to exhaust yourself, attempting to create a perfect environment for them all the time. A small amount of stress or change can actually help make children more resilient.
However, when you notice stress impacting your parenting and the home atmosphere, don’t be afraid to ask for support or enact your plan. Nobody is perfect and we all need a helping hand through the more challenging days!