The stress of parenting doesn’t stay with you and your spouse. It bleeds out to everybody you know, first to your children, and then to your friends. Your colleagues start to notice that you’re often in a bad mood, and then your boss questions your poor performance. The neighbor looks worried when you pass each other on the street, and even your pets are more scared than happy when you’re around. And then the physical symptoms start cropping up: insomnia, loss of appetite, failing immune system. Only other parents can tell immediately what’s going on. It’s stress. You’re overwhelmed by parenting stress.
Who wouldn’t be? No matter how lovely your kids are and how supportive your spouse is, the obligation has its way of draining you. While this happens to the majority of parents and it’s a normal occurrence, it doesn’t mean that you should just go with the flow. For your sake and the sake of your family, you have to find better ways to manage your stress.
Here are 4 recommendations that you can start with.
Get Social Support
It takes a village to raise a child because attempting it on your own will drain you. That’s why there are a lot of websites, forums, community groups, and helplines dedicated to parents. When you’ve got a reliable support team on your side, it’s easier to tap others for help when you need to.
Sometimes you get stuck in a business meeting in the far end of Utah and won’t make it in time to fetch your daughter from ballet practice, so a friend volunteers. Another time, your son knocks a tooth loose during a soccer match, and it’s another parent that knows a reputable emergency dentist.
It’s not always childcare that necessitates a pair of helping hands, though. When you’re exhausted and you have no one to vent to, reaching out for emotional support from your friends, parents, and siblings can do a lot in helping you cope.
Creating and maintaining social support is crucial for effective parenting. It doesn’t need to be a huge crowd of people. Even a handful whom you can depend on should suffice to help you get by. If your immediate circle won’t do, join parenting classes, online parenting communities, and support groups. Go to a professional therapist. Acknowledging that you need support is the first step to finding one.
Limit the Negativity
This one needs more patience and strategy to accomplish, but the effort you put in will be worth it. Bear in mind that stress feeds on negativity, and when you’re already in a bad mood, it’s likely that you’ll only focus on the bad stuff. After handling your child’s temper tantrum in public, you go home and see only the clothes that haven’t been folded and the toys that were left on the floor.
You tend to miss the blooming flowers in the front yard, the pet wagging its tail at your return, and the cake in the refrigerator you’ve been looking forward to it. Once you’re safe inside the house, you expect your child to resume the tantrum and your spouse to worsen it by tolerating the behavior.
Oftentimes, when you’re so high-strung, it’s best to take a moment alone to catch your breath. When you reinforce your stress by feeding it with more negative thoughts, you create self-fulfilling prophecies. You provoke others towards the behavior you expect and you create the circumstances you don’t want.
Different people cope with triggers differently. Find what works for you. Consult with a professional to see which methods help you zoom out of your negative thoughts and emotions and focus on finding your calm. This often means avoiding negative media and people and intentionally surrounding yourself with things that make you happy. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to diffuse a situation or an outburst when you’re in a peaceful state of mind.
Teach Your Children Stress Management
Emotional self-regulation isn’t innate in children. It takes years to develop and a high percentage of their success depends on how you manage yours. When they see that you handle yours by yelling, walking out, and giving people the cold shoulder, they’re likely to mimic those actions. This is especially true if your children are naturally temperamental.
You can significantly reduce the stress in your household when all members of your family are capable of managing theirs. Practice constructive conversations between you and your spouse and extend the behavior to your children. Employ methods that will hone their empathy, social skills, and self-control.
Managing your parenting stress takes a lot of time and practice. There will be days when you can handle the storms your children send your way and days when you snap at the first signs of it. Learn to apologize to your children and to forgive yourself. Raising children is no easy feat, and you deserve to know that your efforts are appreciated.