Hot Topic Blog - Parenting
PARENTING AND STRESSBy Fawne Hansen of Vancouver, BC, Canada
Parenting and stress go together like peanut butter and jelly. You just can’t have one without the other. Parenting stress begins with pregnancy (or even earlier for people with reproductive challenges) and continues indefinitely. Two of the biggest fallacies out there are that:
1. You can achieve stress-free parenting, or
2. The stress of raising a child will somehow end when the child reaches a certain age.
Neither is true, but countless parents end up running in circles trying to achieve the unachievable and actually creating more stress for themselves in the process. Instead, parents should look at how to best manage the stress inherent in the role that they have taken on. There are several techniques that any parent can use to reduce stress and increase the enjoyment of parenting.
Establish Support Systems
Establishing a support system early can lay a foundation for parents in the years to come. This is an essential step that applies to every parent or parent-to-be regardless of marital status, employment status, or socio-economic status. Every parent will need help at some point, and it pays to have a system in place before you need it. Parents receive the greatest amount of offers for help in pregnancy. Make sure to acknowledge everyone who volunteers, and keep a record of specific offers. You may not need someone to bring dinner over or walk the dog right now, but these simple favors can be life-savers later on. Be sure to let people know you intend to “take them up” on their generous offers, and follow through with that.
Don’t just wait around for people to make offers either. Be proactive in seeking out the help you need. Look beyond friends and family; there are several professional organizations that can provide support in a variety of ways. For example, lactation specialists can help new mothers navigate common breastfeeding issues. Having a knowledgeable and willing source of information and support reduces stress and increases the chances of successful nursing. As the child grows, other sources of support can be found in schools, parenting groups, and places of worship. Remember that you are not the first person to attempt this parenting thing, and the help you need is out there!
Take the Time to Do Fun Things
One of the best parts of being a parent is getting to have fun with your kids. Unfortunately, this message sometimes gets lost in the high-stakes competition of academic achievement and extracurricular activities. Not everything you do with your child has to be resume-worthy! Simply spending time with them, running around at a park or doing something around the house can be just as valuable.
Kids who are accustomed to doing enjoyable things with their parents will also talk to them more about their lives, fears, and challenges. Having this open line of communication is a major source of stress relief because parents won’t need to guess what’s going on with their children. Listen to what your kids say without judgment, and present your advice or input in a non-threatening way to keep the communication going.
Happy memories of no-pressure fun times also act as buffers when stressful times inevitably come around. Try a variety of activities until you find something that everyone enjoys. Forcing the fun is as bad as not having any fun at all.
Consider Some Professional Help
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, there will be stressful times that are just too trying for you to deal with on your own. Parents of children with physical or mental health issues can experience an inordinate amount of added stress. Sudden lifestyle changes, like a death or unexpected unemployment, can also send stress levels “off the charts.” It is important to recognize when you are feeling overwhelmed and take action.
Seek out and avail yourself of the services of a licensed counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Don’t fall victim to any imagined stigma. It is not a failure on your part to get professional help; rather, it is the mark of a caring and competent parent. Professionals can provide tools for coping and resources for continuing support. Addressing behavioral problems or parenting challenges with their help is an effective way to handle parenting stress.
About the Author
Fawne Hansen is an author and wellness coach who specializes in helping others heal from stress and adrenal fatigue. To learn more about the science of and dealing with stress, see Fawne’s article entitled Stress 101: Causes, Symptoms, & Coping Strategies.