With parenthood comes great responsibility and so do come parenting stress and anxiety. For first-time parents, the newness of the experience and being novice at child-raising puts them in quite a vulnerable position where the pressure to bring up the child properly, and at the same time, leaving nothing to chance, adds too much to their anxiety.
All parents, at some point in their life, experience parenting stress thanks to the fast-paced world that keeps bombarding them with child-rearing challenges on an almost daily basis. Parenting stress can be detrimental to not only the parents but also their child(ren).
In cases where the child suffers from some chronic disease, the associated parenting stress may also negatively impact the child’s health-related outcomes as the stress on the parents may hamper the management of a child’s illness as well. While some parents show pliancy while facing stressors and perform adequately well, some might get so overwhelmed by the demanding regimens and responsibilities that the whole functioning of the family would get disrupted. Therefore, it is pertinent to not ignore the indications of stress from the very start and take necessary action to contain it in time.
The signs or symptoms of one’s being under parenting stress include, persistent headache, disturbed sleep patterns, body aches, muscle tension, often feeling low on energy, losing interest in the things one used to like before, and being irritable with one’s children and people around.
If the above symptoms apply to you too, you are probably suffering from parenting stress. Hence, it is time to take a break and refocus on your life and priorities. Here are five easy ways that can help you cope with parenting stress effectively:
Make self-care a priority: Only a healthy parent can raise a healthy child. Do yourself a favour and attend to your own needs and requirements too while taking care of your kids’. Get enough sleep. It will naturally boost your ability to cope with stress. Besides, consider other aspects of self-care such as exercise and eating balanced food as well. Parenthood does not necessarily have to mean putting oneself at the back seat. Self-care is, in fact, an opportunity and a great way to lead your children by example. They will learn from you how to cope with life’s exasperation healthily and not ignore one’s well-being.
Make realistic goals: Instead of struggling with perfectionism, understand that it is okay to set achievable standards, even if they are less than perfect. Aiming for consistent perfection leads to stress. Take it easy. It is human not to be able to multitask every time and keep everything in its best shape on all days. Also, it is important to not let this make you feel any less. Know that you are still good enough. Give your children the time they require and while doing that, if you are not able to clean the house to the extent you once used to, it is fine.
Focus your efforts: Parenting demands attending to a large number of issues simultaneously but at the same time, it is humanly impossible to do so, on a daily basis. And therefore, it becomes necessary to pick your battles. As a parent, you need to get your priorities right and identify what matters the most to you that you cannot let go at any cost, and the things that figure comparatively lower on your priority list. For instance, giving your children quality time, providing them good education and instilling moral values might be of utmost important to you while taking them out to restaurants, getting them multiple dresses or enrolling them in hobby classes might be something you feel your children can do without. Determine what matters most to you as a parent, and direct your energy and efforts to get those things done on priority and then see whether you are still left with the energy and resources to get other less important things done.
Talk to friends and ask for help: Talking to friends is the best therapy to deal with almost every kind of stress. Meet up with a friend when you feel overwhelmed by parenting issues. If that is not possible, call that friend and share your concerns with him/her. It is possible that your friend too might be facing the same challenges as you are and this kinship would release the inordinate pressure once you realise that probably you are taking thing too seriously. Similarly, if you feel exhausted while attending to the daily needs and demands of your child, ask for help from your elders especially your parents, in-laws or even neighbours. Advice from people, who are more experienced in raising children than you, can go a long way in solving minor but emotionally taxing problems, such as common childhood illnesses.
Get professional help: If you feel that things are going out of hand and you are not able to tackle the parenting stress despite all your efforts and support system, it is time to reach out for professional help. Unforeseen negative life events and bringing up a child with physical or mental disability may amount to tremendous amount of stress for the parents and they might feel exceedingly overwhelmed. In such cases, it is best for the parents to consult a mental health provider. Visit a psychologist, if you are overly stressed. He or she would help you handle anxiety issues, life changes, or even relationship issues through counselling/talk therapy and by administering diagnostic or psychological tests. A psychologist can also give advice on how to manage your child’s behavioural problems, if any. Addressing children’s behavioural problems or parenting challenges with the help of mental healthcare provider is an effective way to deal with parenting stress. It is important for parents to not let any imagined stigma create self-doubt. It is absolutely normal to seek professional help in order to deal with parenting stress and is in no way, a failure of their parenting capabilities.
Conclusion: It is not possible to exclude stress completely from your parenting routine. However, you can definitely make positive efforts to manage it effectively. Try to establish a network of mutual support comprising friends and relatives to deal with parenting issues. Spend time and have fun with your children. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Set your priorities straight and act accordingly and last but not the least, don’t shy away from taking professional help whenever you feel overwhelmed by parenting stress.