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Parenting Stress: Ways to support your emotional health

Stress, we all handle it differently. And we all do better when we know some ways to deal with it. Parenting Now’s Make Parenting A Pleasure program helps support parents who are experiencing high levels of stress by helping them identify ways to manage stressful moments during the day. 

What is stress?

Stress can affect anyone at any time. A person may experience situational stress from the loss of a job, or experience chronic stress from repeated exposure to stressful stimuli, such as a demanding job or the daily stressors of parenting. Whether the stress is minor or major, it can have an effect on one’s physical and emotional health. 

If you’re a parent, you are at greater risk of stress if you:

  • Have a child with a difficult temperament
  • Have a child with medical, emotional, or behavior problems
  • Lack of social support
  • Are a single parent
  • Are parenting a young child

How do I know if I am stressed out?

Human beings are designed with a built-in fight or flight mechanism that readies us for survival situations. When we feel stressed out, our pulse and breath quickens, and muscles tense up. It may be hard to sleep, feel calm, and we may be prone to irritability or anger. Over time, our bodies forget what it feels like to function outside of survival mode, putting us at risk for other health issues such as anxiety and depression.

What can I do to support myself and my children?

It’s harder to parent when you are stressed. But just because you feel exhausted or overwhelmed, does not make you a bad parent. In fact, recognizing that you feel stressed out and wanting to do something about it, is an awesome first step in strengthening your parent/child relationship.

In moments of increased stress with your child, such as finding your toddler drawing on the walls, there are several ways to respond to the situation without raising your voice—or your temper.

  • Take 3 deep breaths and count to 10. Breath work gives you enough time to calm down before talking to your child.
  • Find the humor. Rarely children mean any harm by their actions. Try to find humor in the situation while also reinforcing that you don’t condone the behavior. “Okay, Picasso. Time to help Mommy clean the art off the walls.”
  • Get moving. In a situation where you or your child’s temper is high, get moving. Whether it’s a walk or run around the block, a dance party in the living room, exercise is a great way to relieve tension and stress.
  • Take a parent time out. There will be times when you just need a short break. When possible, step into the other room for a moment of quiet, or ask a family member or spouse to keep an eye on the kids while you take a moment to yourself. If you are alone, call a friend or family member that you can talk to. 

These may seem like simple steps on some days or even impossible on the next!  But these things do work to help take the heat out of the moment and also have the benefit of modeling to your children how to handle stress themselves, and that can build resilience for a lifetime.

Parenting groups are another way for parents to support their emotional health. In addition to having the support of professional Parenting Educators, talking regularly with parents in similar situations as yours is a great way to make lifelong friends. To learn more about upcoming parenting groups at Parenting Now, visit parentingnow.org.

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