APRIL PARENT NEWSLETTER
Parenting & Stress: Developing Your Own Coping Strategies
Stress is an inevitable aspect of today's parenting. First, the stress you feel as a parent will continue throughout course of your life. The sources of that stress, and how best to deal with it, is what changes as you and your children grow. The following techniques can be used by any parent to reduce stress and increase their enjoyment of parenting.
#1 Establish support systems
Establishing a support system early will lay a foundation for parents in the years to come. Like a well-stocked emergency kit, it pays to have a system in place before you need it. There are two ways to go about building support systems.
First, accept the help that is offered. Be sure to let people know you intend to take them up on their generous offer, and follow through. 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.
Second, seek the help you need. You don’t have to just wait around for people to make offers. Those who can afford to have a cleaning service or cook should do research and interviews in advance, so when the need hits, they are ready. Because full time help can be pricey, consider a short term or temporary arrangement. Those small time savings can be a big stress relief.
If paying for outside help is out of the question, look to friends and family. There are also several professional organizations that can provide free or inexpensive support. Sources of support can be found in schools, parenting groups and places of worship.
#2 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 today’s atmosphere of academic competition.
It is important to remember that 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 is immensely valuable. Even just 20 minutes a week can give you both a well needed respite from the stresses of everyday life.
Kids who are used to doing enjoyable things with their parents are more likely to open up about their lives, fears and challenges as they grow.
#3 Corral the chaos
Household stress falls into two major categories: Location and Time. Location is having things where they can be found when needed. Time is being able to get where you need to be by a certain deadline.
Common challenges are backpacks, extracurricular supplies and school lunches. Backpacks should go in the same spot. Once you’ve established where things go, get in the routine of placing them there every day.
Other time management techniques can reduce parental stress. Daily occurrences like meals and going to bed should take place at the same time every day. Be sure to set time limits for each activity to keep things moving along.
#4 Seek out professional help
Sometimes things will inevitably be too much for you to deal with on your own. A parent may have to cope with a child who suffers from a physical, mental health, or behavioral issue. When you recognize that you’re feeling overwhelmed, take action. Enlist the help of a licensed mental health professional.
It can be confusing to choose what help is best suited for your situation. Counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists each have strengths suited to particular problems. Simply discussing your stress can often go a long way to making it disappear.
Counselors will have at least a Master’s Degree in marriage and family therapy or counseling. They primarily use talk therapy to help people manage their problems. Parents may turn to a counselor when trying to handle anxiety issues, eating disorders, life changes, or relationship issues.
Psychologists in private practice and clinical psychologists will have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. and can handle all of the same issues as a counselor. Additionally, they administer diagnostic or psychological tests and consult with other healthcare professionals on a comprehensive approach to patient treatment.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized in psychiatry. They can diagnose mood disorders like depression and anxiety, and have expertise in severe psychological problems like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. They also treat these disorders.
If you’re not sure who exactly you should see, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that you just reach out for help. Any reputable professional will tell you if they are suited to your needs or point you in the right direction. Just like any other relationship, the one with your mental health provider is a personal one. 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. It is also an opportunity to impart a life lesson: mental health is just as important as physical health. No one is stigmatized for seeing a doctor about their physical problems, so why should they feel ashamed for addressing their mental health?
Parenting and stress go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can’t have one without some measure of the other. As a parent you will never eliminate stress entirely, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. There are methods available for every parent to effectively reduce and manage their stress.