How To Overcome Parental Stress
If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation call Police on 000. If you wish to report a child protection matter, call the Child Protection Hotline on 132 111. If you require assistance or would like to talk to a trained professional about the issues in this article, please call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Stress is a normal part of life which can help motivate you to overcome challenges and get things done. However, too much stress can be overwhelming, making it difficult to cope with everyday things. Even positive life changes can be stressful, in addition to feelings of uncertainty, not having control over your environment, and poor time management.
Being a parent brings out a range of powerful emotions from exhilaration to despair. Feelings of love, happiness and pride may quickly turn to anger, hate or guilt, depending on the situation and the degree of available support.
The type of relationship you build with your child guides them throughout their life. In order to become a person who is able to manage their effectively regulate their emotions, respect others, and behave with care and compassion, your child will have to experience and see these behaviours. Managing your stress, anger and frustration can make parenting easier and help maintain a safe, happy home for your child.
Physical discipline can injure your child
Children depend on their parents for love and care – they never deserve physical punishment. Young children don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand many forms of discipline, therefore smacking will only frighten a child and/or cause serious injury. Physical forms of punishment teaches children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict.
Experiencing negative feelings is normal
Even children feel tired, unwell, stressed and angry, however they often aren't able to verbally express how they feel and therefore express these emotions through "bad" behaviour. When parents are under pressure themselves, reacting to bad behaviour becomes easier than taking time to consider what your child is trying to communicate. If you're having difficulty with your child's bad behaviour, ask for support, take time to yourself to catch up on sleep, and seek social support, even if it's an online parenting group with people who share the same values as you, and will encourage you, enhancing your confidence in parenting.
Your body will probably know if you are stressed. Your heart rate may increase, your breathing may get faster, and your muscles might tense up. Long-term stress will cause your body to become exhausted. You may develop headaches, sleep problems, digestive problems or the feeling that you just can’t cope, which isn't good for your health and wellbeing.
You might be stressed if you’re:
- worrying most of the time
- drinking too much alcohol, smoking or using drugs
- finding it hard to tolerate your partner or children
- having trouble sleeping
- not feeling physically well
- not wanting to get out of bed in the morning
- having negative thoughts like ‘I’m never going to get out of this mess’
- feeling that you’re not managing practical everyday things.
If you know what triggers your stress, you can prevent or prepare yourself for it. Write a list of what makes you feel stressed. For example, your child crying for a long time, running late to an appointment, or having an untidy house.
Immediate stress management techniques
- Put your child in a safe place and leave the room.
- Call a friend or relative and ask for help.
- Walk around the house or go outside.
- Inhale deeply and exhale slowly and steadily.
- Count your breaths to focus your concentration.
- Be aware of your body language and try to change it so that you are more relaxed.
- Play your favourite music
- Engage in physical activity
Think and talk positively
- Challenge unhelpful thoughts about things that cause you stress. If your child cries in the supermarket. instead of thinking ‘everyone will think I’m a bad parent,’ ask yourself, ‘how do I know that people will think this?’, ‘would I think this about someone else?’ or ‘what can I do to deal with this problem?’
- Be realistic about what you can do to change the situation. Would your child cry less if you went shopping at a different time of day?
- Develop positive self-talk statements that help you. You could say to yourself, ‘It won’t take much longer – I can get through it’, ‘People aren't looking at us’, or ‘I can do this.’
- Know your limits and choose your battles. Would it be easier to online shop?
Focus on what’s essential
Set realistic goals for your day and avoid taking on more than you can handle. Manage time more effectively by using planners and having a routine. If you have large tasks to deal with, try breaking them down into smaller more manageable parts, and reach out to your support network for help!
Stay connected with others
Talk things over with your partner or a friend to help you keep things in perspective. Spend time with friends, even if it's meeting for a quick coffee, or connecting with other parents through an online parenting group.
Focus on your physical health
Eat well, exercise, and make time to rest. Create a sleep routine with quiet activities such as reading or guided meditation in the hour before bed, to help you sleep. Avoid stimulants like cigarettes and caffeine, and depressants like alcohol.
Make time for hobbies, whether that’s reading, gardening, socializing, etc. Try to do one thing on the list every day, and especially on the weekend. Even if it’s only 15 minutes.
Managing in the long term
- Make time to maintain your relationships with loved ones.
- Schedule at least one self-indulgent activity every day, such as reading a book or having coffee with a friend.
- Find support from family members, friends or counsellors.
- Mix with other parents to share stories and swap parenting tips.
- Learn about child development, to better understand your child’s behaviour.
- Recognise and try to attend to underlying problems such as financial stresses, which can impact on your relationship with your child.
- Research stress management ideas such as yoga, meditation or regular exercise.
If you’re still feeling very stressed every day, talk to a health professional. See your GP, who can help you make a plan for managing stress. This might include referring you to another health professional for specialist support.
If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation call Police on 000.
If you wish to report a child protection matter, call the Child Protection Hotline on 132 111.
If you require assistance or would like to talk to a trained professional about the issues in this article, please call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.