Many parents would describe themselves as busy but do not recognise when they are stressed. Recently I have wondered if parents are more stressed than they realise. The logistics of keeping our children’s lives running smoothly is very stressful. Added stress can come with parenting alone or sharing parenting and being a working parenting can pile on even more stress. In these circumstances it would be impossible not to feel stressed.
In order to cope we often convince ourselves that we are just busy. Some of us can cope better with stress but others may hide it well. If you fail to address the issues causing you stress, problems can arise with your health, your relationships, your well-being, your friendships, your social life, or the most importantly of all, your relationship with our children.
Here are some tips to help us recognise and manage stress in today’s hectic world:
- Some leading psychologists such as Dr Tony Humphreys would believe that all illness makes sense. That every little illness from a sore eye to cancer is our body telling us something. If we ignore the early warning signs then illness can come as a way to make us stand up and notice. It usually stops us in our tracks and forces us to take time off. As parents we are very conscious of looking after our children’s health but what do we do when we are feeling unwell? We battle through it. It is important not to ignore even the most subtle symptoms and signals.
- Finding ways to take time out as a parent is very difficult especially when parenting alone. As a parent told me recently, the favours are all used up for childcare in order to go to work, so how do you get time off to just take a break? It is crucial to find ways to have time off even if this is one hour a week or an afternoon a month. Find support from other parents. All parents are feeling the same way. Use play dates to your advantage to get some space to yourself and when you do, do not clean the house. Sit down, relax, rest. The housework will always be there.
- Talking to someone is really helpful in managing stress. Talking with other parents can be really beneficial as you will find that they are experiencing similar stresses to you. Look in your community and see if there are any groups you can join. It doesn’t have to be parenting, it can be any group that allows you an opportunity to meet other adults and chat when the children aren’t around.
- Find time at home with your children to just relax. Children can be involved in so many activities after school and during the week, so take time to sit together as family. Watch a movie or play a game and just relax the old fashioned way. Children really enjoy having pyjama days with parents, just staying in, sitting on the sofa and talking with each other. So much good can come from a day like this. Why not have a pyjama day once a month?
- Treat yourself now and again. Finding ways to value what you need is really crucial to good self care. Poor self care can affect your confidence and once your confidence is affected your parenting will be affected. Be aware of how you are feeling. Check the emotional thermometer on a daily basis and respond to it. You deserve the same level of care as you give to your children. Let your children see that you deserve care and respect too.
- Ask yourself why you are doing so much. If your child is happy to spend more time with their other parent (and this is workable) explore this as an option. Can you accept or ask for more support? Maybe there are some practical things your child’s other parent can do to help out. If this is not an option, explore the lifestyle you have created for yourself and your child. Is it necessary to be so busy? Is there any way to cut some things out so you have more breathing space?
- If you feel you have reached a stage whereby you are worried you cannot cope any longer it is advisable to seek professional support. You can see a counsellor, a parent mentor or your GP for advice and support. You can also call One Family’s Helpline for support, askonefamily on 01 662 9212 or lo-call 1890 662212.
This article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly series of parenting tips. You can read more tips here.
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