Parenting | Recognising and dealing with stress

people-1492052_1920Many 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports.

Join the One Family Parenting Group online here

Parenting | Supporting teens when their other parent leaves the country

girl-863686_1920Telling a teenager that their parent is moving away to another country is a big challenge. Explaining this to a teenage child is very hard for the parent who is living with them. In my experience, there are very few teenagers that cope well with one parent leaving and moving far away when they have been engaged in parenting, at some level, for a number of years.

How can you support your teenager to cope with such hurt, confusion and pain as this age? Here are ’10 ways’ to support yourself and your teenager during this time:

  1. Supporting your teen starts with looking after your own needs. You may feel very isolated and overwhelmed with the task of parenting alone. It may generate old feelings of hurt and grief from the separation. Whatever it raises for you needs to be dealt with. Explore your support networks. Talking about your feelings is important to support you to understand and explore what you need to do next. If you can’t get support from friends and family then it may be time to seek professional support through counselling or parent mentoring.
  2. When you have reflected on your own feelings you can then reflect on what your teen’s needs. You know your teen best. Every teen will respond differently to a parent moving away. Creating the space to talk with them about how they feel is crucial. We can presume we know a lot about our children but often we get small details wrong; it is the small details that make the big difference. Just like us, teenagers don’t  necessarily want someone to fix things but they do want someone to listen. Just hear what they are saying and acknowledge it. Thank them for telling you how they feel.
  3. Think about what their needs are, based on what they told you. What needs are left unmet as a result of their other parent moving away? What needs can you meet? It may seem very overwhelming, trying to meet all of these needs on your own. But again this is the time to look at what supports exist in your life, from family and friends to schools and clubs. You don’t have to do this alone. Let others in and allow them to offer support.
  4. Teenagers can feel great rejection and hurt that their parent has left. They can start to think that maybe the parent always wanted to leave. If conflict was an issue ongoing in the relationship they may feel it was the reason the parent left them. They will need reassurance that this is not the case.
  5. Keep talking and acknowledge how the change is difficult. Let them see what you are doing to try and cope with the change. It is okay to show how we, as parents, are feeling. Our children learn when they see how we cope. Coping mechanisms are what get us through life.
  6. Accept that some teens may blame you, the parent who is caring for them, and appear to worship the parent who has left, seeing no wrong in what they do. They may also wish that they could go and live with the other parent. This is normal.
  7. Although you are the key person in meeting their needs, your teen is also getting to a stage when they have to learn that they are also responsible for meeting their own needs. Help them explore what steps they can take to help themselves.
  8. Plan things together to support each other. Make dates with each other when you can share thoughts and feelings or simply spend some time together.
  9. Be patient and calm with your teen. Give them more hugs than ever. Just because they may be bigger than you don’t be fooled into thinking they don’t need a hug, they need them more than ever.
  10. Remember, you can move through this transition but you need to be there for each other. Acknowledge how you feel and acknowledge how your child feels even when you can do absolutely nothing to change it.

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or on 01 662 9212.


Parenting | How to make day trips run smoothly

llama-935947_1920How many times have you taken your children on a day trip and five minutes after you arrive, or five minutes into the car trip, you feel like saying, “That’s it! We are going home.” We put time, energy and costs into organising days out, yet it can sometimes seems that your children just don’t care.

The stress of organising the event can leave you exhausted and with little energy to deal with what might be normal everyday behaviours. It becomes something bigger and you may be inclined to overreact. Coupled with this, children can be more excitable on days out. The excitement will make it harder for them to manage their emotions and behaviour. They can’t stop fighting and they won’t do what you ask of them.

Teens, on the other hand, may show no excitement. They may be so difficult to motivate, you wonder why you bothered. Feeling disheartened, you just want to go home and cry or maybe stomp about the house to let them know how angry or upset you are. The day out was not just for the children, it was for you too and you feel disappointed: you wanted this time out to relax and have fun with your children.

There are steps you can take to make things go a little smoother so the fun days out are fun from the time you wake up. Read our “10 ways to” have enjoyable days out this summer:

  1. Keep it simple. Think about what your child can cope with. If they are not use to travelling too far then don’t plan a long trip. No matter how good you think the far away venue may be, it may not be worth it. This goes for holidays too.
  2. Tell your child about the trip in advance. Some children love surprises but many don’t. If they are not aware of what is about to happen it can really upset them. Keep as many elements the same for them as possible: eat at the same times and eat the same types of food.
  3. Talk with your child about what you expect of them on the day out. Try to come up with some ways of keeping them safe but still allowing them some freedom.
  4. Dress children for play and not for photos. Too many children are over-dressed on play days out. Let them get dirty, have fun, roll in the sand. They shouldn’t come home clean; it is not a good sign! Bring spare clothes, bring the wipes and try not to worry.
  5. Dress appropriately yourself. Wearing your lovely white trousers may not be the best idea. It is all about fun, so dress in a way that supports you to relax and enjoy your time with your children.
  6. Photographs can cause lots of trouble. Take them if you can but making children pose can create stress for no reason. Fun days out will create memories in a child’s mind. They don’t need photos to have those memories. You can keep other things from the day and stick them in a scrap book to remind you of the day.
  7. If problems arise, stay calm. Think about it from your child’s point of view. Take a break, sit down for a minute and make a plan. Think about what is causing the problem. Are we hungry, are we tired? Whose needs are not been met? Can I do anything? The least you can do is acknowledge the need, if you can’t meet it at that time acknowledging it helps. If you can identify the problem and solve it things will improve.
  8. Allow them to cry; it doesn’t mean you have to leave. There are parents all around you. They know how hard it is. If you can stay calm your child will feel it and they will relax.
  9. Following on from that, stop worrying about who is watching. We put too much pressure on ourselves as parents to perform perfectly all of the time. Be the best parent you can and try not to let others knock your confidence.
  10. Do it more often!

This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or on 01 662 9212.