It probably comes as no surprise to most people that parenting can sometimes be a stressful endeavor. After all, when you have a child, you suddenly become responsible for another person's life, and on top of that, many parents juggle taking care of their kids with a career and a marriage as well. It's no easy task. The truth is you can't completely eliminate parenting stress from your life. The key is doing your best to minimize it and finding a way to cope with it when it does pop up.
As with many other types of stress, parenting stress is often the result of feeling overwhelmed by all that the responsibility entails. It's important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We all make mistakes at one time or another, and we will probably make a few mistakes as parents, too [source: CMHA]. Part of what makes parenting so difficult is that the job is constantly changing. People are unique, and what works with one child won't necessarily work with the next. Similarly, being the parent of a newborn is completely different than being the parent of a teenager. You have to try to approach it as a never-ending learning process. You're probably not going to have all the answers, but you'll be able to figure them out as you go.
Parenting stress is hard to avoid, and if you don't learn to cope with it, it could end up having an adverse affect on your mental health and your family. Studies have shown that parents and kids who have additional stress in their lives are more likely to suffer from depression or other mental problems [source: Deater-Deckard]. Your well-being, as well as your family's, really does rely on your ability to minimize and cope with the daily stress of being a parent.
To learn more about how you can cut down on the amount of parenting stress in your life, keep reading.
Minimizing Parenting Stress
If you want to reduce the amount of parenting stress in your life, you're going to have to start by managing your expectations. Keep in mind that not everything is going to go exactly as you've planned it. Also, try to prioritize your responsibilities. It's rare as a parent that you'll have enough time in your day to get everything on your to-do list done. That means you need to figure out what's most important and start with that.
Also, try to keep in mind that, when it comes to being a parent, it's OK if you can't do everything yourself. If you find yourself feeling burned out, don't be afraid to ask your friends or other family members for help. This is especially important for single parents. Your stress levels will possibly be higher if you don't have a partner sharing the duties of raising you kids, so it's very important to have a good support system in place [source: Broadwell].
When you do start to feel overwhelmed, take a step back and try to make a note of what's causing it. By identifying the things that trigger your stress, you might be able to control them more easily [source: DuPage Health]. Years from now, you might even look back on the things that got you worked up and laugh about how trivial they seem.
Unfortunately, you probably won't be able to completely eliminate parenting stress from your life, so it's important to learn healthy ways to deal with it. Keep reading to find out how you can cope with the stress of being a parent when it's simply unavoidable.
Coping with Parenting Stress
When it comes to coping with parenting stress, your best bet is to be proactive. In other words, you know there are going to be times when you get stressed out, so plan ahead for them. If you realize that one thing in particular keeps stressing you out, take steps to fix it. For example, if you keep forgetting about appointments or upcoming events, start keeping a more organized calendar system and writing everything down -- no matter how trivial it seems. Then you'll be able to look at your calendar every night and know exactly what needs to happen the next day.
It's also important to take some time for yourself. Make it a point to take at least 15 minutes of alone time each day, and try to do at least one thing for yourself every day as well. It might feel selfish at first, but it should help to balance some of your stress, and in the long run, that's in your children's best interest. On a similar note, make sure you're getting enough sleep. Structure your day so that you can get to bed at a decent hour. If that seems impossible, try to eliminate or rearrange some things to make it possible. Not only could this lower your stress levels (at least temporarily), but it may help keep you healthy [source: Child Development Institute].
When you do get stressed out, don't take it out on your family, especially your children. It's normal to feel tired or angry every once in awhile. Just take a deep breath and try to relax. If the stress of being a parent starts to feel like too much, try finding a support group in your area. Discussing the issues that are bothering you with other parents who are going through the same things may be helpful [source: Better Health].
Check out the links on the next page for more information on how to deal with the inevitable stress of being a parent.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Better Health Channel. "Parenting - coping with stress." March 2009 (Accessed 01/07/10).http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Parenting_coping_with_stress
- Broadwell, Laura. "10 Ways to Reduce Single-Parent Stress." Parents. 2002 (Accessed 01/07/10).http://www.parents.com/parenting/dynamics/single-parenting/how-to-reduce-single-parent-stress/;jsessionid=KUIMC20JDVPWYCQCEASB42Q?page=1
- Canadian Mental Health Association. "The Stress of Parenting." 2010 (Accessed 01/07/10).http://www.cmha.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=2-70-71
- Child Development Institute. "Stress Management For Parents." 2010 (Accessed 01/07/10).http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/parenting/stress.shtml
- Deater-Deckard, Kirby D. "Parenting Stress." Kirby Deater-Deckard, 2004 (Accessed 01/07/10).http://books.google.com/books?id=LzoFNwrt_ycC&dq=parenting+stressprintsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=u4iNDgD3cR&sig=qAiiO2YAngkvqbqY6WvHEobse1w&hl=en&ei=6dFGS4GIHI_uswP_x-X1Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CCYQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=&f=false
- DuPage County (Ill.) Health Department. "Parenting Stress." (Accessed 01/07/10).http://www.dupagehealth.org/health_ed/parent_stress.html
- Smith, Melinda, M.A.; Gina Kemp, M.A.; and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. "Laughter is the Best Medicine." Helpguide. May 2009 (Accessed 01/07/10).http://www.helpguide.org/life/humor_laughter_health.htm
- Stress Cure. "Stress Facts." The Health Resource Network, Inc. (Accessed 01/07/10).http://www.stresscure.com/hrn/facts.html