This guest post originally appeared on the Kosair Charities® Face It® Movement blog.
By Caroline Hampton
Being a parent is tough. You’re not only responsible for keeping little ones alive and well-adjusted, you also become an argument mediator, disciplinarian and person in charge of your children’s health and safety. Children will, unintentionally, do everything they can to push the boundaries of your patience until you’re convinced that you can’t take it anymore.
Here are a few ways to cope with the stress of parenthood.
Start with self-care. As The Treehouse rehab center points out, taking care of yourself is different for everyone. But the fact that you must practice self-care to handle the stress of parenthood is undeniable. It’s easy to get lost in the role of mom or dad and forget that you have your own unique set of needs. Do something each day that makes you feel good about yourself. Focusing on your own health by eating right and getting plenty of sleep, socializing with other adults and taking time out to simply breathe will go a long way toward helping you manage your frustration as a parent.
Stop trying to be perfect. You probably have a picture in your mind’s eye of the perfect parent and child but remember there is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. Susan Stiffelman, a parenting advice columnist for the Huffington Post, points out that aiming for perfection actually creates stress, which can hurt you and your children in the long run. Parenting Stress and Child Behavior Problems: A Transactional Relationship Across Time is a US National Library of Medicine publication that can provide more insight on how your actions and emotions affect your children.
Change your perspective. Your 3-year-old just drew a picture of your last walk together on the wall in crayon. If you’re under stress, chances are you raise your voice, angrily scolding the child for making a mess. In these situations, try to look at life from their perspective. Your son or daughter may have simply been trying to express their happiness by re-creating an important moment. And though his medium may have been an appropriate, all he sees is a blank canvas and a location that you can see and also enjoy the memory. While it falls upon you as a parent to teach your child appropriate behaviors, you can do so without yelling, screaming or raising your blood pressure. In this situation, something as simple as covering your wall with a DIY whiteboard may help. Your goal is to reprimand and redirect, not break their spirit – and this applies to all situations, regardless of your child’s age.
Keep it simple. Parenting is tricky and the way you react to negative situations can make it that much more complicated. Take steps to avoid stressful situations by simplifying your daily routine. Start by looking for events or situations that trigger bad behavior and eliminate them. For example, if your 13-year-old daughter has an attitude when you pick her up from school, she may be embarrassed in front of her friends. Consider letting her ride the school bus home a few days a week and make note if the extra time socializing after school makes any difference in her mood.
Each stage of your children’s lives will bring unique challenges from toddlerhood temper tantrums to teenage angst and rebellion. It is up to you to set the stage for them to grow into adults that can manage their own emotions and create a positive, loving, and nurturing environment for their own children. By taking care of yourself and looking at things from a different perspective, you can change how you react to the stress of parenthood and instill in your family positive behaviors that will last for generations.