Coping with stress for parents
Parenting and Stress Management
Is your toddler scribbling on walls? Did your teen take the car without permission? These stress management tips can help you keep your cool.
By Krisha McCoy
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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Parenting should come with a stress management manual: While enormously rewarding, it is also enormously stressful. From the time your child is born, you are bound to face parenting situations that leave you feeling angry, frustrated, worried, or otherwise over-stressed.
But with the proper stress management techniques and plenty of practice, parents can learn how to better keep their cool when family situations heat up and leave you facing child discipline issues.
Parenting and Child Discipline: Consider the Age
"What is very critical is the age of the child," says Norma Feshbach, PhD, professor emerita at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Feshbach recommends that when dealing with babies, toddlers, and young children, take a step back and remind yourself that your child is probably not behaving this way to spite you.
"One mistake we as parents fall into is attributing too much to the child in the interaction," says Feshbach. Young children are not usually trying to be malicious or difficult — they are just expressing themselves in the way they know how. Just knowing that your child is probably not intentionally pushing your buttons can help ease your frustration.
When dealing with teens, your focus should be on being a good listener and communicating as calmly as possible, without lecturing or giving orders to your kids. Teens tend to respond better when you speak to them in a respectful manner and focus on what they are doing right instead of what they are doing wrong.
Parenting and Child Discipline: Put a Support System in Place
Having a trusted network of friends and family members to talk with can make all the difference at high-stress moments. When you feel like you are reaching your limits, "try to call somebody and seek support," says Feshbach. This allows you to take a step back from the interaction and regain your composure.
When her son was a newborn and was crying excessively, Regan Putnicki, 32, of San Antonio, Texas, remembers, "I had a network, and I would call my cousin or some friends who were in town [when I was stressed]. Just knowing that other people were going through or had gone through the same thing made it not that big of a deal," Putnicki says.
It is easy for parents to get burned out when dealing with the stresses of family life. The first step is to recognize when stress is getting to you. Feshbach recommends that parents find time to get out of the house, so ask a friend or relative to babysit when you need a break.
Putnicki agrees: "I had a friend who would come over for 30 minutes so I could go take a shower or go for a jog."
Sometimes you may need to get away from your spouse, too. Feshbach says spending "you-time" with your friends can be healthy for your relationship.
Parenting and Child Discipline: Focus on the Positive
Staying positive during stressful life moments will benefit you and your family members. Instead of letting yourself get angry and frustrated when faced with a difficult situation, try taking a more positive approach.
For example, regarding child discipline, Feshbach says, "I am not recommending that parents tolerate unacceptable behavior — I think the focus should be on how to modify the unacceptable behavior." Feshbach says that punishments often just escalate a stressful situation, and that rewarding good behavior is often much more effective.
Parenting and Child Discipline: Create a Calmer Environment
Feshbach says it takes work to create a less stressful environment in your home, but doing so can help you cope better when you are faced with difficult family situations, especially in today’s tough economic climate.
To bring more peace into your home, Feshback recommends:
- Regularly spending time with friends and community members
- Creating routines and structure within your household
- Asking family members to help with housework
- Scheduling time each week for the family to get together to discuss any issues or problems
- Focusing on appreciating one another and what you each do for the family
Keeping your cool in stressful family situations and creating a close and loving family environment can give your children a sense of security that will help them to be more well-adjusted and successful when they venture out into the world.
And that is quite a stress reliever.
Video: Managing Parent Stress
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