Parenting Stress

Stress is a normal part of parenting but chronic stress leads to an unhealthy parent and a diminished parent-child relationship.  Responsibilities, limited time, financial constraints and negative emotions deepen your stress. This leads to chronic stress and weakens your immune system, saps your energy and harms your decision making.  It leads to sleep disruption, an increased or decreased appetite, headaches, irritability, general health complaints and concentration problems. This is why every parent must learn how to recognize the most common causes of stress and adopt ways to eliminate these causes.

The most common causes of chronic parenting stress are physical fatigue, feelings of uncertainty, a lack of control and negative feelings such as anger and frustration. Skills and techniques to eliminate these causes are essential tools for every parent.

Parenting takes time and energy and parent workloads and responsibilities continue to grow. The first strategy chosen by most parents is to find more time to get things done by getting up earlier and going to bed later. Less sleep leads to physical illness and fatigue. Sleep is restorative and provides you the energy and concentration to make the daily decisions you must make. A consistent sleep schedule with eight hours or more of sleep every night is the goal for every parent. Studies have shown the dangerous health issues and impaired cognitive skills associated with sleep debt. If you are not getting adequate sleep the first step in stress reduction is to get more restful sleep.

The next cause is uncertainty. Parenting decisions are filled with uncertainty. The right decisions are often hazy, complex or even invisible. Change provokes fear and anxiety in most parents. Most parenting decisions, however, are limited. They can be repeated over and over. Although there are minor variations the themes are often the same. Parents must choose a limited number of approaches for similar situations and apply these in a clear, concise, consistent, confident and competent fashion.  A new response does not need to be chosen for every new event. When you choose a discipline strategy and a parenting style you eliminate most of the parenting uncertainty that causes stress.

The third cause of stress is lack of control. Parents feel they should be in control of their child’s actions. As a parent your scope of influence is limited. You can influence but you do not control your child. You are a guide, a protector and for the young child and infant – a caretaker. Modeling a healthy physical, emotional and spiritual lifestyle and providing unconditional love and acceptance are your only responsibilities. You must never blame yourself for the decisions your children make. Giving up the control you never had is essential for every parent. .

The final cause of chronic stress for parents is about being overwhelmed by negative emotions. It is normal for parents to have feelings of anger, frustration, sadness and loneliness. These feelings will damage your relationship with your child. You must recognize and understand these negative emotions if you are to respond to them. Find ways to allow time to pass. Ask for support, advice and sometimes someone to quietly listen to you. Step away from your child and take a break. Take a short nap, talk to a friend, go outside for a walk or eat a healthy snack. Reward yourself every day with a self-indulgent activity and watch your stress lesson. Seek out family members, friends, counselors and spiritual advisors to provide you the emotional support you need to work through these negative feelings before they lead to an unhealthy parent-child relationship.