Managing Parental Stress
The arrival of a new baby can bring much excitement and joy to a home. But, as most new parents will agree, the addition of a new baby to the home can also be overwhelming at times, requiring parents to make many new adjustments to their lifestyle. And, the lack of sleep new parents deal with can fray nerves and add increased stress and strain for families.
Parenting can become even more challenging as children become toddlers. There's more to pay attention to at this stage now that they’re on the move and eager to test their newfound independence. Many families also have infants and sibling toddlers at the same time. That can equal a lot of stress.
Stress is not good for you, and it’s not good for your child. Studies show that a sense of peace and calm is one of the most important things a parent can impart to a child. So how exactly is that going to happen when no one in the household is getting enough sleep or when your child is throwing tantrums on a daily basis?
Self-care as a parent is just as important as caring for your child--some say, even more so. Taking care of your own needs usually means you will have more patience, energy, and attention to give to your child. Self-care allows you to live up to your potential as a parent.
Parenting will bring a certain amount of stress--there’s no avoiding it, but there are ways to manage it. What are some good strategies to cope with parental stress?
- Make a plan. If there are other family members in the home that can help share in the caregiving responsibilities, decide who will be responsible for getting up in the night and how often; feedings and changings; dropping baby off at child care, etc. so if possible one person isn’t bearing the brunt of the responsibility.
- Create a support system. Reach out to friends and family for help. Join parenting groups to find common ground. Seek out other parents and take turns babysitting each others’ kids. Create a dinner club to share making meals. Search for online parenting groups for advice and information. You are not alone.
- Know what helps you relieve stress. What will make you feel better: snuggling up with a good book, taking a long walk, watching a movie or TV show, or exercising? You may not have time to do all of the things you wish you could, so know what activities help you feel more like yourself and bring rejuvenation.
- Make time for exercise. Everyone knows that exercise relieves stress, so find ways to build activity into your day. Take your child out for a walk in the stroller. Do short exercises, about 10 minutes at a time. Find classes that let you bring your baby with you. Get in a workout while your baby naps or after she goes to sleep.
- Find the fun. Whoever said “laughter is the best medicine” must have been a parent. Sometimes sharing a laugh with your child or partner happens naturally, but other times you have to create it. Participate in enjoyable activities with family and friends. Get out of your home and go to child-friendly places, like parks, museums, and certain restaurants. It’s important to keep up with your social life--it can be a comfort for you even when life seems overwhelming.
Over time, you will get better at managing stress and being the best parent you can be. And while parenting can be difficult at times, the joy of children far outweigh the stresses.