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Managing the Stress of Being a Parent

For Childhood Abuse Awareness Month, SEARHC is supporting parents with advice to help manage the stress that comes with raising a family. Providing a loving environment for our children and keeping them healthy as they grow is a 24/7 job that can be very challenging at times. Juggling time between work and family while ensuring basic household needs are met can put a lot of strain on parents both mentally and physically, especially during periods of high stress. Below are some tips to help lower the stress of parenting.

Father looking glum while carrying to two crying toddlers, a boy on his shoulders and a girl in his arms.

Know the signs of stress

We live in a time where we can easily share our day-to-day parenting experiences online through social media. This puts a lot of pressure on us to constantly have a smiling face when coping with our parenting struggles. By having a social feed that only features our happiest family moments, we can often neglect to acknowledge the stress we feel in between those moments. One of the healthiest ways to cope with parenting stress is to be honest with ourselves and learn the signs of stress so we can actually find solutions and not ignore it.

Parenting stress can show itself in many ways. If you notice you are in an angry mood more often than not or have a shorter fuse than normal, you might be dealing with unhealthy amounts of stress. Other signs of stress can include having feelings of hopelessness or high anxiety. You may notice that you worry all the time or are always on the verge of crying. Stress can also affect your diet and sleep schedule. A lot of parents have a tendency to overeat during times of stress and can experience restlessness during bedtime. Stress can manifest into more serious health issues if left unchecked, such as migraines, digestive problems, and higher blood pressure. Being able to identify these signs of stress early will give you the best chance of finding ways to manage it.

Know your limits

We know parenting is the most important job in the world and all of us want to rise to the occasion and be a super mom or dad. We are also human, though, and there is only so much we can handle before we get overwhelmed. Knowing that breaking point gives us a chance to make more healthy decisions when we see ourselves inching towards it. The best way to learn our limits is by clearly identifying our stressors. Ask yourself what keeps you up at night. Is it money issues? Your work environment? How you are treated by your partner or children? Are you or someone you love fighting a serious health issue?

Identifying your biggest stress triggers can help determine what you can change and what you can’t while coping with stress. This grouping of stressors allows you to avoid feelings of hopelessness. Making positive choices can lower short-term stress and creating clear future goals can help with long-term stress. For example, say you are worried about your child’s long-term health because you frequently have to buy fast food due to it being affordable and less time consuming than cooking a healthy meal. Working on a solution can be highly stressful and overwhelming. However, if you break your problem into small manageable pieces, you can reach your goal much easier. One idea is setting a goal to meal plan for a healthy and simple dinner once a week. Then, set a long-term goal that allows you to work on advancing your career, leading you to be able to afford healthier food choices in the future. Once you are able to view your stressors as temporary problems that can be overcome, you will have the motivation to make the changes you want in your life.

Know when to take a break

Sometimes, no matter how much you plan, the stress from parenting can become too much and you need a break. That’s okay! Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your children. Give yourself opportunities to be able to relax. Ask your parents or neighbors to watch the kids for a night or hire a babysitter. If no one is available that day, try maximizing the moments during parenting downtime, such as during your children’s naps. Practice meditation or yoga. Take a bath and read a book or give yourself some time to do something you enjoy. It is also important to make sure you have enough energy every day by getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help during times of high stress. Look out in your community for support or talk to a health professional to help you manage the most difficult aspects of your life. SEARHC provides numerous resources for families to help cope with the stress of raising a family. Ask your doctor about the best way to reduce stress before it begins to negatively affect your health and home life. Parenting is a rich and rewarding experience. But it is also a lot of hard work. Always remember that you never have to tackle it all alone. Stay tuned for more tips for parents this month!

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The SEARHC Crisis Help Line, 1.877.294.0074, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to residents of Southeast Alaska.