For most people the happiest moment in their lives is the moment their baby is born. I remember it well myself, what it felt like to have my baby resting on my chest right after giving birth.
Thankfully, at that time I had already been made aware through family and my students’ parents, that having children is often, but not always, great. A family with young children, work, housekeeping, friends… all of that put together can be very stressful.
Why are you stressed?
- Short nights with little sleep take their toll.
- Having kids with special needs. Some children simply need extra care.
- Wanting to be too good of a parent.
- The household tasks are not equally divided between the parents, or a single parent-household.
- You are not a good planner.
- Children are disobedient.
- Between work and family you run out of energy.
- A phase with lots of illnesses and other issues.
- Worrying about your children or partner.
There are probably many more reasons to have a stressed family life, or even a parental burn out!
Harmful effects of stress
Of course you are aware that stress in your family life has many harmful effects, both for the parents and for the children. According to Wikipedia, prolonged periods of stress raise the levels of cortisol in your blood. This can be harmful to your health. It can affect your immune system negatively, and damage neurons which can lead to memory issues.
How does stress affect family relationships?
Clearly parenting stress does not do your relationship any favors. It could be that you and your partner have different parenting styles, see my blog ‘Which parenting style is right for you?’ Children pick up on this easily, and will start playing both sides against the middle. As a parent you can bring work-stress back home with you. Whatever the reason may be… make sure you find a quick solution to these stressful family times, so that you, your partner and your kids can enjoy a nice atmosphere at home.
How to get rid of parenting stress
10 best tips for stressed parents, they work guaranteed
Plan time and work
A lot of stress is caused by wanting or needing to do too much in too little time. I see it happen regularly at school: Parents who are rushed are grumpy with their child. They can’t spare a minute to stay in class with their toddler to say goodbye. What is going wrong? Perhaps that morning a few things didn’t work out: put on the wrong shoes, forgot their backpack… and mommy also needs to get to her job on time. STRESS!
Parents, you can easily solve this by planning! Make sure your children know at bedtime what they will wear the next day. Partially set the table for breakfast. As a family, get up half an hour earlier. You will see what a nice start of the day this will be.
How to reduce stress in your personal life
Do not take the stress from your job home with you. Talk to a colleague about your work issues before you head home. Listen to music on your way home. Even better: Sing along with the songs. Breathe through your stomach; look at the beautiful things around you. Hug your children and your partner when you come home, and (very important!) change out of your work clothes.
Take a break
At least once every day you should be able to relax and have time for yourself! At least once a week you should make time for you and your partner. Every once in a while take the whole family on an outing. Enjoying and laughing together is very important. Every once in a while go out with friends.
Talk to your partner
Be clear about your feelings. Find out if he or she can take over some of your tasks. Also have the children do chores. Children aged 3 or 4 and up are capable of putting away their own things, if they have been taught how. I will be writing a blog post about this for sure, because I feel that we sometimes raise little princes and princesses instead of capable world citizens, who will be there for each other. Check out my Pinterest folder: Let’s talk Toddlers, do chores.
Let children be independent
Children are able to comprehend quite a lot, but often they have trouble seeing the bigger picture. They also have a tendency to forget parts of an assignment. For example, what should and could children do on their own when they get up: Get dressed, put away pajamas, eat breakfast, clean up plate, etc. You will probably need to continuously remind them of their next task. You might expect them to be all done, when in fact they are still playing in their pajamas. That can cause stress. A good solution is a chore chart for children. You can stick magnets with pictograms on there. This can provide structure for your kids. Of course you should still check their progress regularly and give compliments when things go well.
Talk about it with family or friends
It is very important to talk about your stress or your burnout freely. It will make it easier for people to empathize with your situation. Accept help without feeling shame. Many people struggle with the same issues.
Take a step back for a while
Work a little less. Thin out your agenda. See which things can be cut back on: Your children’s sports commitments and such, your own commitments… these things can be put on the back burner for a bit. Think of yourself.
Keep an eye on your children
Pay close attention to your children. Your stress can cause them to feel stressed as well. Is your child, who is potty trained, once again having accidents at night? Is your child more easily agitated than usual? Does he or she complain about a stomach ache? Does he or she prefer to be up in their room to being downstairs, or is he or she asking for a lot more attention? Your kid realizes that something is up. It is best to talk about it with your child and to try and put it into children’s language. In my blog: Mindfulness for kids, you can find some simple exercises for your children and your family.
Walking and exercising
Exercise relaxes you. A walk in nature is an especially good remedy against stress. You might like to go jogging or go to the gym.
Do not wait too long to ask a professional for help. At times it is easier for someone else to see that you need a bit of help. Listen to others and find a professional who is a good fit and who can help you figure things out.
It’s okay to make mistakes!
Do not try to be the perfect parent and do not try to raise your children perfectly. Teach them that making mistakes is allowed. You are also allowed to make mistakes! It all sounds easy, but the hardest thing to do is to change yourself. Do this step by step and celebrate small victories.
For example: Take an hour to yourself when the kids are in bed. Do not hang around on the couch, but take a walk or do something creative. Start doing yoga, take a mindfulness course or anything like that. Do something for yourself, perhaps even an online cooking class. Oh and, very important: Eat healthily! Read about stress and use those tips that speak to you.