8 Tips for Coping with Parenting Stress

8 Tips for Coping with Parenting Stress

We all know that being responsible for little ones is stressful. Parenting in the age of digital media is harder than in previous generations–or maybe it just seems that way because people generally share their wins and happy moments and tend to keep quiet about struggles and challenges. Regardless, in honor of Mother’s Day this year, we’ve put together a short list of tips to help all the parents out there manage their stress in 2018.

  1. Attend to your self-care. While you may laugh at me for saying this, make sure you’re getting sleep. Most parents would pay a large sum of money to make this happen. And for good reason. It’s very hard to cope with day-to-day stress if you are exhausted. And being yelled at by your 3-year-old for giving her the wrong color cup will require you to have some deep reserves of emotional strength. So make sure that sleep is a priority. This might mean letting some other things go so that you can get rest. If sleep is going well, consider other aspects of self-care like exercise, or spending time with friends without kids. It can be easy to lose yourself in parenting, but remember that you have needs too. You’ll be a better parent if your cup is full.
  2. It takes a village. Years ago people stayed (at least in the vicinity of) their families of origin and had lots of support while raising their children. If you are able, take advantage of grandparents, aunts/uncles/cousins, etc. However, these days, more and more people live where their jobs are, and are hours away from family support. If that’s the case, make an effort to find friends in the area with similarly-aged children. Having people to hang out with, commiserate with, and even exchange babysitting can be a big help. If that’s not feasible, you can look into finding support in non-traditional places like online discussion boards or chat groups. Finally, you can always hire babysitters. It’s worth noting that with helpers– be it family or otherwise–you will likely get unsolicited parenting advice or your styles may clash. Remember to speak up, set boundaries, and communicate clearly!
  3.  Progress, not perfection. Many people struggle with perfectionism and setting unrealistic standards. This may be driven by underlying anxiety. It can be helpful to use thought records, such as those in Pacifica, to identify unhelpful thoughts and explore realistic outcomes to acknowledge these difficult-to-achieve standards. This can manifest in things like feeling your home is clean enough for visitors, or making sure that every bed is made. In my house, there’s always a pile of laundry to be done. Sometimes good enough has to be good enough.
  4. Practicing mindfulness or relaxation exercises can help you manage your daily stress and respond more effectively. Whether it’s taking a moment to step away into another room and breathe for a minute when your kids are being particularly challenging or using relaxation exercises to turn off your mental to-do list when you’re trying to fall asleep at night, many people find these practices can improve their sense of well-being.

  1. Let yourself be a kid again. There are times when this is unrealistic, sure, but taking a moment each week to finger paint, or play tag, or build with Legos can help you lose yourself for a moment. In addition to connecting with your kids on their level, it gets you out of doing grown-up things like paying bills or making appointments for a few minutes 🙂
  2. Pick your battles. Keep in mind that with parenting some things are important (e.g. vaccinations, food, clothing, shelter, unconditional love) and others aren’t (e.g. name brand sneakers, professional photos, exotic vacations). Each parent will have different things that really matter to them, and one way to handle the large number of demands for our time and energy is to prioritize. Decide what matters to you as a parent, and focus your efforts on bringing those things into line with what you want. This could be anything from healthy eating, to screen time, to grades. As discussed above, nothing will be perfect, and helping your kids learn how to prioritize by example can be helpful.
  3. If applicable, make your relationship a priority. Spending quality time with your partner (or having a pleasant, connected conversation with any adult) can help you build up the emotional resolve needed to cope with the irrational demands of little ones or stressful challenges of teens coming of age.
  4. Don’t read every parenting article out there. See #6. Do your best, love your kids, trust your instincts. Remember that advice is just a suggestion and do what works well for you.