Thoughtful Parenting: Parenting Stress — it matters; management is key
Parenting stress is the stress associated with being a parent. Parents are often juggling jobs, childcare, finances and household duties. Studies have shown that parents who report high parenting stress tend to be “authoritarian, harsh and negative in their reactions with their child,” and the quality of parent-child relationships is decreased by parenting stress. Studies have also shown that a mother’s stress can spread to her infant, which can cause the infant to become more inhibited around strangers.
What can parents do? Learning to manage parenting stress can make it easier to get through the day. The following are tips that the experts suggest.
- Develop a support system and use it. Don’t be shy, for example, to ask a friend or family member to watch your children for a bit so that you can have some time to yourself to do something you enjoy. Talk to other parents about their parenting experiences. If you feel isolated, attend a local newborn, father’s or mother’s group to meet other parents. We are fortunate to have such groups here in the Yampa Valley.
- Get professional help. While some stress is normal, if you feel overwhelmed you may want to reach out to a mental health professional to assist you.
- Schedule quality family time. You may find that most family time is hurried, chaotic or caught up in life’s daily routine. Take the time to plan for activities that you or your family members enjoy that is outside of the daily hustle.
- Take care of yourself. It may seem self-indulgent to take time for yourself to do things that you enjoy, but time apart from your child can actually be healthy and beneficial. Spending time outdoors has been shown to reduce tension and anger. Aerobic exercise can elevate your mood and lower anxiety levels. Perhaps you’d just like some quiet time to read or think. Taking this alone time can help to reduce your stress and leave you more refreshed for your child.
- Create a calm environment in your home when possible. Set aside family time for focusing on problems. Create schedules that will help keep everyone on task. Lessen the daily chaos by asking for or assigning age-appropriate assistance with household chores or preparing meals ahead of time.
- Take a parenting class. Parenting classes focus on a variety of different topics and parenting techniques that can enhance your parenting experience. It can be helpful to learn different parenting styles with peers who are likely facing similar stresses. These peers may also become members of your support group over time.
There are many local resources for stressed parents. If you feel stressed and don’t know where to turn, attend the free, Let’s Talk Stress: Ask a Health Professional event at 4 to 6 p.m. May 2 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. Eddie Konold, LPC, CAC II, will speak about solutions to stress, plus you can get a cardiovascular screening, talk to a physician’s assistant, talk with peers and get connected to local resources — all for free. There’s a chance to win a gift basket full of stress relieving goodies.
This event is put on by Routt to Work, with assistance from LiftUp of Routt County, Routt County United Way, Routt County Department of Human Services, Northwest Colorado Health and the Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership, as part of Routt to Work’s Talk it Up community outreach programs.
Sue Fegelein is the executive director of LiftUp of Routt County.
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