These are the facts. First, the stress you feel as a parent will continue throughout course of your life and the life of your children. The sources of that stress, and how best to deal with it, is what changes as you and your children grow. The following techniques can be used by any parent to reduce stress and increase their enjoyment of parenting.
#1 Establish support systems
Establishing a support system early will lay a foundation for parents in the years to come. Like a well-stocked emergency kit, it pays to have a system in place before you need it. There are two ways to go about building support systems.
First, accept the help that is offered. Be sure to let people know you intend to take them up on their generous offer, and follow through. You may not need someone to bring dinner over or walk the dog right now, but these simple favors can be life-savers later on.
Second, seek the help you need. You don’t have to just wait around for people to make offers. Those who can afford to have a cleaning service or cook should do research and interviews in advance, so when the need hits, they are ready. Because full time help can be pricey, consider a short term or temporary arrangement. Those small time savings can be a big stress relief.
If paying for outside help is out of the question, look to friends and family. There are also several professional organizations that can provide free or inexpensive support. Sources of support can be found in schools, parenting groups and places of worship.
#2 Take the time to do fun things
One of the best parts of being a parent is getting to have fun with your kids. Unfortunately, this message sometimes gets lost in today’s atmosphere of academic competition.
It is important to remember that not everything you do with your child has to be resume-worthy. Simply spending time with them, running around at a park or doing something around the house is immensely valuable. Even just 20 minutes a week can give you both a well needed respite from the stresses of everyday life.
Kids who are used to doing enjoyable things with their parents are more likely to open up about their lives, fears and challenges as they grow. It’s an almost magical two-for-one experience. Without the pressure to perform or the fear of being corrected, kids can become extremely chatty when having fun..Listen to what they say without pressing them, resist the urge to turn it into an interrogation. The positive memories you build during these no-pressure, fun times will serve as buffers when more stressful times inevitably come around.
#3 Corral the chaos
A chaotic space contributes to a chaotic mind. If you are constantly late getting out the door because socks can’t be found, you are starting off each day with an unnecessarily elevated stress level. Establishing systems will make everyday routines run more smoothly. In the mornings, this reduces the anxiety and stress of getting out of the house, and it makes for a much healthier start.
Household stress falls into two major categories: Location and Time. Location is having things where they can be found when needed. Time is being able to get where you need to be by a certain deadline.
Common examples of location issues are backpacks, extracurricular supplies and school lunches. Backpacks should go in the same spot: baskets or heavy-duty hooks by the door can eliminate the mad dash. Once you’ve established where things go, get in the routine of placing them there every day.
Other time management techniques can reduce parental stress. Daily occurrences like meals, baths and going to bed should take place at the same time every day. Be sure to set time limits for each activity to keep things moving along. If everyone knows what is expected and when, it is easier to enforce the rules.
#4 Seek out professional help
Sometimes things will inevitably be too much for you to deal with on your own. A parent may have to cope with a child who suffers from a physical, mental health, or behavioral issue. When you recognize that you’re feeling overwhelmed, take action. Enlist the help of a licensed mental health professional.
It can be confusing to choose what help is best suited for your situation. Counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists each have strengths suited to particular problems. Simply discussing your stresscan often go a long way to making it disappear.
Counselors will have at least a Master’s Degree in marriage and family therapy or counseling. They primarily use talk therapy to help people manage their problems. Parents may turn to a counselor when trying to handle anxiety issues, eating disorders, life changes, or relationship issues.
Psychologists in private practice and clinical psychologists will have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. and can handle all of the same issues as a counselor. Additionally, they administer diagnostic or psychological tests and consult with other healthcare professionals on a comprehensive approach to patient treatment.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized in psychiatry. They can diagnose mood disorders like depression and anxiety, and have expertise in severe psychological problems like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. They also treat these disorders.
If you’re not sure who exactly you should see, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that you just reach out for help. Any reputable professional will tell you if they are suited to your needs or point you in the right direction. Just like any other relationship, the one with your mental health provider is a personal one.
Don’t fall victim to any imagined stigma. It is not a failure on your part to get professional help; rather it is the mark of a caring and competent parent. It is also an opportunity to impart a life lesson: mental health is just as important as physical health. No one is stigmatized for seeing a doctor about their physical problems, so why should they feel ashamed for addressing their mental health?
Parenting and stress go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can’t have one without some measure of the other. As a parent you will never eliminate stress entirely, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. There are methods available for every parent to effectively reduce and manage their stress.
You may not employ all these strategies all at once; it’s more likely that you will use one or more as your individual situation dictates. These methods are flexible and will grow with you, and the specifics will change according to the age of your children and your family circumstances.
Our coalition is so grateful for the opportunity to partner with such committed partners as the Parent Tacher organization and the NK School Department. Together, we were able to raise awareness about a difficult topic.
At this point it seems the evidence is overwhelming—new studies suggest simply spending time in green spaces can improve our health, both mentally and physically. Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark published yet another study about the outside/good health connection that may provide the most conclusive evidence yet. Getting outside, walking around, hearing the rustle of trees, feeling the wind on our face, the rain on our backs, the sun on our skin—the more we do that as kids, the happier we are as adults, their study suggests. And this was one heck of a study.
“There is increasing evidence that the natural environment plays a larger role for mental health than previously thought,” said Kristine Engemann, who led the study. “Green space seemed to have an association that was similar in strength to other known influences on mental health, like history of mental health disorders in the family, or socioeconomic status.”
"If we were talking about a new medicine that had this kind of effect the buzz would be huge—these results suggest that being able to go for a walk in the park as a kid is just as impactful."
What the study can’t show, however, is why this should be the case. Is it simple proximity to trees and vegetation? Or is it likely that kids who had access to more natural environments were more likely to be outside, getting exercise, perhaps doing so in groups and forming strong social bonds that they carried with themselves to adulthood? Maybe spending time in nature taught self-reliance, resilience, patience.
Or could it be that something in nature speaks to us in a way that won’t show up on a scientific study? Doctors are prescribing nature walks for patients to help with chronic physical ailments. Mountain biking groups are healing mental illness sufferers. Surfing is a very real salve for veterans with severe PTSD and physical ailments. It probably shouldn’t be so surprising that growing up in a natural environment would also have powerful health benefits.
Here are some great ideas for getting your kids into nature!
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Social media linked to rise in Mental Health Disorders in Teens, survey finds