Tips to Decrease Stress for Parents On-the-Go
LIBERTY February 5, 2018 - The reality for most of today’s parents is not described as easy-going schedules, leisurely pace, or relaxing family time! When the sun comes up, parents of young children have already been on the run, as well as most kids in the house. This routine can be stressful and overwhelming without pre-planning strategies, a positive attitude, and a good sense of humor.
What is Stress?
Stress is an inevitable, normal experience that is felt when an individual is unsure if she can meet the demands of her environment (Patnaik, 2014). Depending on the context, stress can be one of three things: 1) positive and conducive to healthy development, 2) simply tolerable with no strong effects, or 3) toxic and conducive to physical, emotional, and mental impairment (Center on the Developing Child, 2015). It is important to note that “stress” is defined not necessarily by an individual’s experience, but by the behavioral, emotional, cognitive, biological and interpersonal responses to that experience. Every parent is different and will respond to stress in a different manner.
The causes of stress and the parent’s response to stress can both be challenging. Parents can experience stress because of the immediate demands of meeting a child’s needs (food, comfort, attention), the need to balance a child’s needs with their own needs, and the general social pressure associated with a long-term investment in the child’s growth and well-being. Stress reactions not only impact the way a parent acts and feels in a situation, but also can have further health implications in a parent’s life.
Focus on You, the Parent, First!
From the time the alarm sounds in the morning to when your head hits the pillow, as parents we sometimes feel rushed and pulled in many directions. We know rushing is hard on everyone and normally doesn’t end well, so try waking up a little earlier to focus on yourself. Have a cup of coffee and have yourself ready to walk out the door before your kids wake up. By taking some time for yourself first thing sets your mood for the day and sets a positive tone for the rest of the family. We all know a calm positive attitude gains more cooperation and happiness with those around us.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!
Your children who are physically capable of helping need responsibility in the family. Give your children a job to do. When they have some “control” over part of the situation, they are much less likely to be difficult or show behaviors that require attention. Appreciate every task/job even the small ones. For example, when you go grocery shopping, send them for a couple of food items and thank them for helping you do the grocery shopping. Keep tasks simple! For example, instead of asking a child to “clean their room”, begin with the task of making their bed, taking their trash out, picking up all dirty clothes off of the ground.
Be Nice to Yourself!
Most parents are way too hard on themselves… try not to beat yourself up over the trivial things. Sometimes as busy parents we run out of time and we can’t get to every appointment and everybody. Try not to lose patience and view yourself as a failure. From one crazy, forgetful parent to another – please… be at least kind to yourself as you are to others. It’s okay to have things in “the plan” go wrong… that’s a great opportunity to teach your family, including your children, about how precious time is and how time management is important. The world has enough critics – you don’t need to be your own biggest one.
Kindness starts with our self…schedule in some time to do something fun for you. Pick a relaxing hobby and schedule it in.
Share the Ground Rules!
Setting expectations verbally and before you initiate a plan, task, trip, chore or any project can take the wind out of the power struggle in advance. Before you even walk out the door, share details about the task ahead and let each person know what you expect from them. Stay positive and let every persona in the family/group know their role in the task is important. For example, when traveling to the grocery store, let everyone know we have a list of items we will get and I need your help finding these items. If they want something extra, they need to bring their own allowance or money.
Every parent needs a break and support. You have permission to ask for help from another adult, take a “time-out” for yourself to cool down and refocus on the situation, and/or seek ways to block out down time on your calendar. It is natural to over-task ourselves especially during busy times of the year (holidays). Slow down and give yourself time to clear your mind, make a to-do list to refocus and prioritize your tasks, and except help from those around you who offer assistance. Every 10-15 break or “Time-Out” you take gives you and your children a reprieve in the midst of the running around.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!
Managing behavior in a fast pace world can be overwhelming! As a parent we want to teach children how to behave, what’s appropriate and what’s not, and how to socially adapt to their environment. Children will do things without thinking, without examining the consequences, and without realizing they even did it. If the action or behavior is harmful to oneself or others, then definitely address immediately. Let children play and explore their environment as long as it’s safe. Save your big consequences for the major issues. For the small actions, try to just remind children what they need to be doing instead of what NOT to do. Start your statements with “I need you to…” instead of “Don’t…”.
Laugh Out Loud!
Teaching children that humor can be healing and healthy early can make memories enjoyable. Things in life do not always go as expected. Your actions and responses teach children by example. LAUGH OUT LOUD. When you do, you teach children not to take themselves so seriously when things go awry, but they learn resilience in the face of whatever comes their way. Teaching ourselves and children these tools and mindsets will help them manage how our mind perceives life and the challenges in them.
By Alexis Cordova, County Extension Agent, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Liberty County