While parenting is one of the most rewarding endeavours in life, at times it can also be the most stressful. Whether you are up all night with your newborn, dealing with a toddler’s tantrums or worrying about your teen, every stage of your child’s life has a certain amount of stress involved.
The best way to begin to manage stress is to take care of yourself. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and occasionally finding time to spend away from the children as a couple, with friends, or alone. When you are feeling good, it is much easier to tackle life’s little challenges.
Many families feel the stress of too much to do and too little time. Try to limit the number of organized activities for children. Make sure you have at least one evening a week of down time for the family to spend together. When everyone is constantly on the run, communication between family members can suffer. It is important to make family time a priority to give everyone a chance to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes, when life is getting too busy, you just have to learn to say ‘no’.
Spend some one-on-one time with each of your children as often as you can, even if it is only a few minutes at bedtime. By taking time to talk uninterrupted, you can stay in touch with what is going on in their lives. If something is causing tension, either at school or at home, you can help your child work through the problem.
Keep your expectations realistic and be aware of your child’s limitations and developmental abilities. Sometimes we get frustrated with our children, when in fact we are simply expecting them to take on more than they can handle. For example, if you feel you are constantly telling your child to clean up, consider breaking the chore down into smaller more manageable tasks.
Enjoy the simple things in life. It is easy to fall into the trap of worrying about what we don’t have or what is going wrong, so take a few minutes each day to appreciate the good. When the family sits down together for a meal, give everyone a chance to talk about something interesting, rewarding, or funny that happened during his or her day. Not only does this help everyone see the positives in their own lives, but it is also a great way to strengthen your family bond.
No one can rid their life of stress, but when parents remember to take care of themselves, and families keep the lines of communication open, it is easier to work through problems as they arise.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
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