Being A Parent Is Hard: Coping With Stress

Coping with stress: Advice From The NSPCC

Without a doubt, raising balanced, healthy, happy children can be the most demanding, difficult and challenging task a person can commit to. It is the most important thing a person can do in a lifetime, and the ripple effects will continue long after death, for generations to come.

Of course, it is also the most rewarding, satisfying and wonderful job a person can ever have, since the payment is in pure Love. Everything you give your children, they will give you back ten-fold.

It is rarely easy. No matter what your circumstance; single parent, co-habiting parents, married, mixed family…there will be times when you absolutely hate yourself because you feel you are letting your children down in some way. Guilt, regret, faliure, dissapointment, frustration are all natural emotions most parents experience at some point

Here you can find information to help through the hard days and long nights, including:

  • 11 Tips for the tough times
  • 52 Proven stress busters
  • Coping with a crying baby
  • Never shake a baby – Shaken Baby Syndrome Myths And Facts
  • Futher Information, Help and Support

11 Tips For The Tough Times

  1. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We ALL have off-days. Every parent has moments they wish they could take back, every parent has spent some time in their bed at night worrying that they did the wrong thing, or cursing themselves for not doing this or that, for handling something in a less than understanding way. Make no mistake – children will test every boundary you set for them, there will be days when they are tired, frustrated, grumpy, when you are all of these things too, and it’s OK to make mistakes. Everyone does. If the laundry hasn’t been done in a week, if the washing-up is piled high in the sink, if you let the kids watch too much telly/play too much computer games now and then – these things are all OK, every parent has done these things at some point. Every parent has also over-reacted and punished their child unnecessarily or without understanding the full situation, only to suffer terrible guilt later. These things can all be rectified, tomorrow is a new day and you can do better. You WILL get through the laundry, one load at a time! Get the kids/partner/friend to help, if possible. If you feel guilty because you punished your kids, apologize to them, explain that you over-reacted and that you are sorry. Try to examine why you over-reacted, and put things in place to avoid such situations occurring. Recognize what is causing you to feel bad, why/how it happened, and change it. Understand that all parents are ‘learning on the job’. Do you love your children? Do you do your best? Well – that’s all any of us can do. When you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it or how ‘bad’ you are as a parent/person. Rectify it as much as you can, try to understand it and prevent it happening again…and then move on. Beating yourself up does no good, and makes it harder for you to feel positive enough to turn things around to how you’d like them to be.
  2. Be mindful. Have you just had a couple of off days, or could there be something bigger happening here? If you feel like you are having more bad days than good, if you are constantly tried/lethargic, if you are unusually emotional (eg crying a lot), feeling constantly overwhelmed and unable to complete daily tasks or are finding it hard to get up in the morning, you should visit your doctor. There may be an underlying physical or mental health issue, and unless you seek medical attention, things are unlikely to get better.
  3. Ask for help. This is probably the most important point of all. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help, it actually takes tremendous courage and strength to admit you are struggling. If you have a partner, talk to him/her, explain how you are feeling, why you are worried and try to come up with ways that you can change things together. If you are a single parent (and even if you aren’t) try to talk to friends and family. Is there someone who is safe who you can trust and who is happy to take the kids for a couple of hours a week and give you a break? Sometimes, just having someone to talk to who understands can help (see links at the bottom of this page). If you feel you are struggling to cope, and you are unable to get adequate support from your friends and family, don’t be afraid to ask  organizations such as FamilyLives (UK) or childhelp USA) or similar, to help you find local support services that might be able to help. It is better that you request the help and support before it gets to the point where your children could be in danger, either because you reach breaking point or your problems mean you cannot care for them adequately. Being brave enough to ask for help means that you are a good parent who is aware of their weaknesses and how this might be affecting your children, it means that you care enough to try to change things and any decent professional will recognize this and help you. Social services provide a range of services designed to support struggling families and help parents to cope, from help with child care, emotional/financial support, help with housing, parenting help, respite care, help with challenging children and more. If you contact them, they are likely to send a social worker out to talk to you and identify the needs of your children, how you can meet them as a family and how you can be supported in doing it. This is daunting, but if you have reached rock bottom and are struggling to take care of your babies in the way they deserve, asking for the help you need to get back on track is an admirable thing to do as a parent and there is n0 shame in it.
  4. Take a break and make time for you. If you feel yourself getting stressed and irritable, if you can, take a break. Ask your partner/friend to watch the kids and have a bath or do whatever you find relaxing. If this is not possible, make sure the kids are safe (in a cot/baby seat for young children, settled playing with toys/watching TV/on computer for older children, and take 20 mins in another room or in the garden. You are a person in your own right as well as a parent, and you still need to take time out to do the things you like to do, this is not selfish, it’s healthy and natural. If you can establish a good bedtime routine for your children, you can get a bit of you-time in the evening.
  5. If it is the behavior of the children that you are struggling with, try to identify why they are behaving in such a way (boredom? frustration? attention?) and try to address these issues to change the behavior. Go here for help.
  6. Learn relaxation techniques that work for you. Calming down is not something we are born knowing how to do. As children, we learn strategies to deal with stressful situations, some may be constructive and others may be destructive and actually make a situation worse (for example, getting angry and yelling) or getting drunk. It might be taking 3 deep breaths and counting to ten, it could be getting the kids out for a walk – try different things and do whatever you can to keep sane when things at home are chaotic. Ideas that might work:
    • Put your child in a safe place and leave the room.
    • Phone a trusted person and vent your frustration.
    • Try some physical activity; run up and down the stairs or punch a cushion (in a room separate from your child), dig a hole – anything to use the adrenaline and calm down.
    • Walk around the house or go outside.
    • Inhale deeply 5 times and exhale slowly and steadily.
    • Count your breaths to focus your concentration.
    • Go outside and scream!
  7. Set realistic goals for yourself as a parent, and for your children. If you’re goal is to wake up tomorrow, have a clean house and perfectly behaved children who can recite their 7 times table faultlessly, when you do wake up and things are not as you hoped, you’ll feel even worse than before. You have to start slowly, with little steps. Maybe tomorrow you will make a dent in the laundry, take the kids to the park so that they’re not bored, and see if there are any educational math games on the CBBC website. You’ll feel good because you did what you hoped, which might make it easier to hope for a little more the next day. Set realistic goals, that you can achieve and that will pave the way to achieving your ultimate goals. Do a couple every day, and soon the laundry will be manageable, the children more occupied and as a result, better behaved.
  8. Know your limits and learn to say NO.  Whether it be to the new toy your 5 year old wants, or the event you partner/friend wants you to go to, to the teacher hoping you will help out at the school fete, there will be times when you need to be able to say no., and to stick with it. This does not mean you have failed; you are just one person and you can only do so much – if you take on too much, everyone, including your children and yourself, will suffer. Know when you are nearing your maximum, and learn how to say no.
  9. Take advantage of services offered within your community. What this might be depends on you life philosophy, but there are all sorts of things that you can go to where you can meet like-minded people and your kids can make friends with other children. Check out your local library, newspaper or the internet for things near you. There are usually toddler groups, library activities for children, local fun days (bonfire nights/Halloween/Christmas parties/craft days /festivals),  parent/child yoga classes, church activities for kids – lots of opportunities for you and your children to get out, have some fun together and meet people like you. Parks are great places to meet other local parents and for your children to make friends too.
  10. Make quality time for relationships other than with your children. Quality time with partner/friends is essential – we all are nurtured by relationships, and as adults we need other relatable adults around us.
  11. Remember that your child does not mean to stress you out or upset you. They are still learning how to communicate and manage their own feelings; they don’t yet understand themselves or the world around them completely. They want to be happy like you, they are not intentionally making life difficult. They are most likely having trouble communicating their needs and feelings – generally this is the route of most difficult behaviour.

Ask For Help

52 Proven Parent Stress Busters From The Child Development Institute

1. Get up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning. The inevitable morning mishaps will be less stressful.

2. Prepare for the morning the evening before. Set the breakfast table, make lunches, put out the clothes you plan to wear, etc.

3. Don’t rely on your memory. Write down appointment times, when to pick up the laundry, when library books are due, etc. (“The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory.”-Old Chinese Proverb)

4. Doing nothing which, after being done, leads you to tell a lie.

5. Make duplicates of all keys. Bury a house key in a secret spot in the garden and carry a duplicate car key in your wallet, apart from your key ring.

6. Practice preventive maintenance. your car, appliances, home and relationships will be less likely to break down/fall apart “at the worst possible moment.”

7. Be prepared to wait. A paperback can make a wait in a post office line almost pleasant.

8. Procrastination is stressful Whatever you want to do tomorrow, do today; whatever you want to do today, do it now.

9. Plan ahead. Don’t let the gas tank get below one-quarter full. Keep a well-stocked emergency shelf of home staples. Don’t wait until you’re down to your last bus token or postage stamp to buy more, etc.

10. Don’t put up with something that doesn’t work right. If your alarm clock, wallet, shoe laces, windshield wipers, whatever are a constant aggravation, get them fixed or get new ones.

11. Allow 15 minutes of extra time to get to appointments. Plan to arrive at an airport one hour before domestic departures.

12. Eliminate (or restrict) the amount of caffeine in your diet.

13. Always set up contingency plans, “just in case.” (“If for some reason either of us is delayed, here’s what we’ll do..” Or, “If we get split up in the shopping center, here’s where we’ll meet.”)

14. Relax your standards. The world will not end if the grass doesn’t get mowed this weekend.

15. Pollyanna-Power! For every one thing that goes wrong, there are probably 10 or 50 or 100 blessings. Count’em!

16. Ask questions. Taking a few moments to repeat back directions, what someone expects of you, etc., can save hours. (The old “the hurrieder I go, the behinder I get,” idea).

17. Say “No!.” Saying “no” to extra projects, social activities, and invitations you know you don’t have the time or energy for takes practice, self-respect, and a belief that everyone, everyday, needs quiet time to relax and be alone.

18. Unplug your phone. Want to take a long bath, meditate, sleep, or read without interruption? Drum up the courage to temporarily disconnect. (The possibility of there being a terrible emergency in the next hour or so is almost nil). Or use an answering machine.

19. Turn needs into preferences. Our basic physical needs translate into food, water, and keeping warm. Everything else is a preference. Don’t get attached to preferences.

20. Simplify, simplify, simplify…

21. Make friends with non-worriers. Nothing can get you into the habit or worrying faster than associating with chronic worrywarts.

22. Get up and stretch periodically if your job requires that you sit for extended periods.

23. Wear earplugs. If you need to find quiet at home, pop in some earplugs.

24. Get enough sleep. If necessary, use an alarm clock to remind you to go to bed.

25. Create order out of chaos. Organize your home and workspace so that you always know exactly where things are. Put things away where they belong and you won’t have to go through the stress of losing things.

26. When feeling stressed, most people tend to breathe in short, shallow breaths. When you breathe like this, stale air is not expelled, oxidation of the tissues is incomplete and muscle tension frequently results. Check your breathing throughout the day and before, during and after high pressure situations. If you find your stomach muscles are knotted and your breathing is shallow, relax all your muscles and take several deep, slow breaths. Note how, when you’re relaxed, both your abdomen and chest expand when you breathe.

27. Writing your thoughts and feelings down (in a journal, or a paper to be thrown away) can help you clarify things and can give you a renewed perspective.

28. Try the following yoga technique whenever you feel the need to relax. Inhale deeply through your nose to the count of eight. Then with lips puckered, exhale very slowly through your mouth to the count of 15 or for as long as you can. Concentrate on the long sighing sound and feel the tension dissolve. Repeat 10 times.

29. Inoculate yourself against a feared event. For example, before speaking in public, take time to go over every part of the experience in your mind. Imagine what you’ll wear, what the audience will look like, how you will present your talk, what the questions will be and how you will answer them, etc. Visualize the experience the way you would have it be. You’ll likely find that when the time comes to make the actual presentation, it will be “old hat’ and much of your anxiety will have fled.

30. When the stress of having to get a job done gets in the way of getting the job done, diversion (a voluntary change in activity and/or environment) may be just what you need.

31. Talk it out. Discussing your problems with a trusted friend can help clear your mind of confusion so you can concentrate on problem solving.

32. One of the most obvious ways to avoid unnecessary stress is to select an environment (work, home,
leisure) which is in line with your personal needs and desires. If you hate desk jobs, don’t accept a job which requires that you sit at a desk all day. If you hate to talk politics, don’t associate with people who love to talk politics, etc.

33. Learn to live one day at a time.

34. Every day, do something you really enjoy.

35. Add an ounce of love to everything you do.

36. Take a hot bath or shower (or a cool one in the summertime) to relieve tension.

37. Do something for somebody else. Make a meal for someone who is in need.

38. Focus on understanding rather than on being understood; on loving rather than on being loved.

39. Do something that will improve your appearance. Looking better can help you feel better.

40. Schedule a realistic day. Avoid the tendency to schedule back-to-back appointments. Allow time between appointments for a breathing spell.

41. Become more flexible. Some things are worth not doing perfectly and some issues are well to compromise upon.

42. Eliminate destructive self-talk; “I’m too old to…,” “I’m too fat to…,” etc.

43. Use your weekend time for a change of pace. If your work week is slow and patterned, make sure there is action and time for spontaneity built into your weekends. If your work week is fast-paced and full of people and deadlines, seek peace and solitude during your days off. Feel as if you are not accomplishing anything at work? Tackle a job on the weekend which you can finish to your satisfaction.

44. “Worry about the pennies and the dollars will take of themselves.” That’s another way of saying: take care of the todays as best you can and the yesterdays and the tomorrows will take care of themselves.

45. Do one thing at a time. When you are with someone, be with that person and with no one or anything else. When you are busy with a project, concentrate on doing that project and forget about everything else you have to do.

46. Allow yourself time-everyday-for privacy, quiet, and introspection.

47. If an especially unpleasant task faces you, do it early in the day and get it over with. Then, the rest of your day will be free of anxiety.

48. Learn to delegate responsibility to capable others.

49. Don’t forget to take a lunch break. Try to get away from your desk or work area in body and mind, even if it’s just for 15 or 20 minutes.

50. Forget about counting to 10. Count to 1,000 before doing something or saying anything that could make matters worse.

51. Have a forgiving view of events and people. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world.

52. Have an optimistic view of the world. Believe that most people are doing the best they can.

Coping With A Crying Baby: Advice From The NSPCC

Babies cry to communicate that they need something. It’s normal for babies to cry, but some babies cry a lot and this can be stressful for parents.

Babies cry particularly during the first few weeks after birth. In time, a baby can settle into a routine and parents can start to understand their baby’s normal routine and what their crying means. It’s not unusual for a baby to spend two to three hours in a day crying.

Crying which goes on for hours and hours, over many days, is excessive. Also, if the crying sounds unusual, or is outside the baby’s usual routine, it may be cause for concern.

Sometimes it can be difficult to work out why your baby is crying. The most common reasons are: tiredness, trapped wind, wet/soiled nappy, being too hot/cold, hunger, thirst, loneliness (wanting contact or attention), boredom, being uncomfortable, being over-stimulated or frightened and colic.

If you have ruled out all of these common causes, but your baby continues to cry, you may want to try:

  • swaying or talking softly to your baby
  • holding your baby close to you so that they have contact with your body, and perhaps gently playing some music or singing a song to your baby
  • attracting your baby’s attention with something like a toy or a rattle
  • giving your baby a sterilised (clean) dummy or letting them suck their thumb
  • giving your baby a warm bath
  • getting some fresh air – like taking your baby out in the car or in their pram.

If none of the above work, the cause is not obvious, and the crying is excessive you may want to consider if your baby is teething or has a health problem. You can find out more information about when to seek medical advice on NHS choices. Alternatively, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647, or speak with your doctor.

NEVER SHAKE A BABY

Frustration with a crying infant is the number one trigger for the shaking and abuse of infants. It is incredibly dangerous; babies and infants are fragile and vulnerable and losing your temper and self control for just a moment can kill, or cause life time brain injury, other physical injury and developmental problems. NEVER SHAKE, SQUEEZE, PUSH, DROP, HIT, KICK or do anything else other that treat a baby with absolute gentleness.

SBS: Myths And Facts

MYTH: Shaken baby syndrome occurs after multiple episodes of violent shaking and abuse.

FACT: Severe brain injury and death can be caused by a single violent episode of shaking. The most common reason for this violent shaking episode is caregiver frustration and anger over an infant’s prolonged or inconsolable crying.

MYTH: A ‘little’ shake is OK to ‘quiet’ a fussy baby.

FACT: NO AMOUNT OF SHAKING OR SQUEEZING OF ANY KIND IS EVER ACCEPTABLE IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCE.

MYTH: Shaking a baby does not do any damage

FACT:  As many as one third of the victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome die. Most infants who survive shaken baby syndrome suffer some type of long-term neurologic or cognitive dysfunction.The survivors often suffer lifelong disabilities due to the brain injury such as:

  • blindness.
  • paralysis.
  • mental disabilities.
  • growth and development problems.
  • seizure disorders.

Further Information, Help And Support

FamilyLives ParentLine – Advice and support for all parents relating to any parenting issue. Call: 0808 800 2222

NSPCC Helpline – For help, support and advice from train advisers on any issue relating to children Call: 0808 800 5000

The Samaritains – For someone to listen when you are struggling with any problem, 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Call: 08457 90 90 90

DontShake.org – Information on SBS

Stress Management Techniques – Quick stress busters for parents

MIND – There to support any person struggling with a mental health issue

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