Welcome to Stressed out Parents! (Good thing this was meant to be funny!
Sorry to inform you, but…it is illegal to sell your children! (Thought we’d just get that out-of-the-way right now!) But there are days when many parents have had fleeting moments (of insanity) and thought…. what if…? But the laws are funny like that. So no, don’t do it! These days, even with all the modern conveniences and parenting tools available, stressed out parents can be found (hiding?) in many, if not most, households.
During my career as a youth advocate working with children and parents, I occasionally heard grumbles from parents who said, “Do I really have to come back and pick him up? Can’t you just keep him?” Or this, “Well, I’m glad and relieved to hear that she’s a delight to have in your program. Her teachers and coaches say that a lot about her. But when she gets home after school she turns into a whole different animal…” (And if those of us who work with children are honest, we hear this and say to ourselves, Well thank God that they get the “uglies” out at home!)
It was not uncommon for a parent to bring their child or teenager in because they were struggling with some type of issue, from behavioral to poor school performance and everything else in between, hoping that “a few sessions” would straighten them out. Yet oftentimes the biggest presenting issue wasn’t with the child, it was with the elevated stress levels of the parent. Sometimes I was able to help a child more by helping the parent to recognize and develop a plan to deal with their own stress, and to guide them in finding their own sources of support and therapy, etc. Week’s later, when I asked my client who had a parent that was also working on managing their stress levels how things are going with Mom or with Dad, the child or teen would mention that there was less yelling or that Mom seemed calmer for some reason.
See my quotes on stress
Of course our children sometimes have challenges of their own and they benefit from some kind of support for themselves. But on those occasions when a parent begins to realize that their own stress levels are also playing a role in the upheaval, things can turn for the better, and fast. So let’s explore some things that can help reduce the stress loads of parents:
- Sorry, selling the kids is still not an option! But finding sources of humor, and honoring the place and value of humor in everyday life situations, can help a lot.
- Ever notice how we tend to laugh more at work than we do at home? Why is this? Consider exploring ways to lighten-up with our own children at home. I remember a teen-aged client once who said to me, “I know that I deserve to get yelled at by mom for the stuff I do wrong. I just wish she’d be happy on all the times I do stuff that’s right.”
- What do you do on a regular basis just for yourself? I mean, really keep for just you, without exception, and, that it’s something that seldom ever gets interrupted, altered or cancelled outright? (Stop laughing!) I’m serious! Is there something you enjoy doing that brings you peace of mind that you seldom ever manage to do? How come? I’m sure that you’ve noticed that everyone else in the family gets their needs met….all of them! (Because you made sure that it happened for them, that’s why.) So why take care of yourself, too?
- Exercise. Yeah, I know….you’re pooped by the time everything else gets done and all you want to do is crash in front of the TV. But finding a way to get some exercise on a regular basis has been proven to help reduce stress every time. And you know what? Once you get into the habit of getting that regular exercise, you begin to safeguard the time in order to make it happen.
- Get outside, look up, look at the clouds passing by. (Really, Kevin?) Really. Studies have shown that just getting outdoors and looking upward somehow helps the psyche. It’s amazing. But think about it. Why do you think people sit on hilltops and look outward, or sit at the beach or look for shapes in puffy cloud formations? It’s no accident. And if you can’t remember the last time you did any of these things, it’s been too long!
- Water. Get near a body of water…the ocean, a lake or a pond. There’s just something healing and balm-like about being alongside (or on) the water.
- Singing. Singing helps manage stress. And it seems that it doesn’t matter what kind of singing you do, as it all helps to reduce stress. Some sing in a choir, in community groups, by themselves, in the shower or sing along to songs on the radio while driving. I’ve had youthful clients who deal with mild depression who say that singing always makes them feel better. Why not you, too?
- More sleep. Just have to name it, as it’s one of the “biggies” that contribute to stress when we don’t get enough sleep. It’s not easy to make sure that we get the shut-eye we need, I realize. And I’ve had struggles here too. But it’s a factor in how we manage our overall stress.
- Talk to someone! Of course, seeing a therapist can be tremendously helpful. If you’re active within a faith community then consider speaking with your clergy person. Most have received training is pastoral care and when you combine that skill with the place of the Spirit in your life, you can give excess stress a real run for its money!
- See your healthcare provider. Lay it all out and be honest about what stress is doing to you. Sometimes medication can really help you here. Also, other types of therapy can be prescribed for you too. You deserve to be taken care of, too. Remember, your a crucial part of your families foundation and you need to take care of yourself….health-wise, and “stress-wise too!
Give yourself a break and read some of my lighthearted quotes about stress.
Managing stress for a healthy family. (from the American Psychological Association)
Newborn care: Ten steps for stressed-out parents. (from the Mayo Clinic)
How Parent’s stress affects babies (from WebMD)
How Stressed Parents Scar Their Kids (from the Daily Beast)
Tips for Managing Parenting Stress (by Phychology Today)
Text and Image by K. Lee