Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stress Management For Parents

      Throughout life, we experience many changes and learn how to adapt our lifestyle to accommodate new circumstances. However, when children enter our lives, we sometimes struggle to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.  Being a parent is associated with its' own unique stress, from worrying about our child’s safety to spousal disagreements about discipline. Having children seems to make life much more complicated. However, complicated does not have to mean chaotic. Here are a few ways of coping with the stresses of parenthood and being proactive in creating a healthy, happy family life.

      1) Take Time for Yourself.  Schedule yourself in some weekly "me" time – a solitary activity that you find rejuvenating and fulfilling. Whether it be jogging, knitting, or playing piano, we all need time for ourselves.  So often we put our families’ needs before our own, but we need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others.

      2) Prioritize your "To Do" List.  As our "To Do" list increases, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that we have to do in the course of a day. By deciding what’s important to us and what needs to be done, we gain some sense of control over our lives.  Ask yourself, "Does this really need to be done, right now? What will happen if I don’t do it until tomorrow or the next day?"  Deciding what can wait helps us cope with everyday stressors.

      3) Make Time for Romance. If you are with a partner, going from being a "couple" to a "family" takes its toll on any relationship.  Creating quality time with your partner is essential in developing the love, support, and communication needed to have a happy household. If you are single, making time for friends can help you restore your sense of self outside of your children.

      4) Re-evaluate your Expectations of Yourself and Others.  Sometimes we feel distress when we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and the world around us.  As parents, we think we need to be Supermen and Superwomen, leaping from work to housework to parenting in a single bound.  Ask yourself, “Do I expect too much of myself?  Of my partner?  Of my children?” Accepting what is realistically possible in your family allows everyone to experience success.

      5) Do Things as a Family. Whether it be declaring that Wednesday is “Board Game Night” or going for a picnic on Saturday, scheduling fun activities allows for a positive experience for the whole family.  Spending time together strengthens relationships and fosters an atmosphere of love and caring.

      6) Develop Healthy Habits.  Having a healthy diet and daily exercise benefits us in so many ways – we sleep better, feel more energetic, and experience a boost in mood.  A healthy lifestyle provides us with energy and emotional resources to deal with whatever comes our way.

Incorporating the above attitudes and activities into your family may not simplify your life, but they will help bring some order to a busy schedule and help to maintain a healthy perspective. As overwhelming as family life may seem, breaking tasks into bite-size pieces may make the stress of having children much more manageable.