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4 Tips to Cope with Parenting Stress and Anxiety
Friday, 21 May 2021

You work hard at a demanding job so you can provide for your family. Then you have to fight the traffic to pick up your kids from daycare, school, or their extracurricular activities. When you get home, you have to do a zillion chores, get dinner ready, and make sure they do their homework. It’s no wonder that toddler tantrums or teenage rebellion often push parents over the edge. You want to be the perfect parent, but you shouldn’t have to pay for it with your health and sanity.

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Parenting stress takes its toll on the entire family. It puts a strain on your relationship with your partner, affects your performance at work, saps you of your energy, and patience, so when you spend time with your kids, you’re more focused on getting things done rather than being there for them. When they complain about feeling overwhelmed, most parents are advised to seek out social support. This is, of course, an excellent idea. The problem is that much like any resource, we don’t all have equal access.

So what else can you do to manage when you can’t delegate and take a break?

Adjust Your Expectations and Find Your Balance

On our quest to be everything our kids need us to be, we tend to forget we’re only human. We schedule everything by the minute, so we’re constantly running around because if we slow down for even a minute, we’re going to be late. This isn’t healthy for you or for your kids. You may think that by signing them up for as many extracurriculars as possible, you’re giving them a well-rounded education. In reality, they may feel just as overwhelmed and stressed out as you do. You’re also making life harder for yourself because now you have more places to get to and more things to coordinate.
Kids generally like to have a lot of freedom in their schedule so they can take things slowly and enjoy themselves. The more “hobbies” you assign them, the less quality time they get to spend with you, and since they’re tuned in to whatever the adults around them are feeling, they’ll pick up on your nervousness and become more restless themselves.
The best way to find your balance is to prioritize and overestimate how long every activity will take. If before you thought you could get something done in two hours, allocate three. This way, you’re giving yourself some wiggle room, and you’ll see what you can actually get done in a week without exhausting yourself and stressing out your little ones.

Try Not to Bring Work Stress into Your Home Life

This is easier said than done. After a long day at the office, we’ve all been guilty of coming home and taking it out on our partner or our kids. We become passive-aggressive and snappy, which leads to conflict and more stress. If we’re not careful, we risk letting work-related issues seep into our home life at the expense of our relationship with our family.
To avoid this, some parents create and end-of-work ritual that allows them to relax and compartmentalize these two areas of their lives. Your brain needs a signal to switch between your role as an employee and your role as a parent. For example, you could meet with a couple of colleagues or friends after work and talk about your day. You could stop the car in a more scenic area and call a friend or your own parents. As your driving, you can also listen to relaxing music and try to become aware of and connect with your feeling. Before you go inside your home, do some breathing exercises for a few minutes. You’ll notice a significant difference in how you react to the challenges of parenting after a long and stressful day.

Make Sure You Give Yourself Enough Time to Recharge

Life in our modern, fast-paced world can wear us down and makes us more vulnerable to stress and anxiety. We’re overloaded with all the demands and expectations, so parenting starts to feel more like a burden than a source of meaning and joy. Then we guilt ourselves for feeling this way.
Do you still remember what it was like to have fun? See if you can find ways to combine activities you enjoy with spending time with your kids. You can watch a movie with them in the evening. If you like reading, think of the books you loved most when you were their age and read them together at bedtime. On the weekends, you can create a kid-friendly exercise routine and work out as a family. There are plenty of free videos on YouTube, and you’d be teaching your kids a healthy way to cope with stress.
You can also have a dance contest, joke around and laugh. It might seem silly, but it will help you reconnect with that playful and happy side of yourself that got buried under the mountain of responsibilities and to-do lists.
In the evening, once the kids are off to sleep, give yourself an hour in which you do something you enjoy. It can be taking a bath, reading a magazine while listening to music, or watching an episode of your favorite show. Also, don’t neglect your own sleep. Those 7 to 8 hours of good-quality sleep are your greatest weapon against the stress and anxiety that comes with parenting. If you have trouble falling asleep lately, make sure you have good sleep hygiene practice. Natural remedies like hemp based products have been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce daytime sleepiness.

Frustration and Anger

Even if you follow the advice above religiously, you will still have moments when you feel like you’re about to lose your temper, and you need a solution that works in the short-term. Before you let yourself lash out and scold your kids, take a moment and focus on what your body is experiencing. This will teach you how to recognize the signs and take yourself out of the situation before your frustration leads to angry outbursts. Typically, you’ll start to breathe faster, you may hear your heart rate quickening and your muscles tensing.
At this point, you need to give your child a time-out in a safe space – if you’re at home, you can just send them to their room – so you have a chance to do some breathing exercises to calm down. If there’s another adult there to supervise them, you can take a walk around the house and make yourself a warm cup of tea that will help you relax. Remember that you don’t have to finish the argument right then and there. You can always come back to it when you feel in control of your emotions.
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