When you have a kid, there isn’t a moment in your life where you will be completely carefree again. The ability you had before babies to kick back by the side of the pool, cocktail in hand and completely switch off from the world? Well, those days are gone. Now, even if you are by the pool, theoretically relaxing, you’ll still have one ear out for the distinctive yell of your child, that you can pick out of the melee of other kids shouting, screaming and having a good time.
It’s completely normal to have a few worries about your child on their first ever day of school. You hope they’re making friends, getting along, enjoying it even. That’s absolutely fine and shows that you care. However, when you’re finding yourself reaching for the phone for the third time in ten minutes, just calling for an update, feeling stressed and panicked about how they’re doing, and even recognizing some symptoms of anxiety in yourself with regard to your child, it might be time to start thinking about tactics to reduce your stress. Remember, the less anxious you can be, the healthier, happier and calmer your home life will be. Read on for some things to think about if you find yourself struggling with stress as a parent.
Be a Superhero, not a Superhuman
There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you can’t do everything. Differentiate between limitations and boundaries. A limit is something which relates to your ability and intention and can therefore be expanded by educating yourself and rethinking some of your intentions. A boundary, on the other hand, is something you set for yourself and establish in order to look after your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. We can set new boundaries for ourselves, maybe relating to (for example) our eating habits, time management of lifestyle.
Your boundaries are something you should assess if you are constantly feeling unhappy, overworked and stressed. You might find yourself saying yes and agreeing to things before you’ve had a moment to think about whether or not you actually have time to do them. Saying no because you don’t have time, can’t achieve something or you actually just don’t want to, is a sign of you being assertive. This translates to your kids as well. If you can’t take them swimming in a given day as well as get in the groceries, clean the kitchen, make a healthy and nutritious dinner and get them to and from day care then (and repeat this until you believe it) that’s ok. Setting boundaries can be really challenging, especially if you’re a people-pleaser, but it’s something that, the more you practice it, the easier it will become. Have a think about some boundaries you can put in place which might just make your day-to-day easier.
Call in a Professional
There are household jobs that it seems just, well, lazy to get someone else in to do. We can all change a lightbulb, but our capacity for fixing a broken dryer will vary from person to person. Getting someone in to help you with a job is not a sign that you’ve failed. It’s a sign that you are making the sensible decision to prioritize other things. Those other things can be reading a book, or going to the gym. Taking time to look after yourself shouldn’t fall to the wayside and if there are household jobs that you need a professional for, such as Pest Control, pool cleaning or roofing, then pick up the phone.
But this is another area which can cause stress and anxiety for many parents. So much of the time it feels like we should be the ones capable of fixing everything, managing all the time and never showing signs of being human. It actually gives our children unrealistic expectations of what they’re capable of if we seem completely infallible to them and never take time for ourselves. So professionals might be someone to fix your windows, but it can also include childcare. It’s proven that social interaction reduces stress – when was the last time you spent time with your significant other? When we have kids, it’s all too easy to end of just being mom and dad, forgetting that you had a whole life together before. Finding a babysitter and making some time to spend together, just the two of you, to reconnect and get back in touch with yourselves, rather than focusing on being parents, is a really key way of reducing your stress as a parent.
Try and Avoid Hyper Parenting
This might be something you aren’t even aware you’re doing, but it can have a detrimental effect and not just on your stress levels, but on your child too. You might find yourself obsessing over every small detail of their lives, from how quickly they’re learning to do things to exactly how and what they play with. But this can prevent them from learning and exploring by themselves which, in turn, will make it more difficult for them to manage out in the real world. There are few mistakes small kids can make which are completely irreversible, and reducing your stress levels might involve learning to accept that sometimes they are going to get messy, fall down, or break something, but that’s all part and parcel of being a kid. Your hovering over them as they do it might stop it happening once or twice, but will also mean they don’t know how to handle it when it does happen.
If you recognize some of the symptoms of hyper parenting in yourself, there are a few things you can try to reduce your stress levels and give your child the opportunity to grown and learn by themselves.
– Try not to get angry. If your immediate response is to become controlling, and tell your kid off for making a mistake, shout at them or give them a time out, then take a breath, count to three, and ask yourself if your response is proportionate to what they’re doing. If they’ve done something dangerous, rude, or deliberately naughty, then that’s one thing, but if it’s just that they didn’t understand and are learning how to go about something, then it’s not worth getting angry with them about. Let it go.
– Respect your kids’ clocks. When your request that they brush their teeth/tidy up/finish their carrots is ignored, it might not be because your child is being deliberately disobedient. They have heard you, but your request might just be the next thing on their to-do list rather than them stopping whatever it is they’re doing to do what you’ve said. Give them a moment to respond. If you continue repeating the same thing, then it’ll just become background noise to them.
Sometimes known as “helicopter parenting,” hyper parenting can cause you to become worried and stressed unnecessarily. It’s worth assessing your own behaviors to see if anything here rings true with you. If so, you could reduce your anxiety levels by training yourself to step back, relax, and let your kids be kids.
Parenting will change and shape every aspect of your life. And a bit of worry is a good thing -you love your kids and want them to be safe, healthy and happy. But it’s when this starts taking over your life and affecting your own wellbeing that it’s worth assessing if your level of stress is within what’s usual. The best parents are not the most stressed parents.