Parenting is hands-down one of the most stressful jobs in the world. It has long hours, high expectations, and no end date. The responsibility of caring for a child is on your shoulders 24/7. It’s easy to feel like you’re too busy to learn how to cope with parenting stress.
Many parenting stress solutions require a hefty time commitment. As a result, we opt out of seeking relief altogether when life gets hectic! It doesn’t have to be this way.
There are many simple ways to learn how to cope with parenting stress within your busy schedule. This post will explore seven simple, impactful stress-management tools for parents.
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Why is parenting so stressful?
Most parents no longer rely on a village to help raise their children.
More and more, parents are doing everything themselves. Coupled with overscheduling, this often leads to unrealistic expectations, followed by guilt. This phenomenon only increased through the pandemic.
Furthermore, with social media comes the temptation to compare our parenting with others. We tend to see only the best part of other parents’ days. It’s easy to feel like you don’t measure up.
However, as parents, we must care for ourselves to fully care for our children.
Types of parental stress
Parenting stress may stem from a variety of factors:
- lack of sleep
- too many personal and work responsibilities
- lack of time for yourself
- child behavioral stress
- parenting a child with special needs or medical concerns
- the financial load of caring for a family
- feeling like you are not “good enough” as a parent
- strained family & co-parenting relationships
Effects of parental stress
When we feel stressed or sleep-deprived, we tend to have less patience with our children. Stressed parents are less likely to respond to kids in a nurturing, supportive way, which can fuel more challenging behavior.
When the quality of our parenting suffers, so does our children’s self-esteem and social development.
[Reference: University of Minnesota Extension]
A 2020 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that we can pass our feelings of stress onto our children when we don’t seek healthy ways to cope.
The good news? Allow yourself to be human and own the fact you are stressed. It’s 100% okay to say to your child, “Mommy needs a minute to cool off, then we can sit down and talk through this.”
How to cope with parenting stress & anxiety: 6 key tips to get past parental burnout
1. Shift your perspective
If you are constantly thinking, “My kid stresses me out!” it will be difficult to escape the burnout cycle.
Fortunately, there are simple ways to shift your perspective and find peace in parenting.
Focus only on what you can control.
Why waste time and frustration worrying about what is out of your control?
For example, you cannot control if your toddler has a tantrum in public, but you can control how you respond.
Take comfort in knowing you cannot control another human. Attempting to do so through harsh or punitive discipline methods only results in long-term negative outcomes for kids.
Focus where you can have the most impact, and you are more likely to feel empowered and positive about your parenting journey.
Avoid the mindset that your child can control how you feel emotionally.
Your child cannot make you happy or sad. Your child cannot make you worry or feel peaceful.
Try to avoid saying things like “What you did makes Mommy mad!”. Kids learn how to empathize through modeled behavior, not through guilt and shame. Children are not responsible for pleasing adults.
Remember it’s not personal with kids.
This well-known saying helps put things into perspective: “Your child isn’t giving you a hard time, they’re having a hard time.” [original author unknown]
As tough as it is, challenging behavior in children is often developmentally normal. They are simply learning how to be people. Try to view their challenging behavior as them saying, “I need your help!”
2. Adopt a parenting mantra
Adopting a go-to parenting mantra can help you reset and feel empowered through those intense moments of stress.
Here are some of my favorite positive parenting examples:
- “I am one person doing my best.”
- “This too shall pass.”
- “This is a chance to show my child how to choose respect in moments of anger.”
- “I am enough. I am worthy and valuable.”
- “My relationship with my child is more important than this problem.”
- “I can do hard things.”
- “Will this problem still matter to me by tomorrow?”
- “My child may not doing what I need right this second, but he/she will get there if I practice a little patience.”
You can find more inspirational positive parenting quotes to get you through tough times here.
3. Accept and seek help in your day-to-day
Our children are the most important people to us in the world. It can feel nerve-wracking to relinquish control.
However, it is important to accept help from trusted friends and family when offered. It is not a sign of weakness or inadequacy. It is simply good parenting.
Also, remember that your partner, friends, and family members are not mind-readers. Speak up when you feel stress building and say precisely what you need.
How your support system can help
Here are some easy ideas of how friends and family can help:
- Laundry: Ask your spouse or a friend to do a load for you. Perhaps you could even sneak in a nap. (Remember, life will go on if they don’t fold exactly how you do!)
- Dishes: Ask someone to come over and do dishes with you or take care of them while enjoying a moment of quality time with your child(ren).
- Drop off/pick up kids from school or practice: Form a parent carpool or have a loved one drop off/pick up your child(ren) from school or practice so you can take care of work responsibilities.
- Play with the kids: You deserve a moment to yourself! Ask a friend or grandparent to entertain your kids for 15-20 minutes.
4. Learn more effective discipline practices
If you feel stressed about your child’s behavior, consider taking a few moments each day to learn more effective discipline tools.
Did you know that the true definition of discipline is “to teach”?
When our focus becomes teaching our kids how to solve problems, rather than punishing and shaming them for their missteps, our stress can go way down.
While it sounds simple, it does not come easily for many parents who grew up with authoritarian parenting methods. Changing intergenerational parenting patterns takes a conscious effort.
How to build a foundation in positive parenting for FREE:
If you’re looking to parent differently, but don’t know where to start, I invite you to join me in Such a Little While’s free 30-day positive parenting challenge. You’ll receive a no-cost positive parenting PDF workbook to help you cope with and prevent parenting stress.
I’ll hold your hand through one easy-to-implement tool each day in a matter of minutes. By the end of the month, you’ll feel confident with a solid foundation in a positive approach to discipline.
5. Commit to a 5-minute daily self-care routine
Let’s be very clear that you deserve and likely need more than 5 minutes of self-care per day. But when you are feeling overwhelmed, it is sometimes necessary to start small when taking on something new. You’ll be more likely to commit long-term.
Self-care has become a misunderstood buzzword. The truth is that self-care looks different for everyone.
You’ll know you have found a self-care solution when you start feeling like yourself again.
Choose an activity that helps clear your mind and calm your body. If you’re feeling refreshed and recharged with a positive mindset, you’re hitting the nail on the head.
Here are some easy 5-minute self-care routines:
- Mindfulness meditation (I love doing these 5-minute video exercises after my kids are in bed!)
- Stepping outside for fresh air or a short walk alone
6. Simplify your family life
As parents, there are many balls to juggle. It is taxing to keep track of it all! Here are a few quick wins to simply your life.
Simplify your meals
One way to pare down your family’s schedule is by meal planning and automating groceries for pick-up or delivery. This will save you time on shopping and cooking, which will give you more time for the other important things in life.
Simplify your family calendar
You can also try limiting each child to one extracurricular activity. Research shows less is more!
If your family’s activities are putting strain on your wallet or your kids are not experiencing unstructured play, it‘s likely time to scale back.
If possible, choose one day to be activity and event-free. This could be Sunday for example, so that everyone can relax and recharge for the week ahead.
Simplify your home
Lastly, consider living with less “stuff!” Research shows that kids play longer and more independently with fewer toys. It’s not only less to clean up, but can evoke a feeling of calm when your environment is clutter-free!
7. Work with a professional to learn more about how to cope with parenting stress
Treat your mental health with the same regard as you would your child’s health. If they broke their leg you wouldn’t hesitate to seek professional help. Why should your well-being be any different?
If you are experiencing stress to the point of burnout, depression, or anxiety, it’s time to reach out.
If you reside in the United States, you can begin your search for a licensed marriage and family therapist here.
The last thing you need to know about how to cope with parenting stress
There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for parenting stress. It’s important to keep trying solutions until you find what works for you and your family.
Know that all parents have days when we succumb to our stress. We don’t always feel proud of every parenting moment.
Rather than sweeping these moments under the rug, use them as teaching tools for your child. Use them as opportunities to model a healthy apology and set a goal to do better next time.
I invite you to stay a while and learn more tips on how to stay calm through the storm of parenting here.
You’ve got this!