Being a parent has so many positives. But with those positives comes a big dose of stress, chaos, and pressure. Parents have to sacrifice a lot more than they did pre-kid days like sleep, privacy, wants, and, a lot of times, needs. You might find that some crazy things come out of your mouth, as well. “Am I providing an enriching environment?”“You seriously aren’t going to eat the exact food you just asked me to make?!”“Why is there pee in this drawer?”“I’m so tired of everyone touching me!” It can feel overwhelming. The pressure is so great that you could collapse beneath the weight of it. The good news! There are some tried and true ways to grab hold of some sanity when you feel like your brain is shorting out.
Here are 8 ways to cope with the stress that piggybacks on parenting.
Deep, chest cavity filled breaths. Do this frequently. Take 5 big breaths. Hold the inhale for a couple of seconds. Then exhale. Breathe in calmness. Breathe out chaos.
2. DIG DEEP TO FIND THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION.
When things go Lord of the Flies, it’s easy to get sucked into the chaos. It feels like the house is burning down and all hope is lost. When in reality it’s just one kid screaming that he smells a banana and the other screaming because she thinks it’s fun to make veins pop out in your head. Maybe throw in a dog peeing on the carpet and food
cooking burning on the stove and it’s easy to feel like you might literally burst into flames.
You can dig out by grabbing that tiny speck of sanity that’s desperately trying to get your attention at the back of the room. Address each thing, starting with the most urgent. Food. Move it. Get a towel on the pee, throw some shoes on the wailing banshees, and get outside. And then breathe in that fresh air to clear your mind.
3. NANO VACATIONS.
Linda Clement with Raising Parents has a great list of nanovactions (found here) that you can take when you don’t have the opportunity to run away for an hour. Nanovacations also fall under self-care. Take care of yourself. If you have a partner, a family member, or a trusted friend – ask them for help! “Watch my kid for 20 minutes….. pleeeeaaase!” I bet they will! Even if you are in the same house. If you have a partner, they don’t get much choice. They are parenting too, so you deserve to do things for yourself as much as anyone else. It’s hard to make lemonade when the lemons are shriveling up and dying out on the sidewalk. If you don’t have someone to help you, I wrote this article that gives some suggestions on how to get a break when you have no help.
If you always assume the worst is going to happen, then you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. “My day is going to suck.” I bet it will suck with that attitude. “I bet there will be a few challenges today, but I can do it.” Remember in high school when there were morning announcements over the intercom to the whole school? Maybe that was just our school. But every single day of the entire school year, they ended the announcements with, “Make it a great day… or not. The choice is yours.” It’s true. It’s ok to experience challenges. It’s ok to get down about those challenges. But seek out possibilities instead of problems.
Parenting is hard. Seclusion that often comes along with parenting is painful. Depression is real. No one will know that you are struggling if you don’t open up to someone that you trust. There is no shame in saying you are struggling. We aren’t robots. We need community. We need self-care. And we need empathy. Are you struggling? Send us an email. We would love to talk to you, be your friend, and listen to your struggles without judgement.
6. UNDERSTANDING AGE-APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR.
A lot of the stress and frustration of raising tiny humans is that we expect them to do certain things. We often don’t know what behaviors are appropriate for a certain age. Educating ourselves about what is normal and what isn’t, and then giving that “normal” an even bigger range of potential normal will remove much of the headache of trying to get a kid to do something that they just can not do.
This could fall under number 6 too, but on a broader level. When you know you are having a baby, you research everything pregnancy related. The same should hold true for when the baby actually gets here. Oftentimes, people don’t research on parenting, child psychology, and so on. They just do what they know, which isn’t always the healthiest option. I myself decided to wing it because I didn’t know I should read things about raising kids. But within moments of his arrival, I knew that I needed to do some research. What I knew wasn’t what I was comfortable doing. Prepare yourself with an evidence-based approach to raising the most vulnerable of our society. Earned respect (not forced or feared respect) will encourage mutual cooperation which will result in less stress. Usually.
8. FIND A TRIBE.
This needs an entire post of its own. Find a tribe, a community, or a couple of friends. They can be in person or online. I talk to a group of like-minded women every single day online. We support each other, listen to each other, and stay accountable to each other when we are struggling. Look on Facebook for groups that feel like they fit your lifestyle. Look for local groups and meetups. Find people. We need connection and support. There you have it. You are capable. You are strong. You are intelligent. Research, connect with others, and believe in yourself. Remember, everything is always changing. Something may be stupid hard right now, but it won’t always be that way. You’ve got this.
There are tons of resources out there on parenting and child psychology. Some favorites are:
- Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids is a good starting place.
- Unconditional Parenting is another good one, as well as everything else by Alfie Kohn.
- The Whole Brain Child and No Drama Discipline are goodies by Dan Siegel (and everything else he writes).
- Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman.
- I thoroughly enjoyed Playful Parenting. It had creative and positive tactics to communicate with our kids when they are hurting and encourage mutual cooperation.
- Parent Effectiveness Training was also an eye-opener for me. It gave practical tools to communicate better with kids and other people. It discusses the roadblocks to communication. I did so many of them without even realizing they were hindering my communication with my child.
Those are some starting places if you are looking for books to read. They contain affiliate links and each one are books that we have read and give a full stamp of approval for others to read.