by Dr. Shanthi Thomas
Parenting is not a walk in the park. From time immemorial, parents have worried about their children and undergone hardships and heartbreaks for them throughout their lives. As our civilization progresses, parenting is getting more and more challenging. Navigating one’s journey as a parent in the modern world is very stressful indeed. How do we cope with parenting stress?
Working parents need to learn to leave work where it belongs, and not bring it home. It is not easy, but very important not to bring your workplace stress to your family. The best way to do this is to talk to your spouse or a trusted friend at the end of the day, before you enter the realm of personal life. This helps you to give vent to the frustrations and worries of the day, and enter home life with a refreshed mind. If we focus on our work life too much, and too often, there will be little energy or time left for family life.
Exercise is a great stress reliever. It boosts the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins, reduces the harmful effects of stress on the body and improves your mood. Once you build it into your daily routine, exercise does the effect of meditation, calming the body and mind. Almost any kind of exercise or movement can help you, but it is important to pick an activity that you enjoy doing. There are many to choose from: walking, jogging, stair climbing, running, dancing, bicycling, yoga, gardening, tai chi, weightlifting and swimming are a few. Finding a friend to do it with is a great way to ensure that you will do it every single day.
Parents need to spend some time for themselves doing what they like, every day. Many people find reading a great way to relax at the end of the day after the children are asleep. Equally restful activities are knitting, writing a journal, meditation and yoga. It is a great way to connect with your inner self, and to recharge after a long day.
Humans are social beings. We exist and thrive as a community. It is important to connect with parents whose kids are of the same age as yours and go through similar life struggles. It lets you know that you are not alone and that these stressors are a normal part of everyone’s life. You might also get tips and useful information that you can use in your own life as a parent.
No parent can be a ‘super-mom’ or a ‘super-dad’, and trying to be one is a sure trigger for stress. There are times when you need help. For many parents, their own parents are the go-to people to ask for help in times of need. Families who can afford it can have a hired help, especially when children are small. If you are managing on your own, and are stressed out beyond normal, do not hesitate to get help from a therapist or counsellor, from whom you can get expert advice.
Planned vacations as a family or just with your spouse can be a great way to unplug and refresh yourself. It is a break from the routine, the chores at home, and the responsibilities at work. There are any number of places that you can visit according to your time and budget. The bonding between family members that results from family vacations is a great stress reliever.
Avoid overscheduling yourself. In other words, say no to late evening and weekend meetings and other work-related requirements. It is equally important to give the children a reasonable amount of free time. Signing up the kids for too many extra-curricular activities and tuitions can be an extra burden not only on the kids themselves but also on the parents, since the extra activities often require additional supervision.
A lot of stress in parenting is caused by lack of awareness of the role of parents, their duties and responsibilities, the possible causes of stress and how to tackle them, and how to deal with common problems that can happen to children. The solution is to be aware and keep learning. Read, and consult people who have gone through the same experiences, thereby keeping up to date with knowledge of how to handle the parenting challenges that life throws at you.
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