Stress management for parents is crucial – for their own sake, but more importantly for their children. Everyone has their own dose of stress, that’s just a part of life. Whether that stress is triggered by car trouble, a bad day at work, or simply too much to do and not enough time to do it in, it’s important to learn how to manage it, and model what good stress control looks like for your children.
Stress is a common denominator and trigger for child abuse. “I just snapped,” says the overworked, overtired single mother of five children, who is under investigation for choking her 2-year-old. April, National Child Abuse Prevention Month, presents a timely opportunity to call attention to stress management, and the following tips from experts in organizations working to prevent abuse and maltreatment of children is a helpful place to start.
What can you do?
Effective parents recognize when they are becoming overstressed. The signs can be physical (sore neck, headache, insomnia, overeating) or emotional (feeling angry, hopeless, crying easily). The following suggestions may help:
Identify what’s making you stressed. Your stressors might be related to your partner, health issues, money, or work. Everyone’s stressors are different.
Accept what you cannot change. Heard that one before? It’s good, because when you ask yourself, “Can I do anything about it?” and the answer is “NO,” it’s time to focus on something else. If there IS something you can do (such as look for a new job) approach it calmly and methodically. Which leads us to…
Relax! Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or listening to music can all work to take the edge off.
Have faith. Realize that “this too shall pass.” It’s a fact that people who pray regularly, attend church, or practice other forms of spirituality tend to have less stress.
Take care of your health. A good night’s sleep can do wonders for lowering your stress level. So can exercise and eating a healthy diet.
Give yourself a break! Getting away for a few hours, and taking time to read a book or pursue a hobby, are all good ways to push the refresh button. Hire a babysitter, trade time with a friend, or join a Mother’s/Dad’s Day Out program at church, just make sure to reserve some time for yourself.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Older children can take over household tasks like setting and clearing the table. A support network can be just what the doctor, and the stressed-out parent, ordered.
*This tip sheet was summarized from a chapter in the 2014 Prevention Resource Guide. You can download this tip sheet and get more parenting tips At https://www.childwelfare.gov/preventing/promoting/parenting, or call 800.394.3366.