Dealing With Parental Stress

Bob Brinker, FOCUS PROGRAM Coordinator (ParentWISE)

Parenting is one of the most stressful jobs you will ever undertake. Each stage of a child’s growth and development has its stressors. Those caring for infants find themselves dealing with colic, teething, crying babies and the never ending diaper changes. Toddlerhood brings a whole new set of challenges. You are confronted with constant “no’s.” Children go into demolition mode as they wreck your just cleaned house while exploring their environment. The challenges continue right through adolescence as, one day, you find yourself dealing with your teen’s attempts to separate and discover his own identify. It’s amazing how parents manage to keep it together at all. Add all the other stressful events we experience in our daily lives and it becomes understandable that, under times of great stress, we are prone to lose our cool.

In his book, When Anger Hurts Your Child, Matthew McKay provides the following parenting job description. Unfortunately, we were not provided this description when we brought our newborns home from the hospital.
  • PARENTING IS LONG HOURS. This is not a nine to five job. Parents are on call 24/7.
  • CHILDREN ARE INCREDIBLY MESSY. Whether you are dealing with a toddler or a teen, a child’s lack of domestic skills becomes an issue for parents.
  • CHILDREN ARE NOISY. The days of solitude and silence become a fleeting memory to the parent.
  • CARING FOR CHILDREN REQUIRES THAT YOU DO MANY REPETITIVE AND TIME-CONSUMING TASKS. There are just not enough hours nor is there a sense of completion and accomplishment.
  • CHILDREN ARE NOT AWARE OF THE PARENT’S LEVEL OF STRESS. We cannot expect our children to be sensitive to our “fragile states” when we’ve had all we can handle.
  • CHILDREN PUSH THE LIMITS. It is the parent’s job to set the limits. Unfortunately, it is the child’s job to test the limits.
  • CHILDREN NEED TREMENDOUS AMOUNTS OF ATTENTION AND APPROVAL. Children want to be noticed. Their behaviors, all too often, are attempts to get our attention. They will not go unnoticed.
  • CHILDREN REQUIRE CONSTANT VIGILANCE. Regardless of their age, we need to know where our children are and what they are into.
ParentWISE provides parents a variety of programs and services to address the issue of parental stress and anger. Weekly parent support groups provide a supportive environment were parents can discuss their issues and concerns without being judged. A parenting helpline is available for parents to call and get information on dealing with troublesome behaviors or sometimes to just have a caring person listen to their concerns and offer support and understanding. The agency provides a variety of parent education programs designed to empower parents to be the best they can be. One such program is Understanding Parental Stress and Anger. Some of the suggestions offered to parents in this program include:

  1. IDENTIFY A PARENTING SUPPORT NETWORK. Be willing to reach out for help and support. Get into a parenting support group. Network informally with other parents. Make use of the extended family. Asking for help and support is never a sign of weakness.
  2. DON’T LET THINGS BUILD UP. Deal with things as they occur. Putting everything on the back burner will only lead to a major explosion later on. When we reach that point, it is extremely difficult to effectively manage our anger and parent appropriately.
  3. HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR. Granted, it is not funny when your child has just poured the gallon of milk on the floor. It can be hilarious a day or two removed from the event as you retell the story to a neighbor. We need to be able to laugh at the insanity parenting brings into our lives from time to time.
  4. BE AN EMPOWERED PARENT. Be a lifelong learner. Attend a few parenting classes or support group sessions. Read the current books on parenting and child development. Knowledge is power.
  5. DON’T TAKE EVERYTHING PERSONALLY. Dolores Curran who wrote Stress and the Healthy Family said (I am paraphrasing here) not every child misbehavior is a reflection of the parenting that child has received. Children ultimately have minds of their own. Don’t take on needless guilt.
  6. BE A LITTLE SELFISH. I am not talking about neglecting your children. We do, however, need some personal time to do the things we value and enjoy. If you don’t recharge your battery every now and then, you’ll have nothing left to give.
If you would like to know more about the various programs offered at ParentWISE or be put on our mailing list, please give us a call at 724-837-5410. Our helpline numbers are 724-837-1555 or 800-544-0227. Happy Parenting!