Plus, parenting is different than it once was. Moms, dads, and kids are constantly on the move, with little time to rest and recharge. And that pressure to be the perfect parent? That only exacerbates the stress parents experience on a daily basis.
That kind of stress can lead to frequent illness, exhaustion, anxiety, and many other health issues for adults. What most people don't know, though, is that it can also trickle down to the kids. Stress is contagious.
In fact, a study in Child Development revealed that when parents are significantly stressed during their child’s first few years of life, some of the child’s genes can even be altered, harming development and leading to negative effects years later. Yikes.
As a child psychotherapist, here are the most important things I recommend doing to keep parental stress in check:
1. Raise the white flag — and ask for help.
No mom or dad is an island. I’m not sure when the trend in parenting shifted from “It takes a village” to “Don’t worry, I got this,” but we are long overdue for a shift back to the village mentality.
Parenting isn’t about doing everything independently while baking the best cookies on the block. There's no room for competition in this gig. Asking for help is a great first step toward finding your own parenting happy place.
Start with one friend or family member. Set up a rotating schedule to trade favors or child care so that you both have time to step back from the daily grind of parenting.
2. Ask yourself two questions before you commit to any activity.
If you spend your days running around chasing your tail, you’re probably not getting much done. Time management is a critical part of parenting. It begins with feedings and sleep schedules and moves into school, classes, sports, and homework. There is always something that needs to get done and somewhere you need to be.
Begin by setting realistic expectations and reasonable limits. You simply can’t drive your child to every activity under the sun, run the PTA, and attend every party that comes your way. Cut back on your own activities, as well as those of your kids. Your kids might want to play two sports every season, but they don’t need to.
Ask yourself these two questions before you commit: "Is this something I really want to do? Do I actually have the time to do this?" Proceed accordingly.