Parenting can be stressful, especially if you’re juggling multiple responsibilities in different areas of your life. While stress may be unavoidable, managing stress every day is key to enjoying life with your children. Children whose caregivers effectively manage their emotional responses learn to manage their responses, too. These children are often happier and easier to parent.
Here are six ways to enjoy the time you have with your children in a relaxed manner.
- Set aside 20-30 minutes each day to bond with your child without distractions like TV or the Internet. Dinner is a perfect time for this kind of shared experience. Don’t just ask questions. Engage them on their terms and see where the conversation takes you. This tactic won’t add to your “to-do” list, and it demonstrates to your child that you care about what’s really going on in his/her life. Don’t be surprised if you find out something new about the child you thought you knew so well. That alone may reduce your parenting stress.
- Take care of your own physical health. Good eating habits, regular exercise and plenty of rest go a long way to keeping mood and anxiety on an even keel when life gets stressful.
- Prepare for the morning the night before. Choose clothes, pack backpacks and make lunches in the evening. Get up a few minutes earlier and get yourself ready first before you help your children get ready. A little additional preparation makes the morning go smoothly and keeps everyone calm.
- Relax your standards. Life will go on if the laundry stays in the drier a bit longer. Being a perfectionist might keep you from appreciating the little things your children are trying to share with you. It’s OK to put off that household chore in order to sit down and read a story or just talk with your kids.
- Every day, do something you really enjoy. It might be a yoga class or a walk in the park. Sometimes you can include your family in your activities – or take a friend. Whatever you do, take a few minutes of “me time” each day.
- Teach your children to be more independent and to help around the house. Give them developmentally appropriate chores to do, and have them take over aspects of their own care. Not only will this reduce your work load, it will give them a sense of accomplishment and contribution, which are important to their own growth.
Sometimes even the best effort at managing life’s stressors is not enough to keep symptoms of depression and anxiety under control. If you have periods of more than two weeks where you find yourself feeling helpless or hopeless, struggling to find energy or motivation to engage in life, have increased or reduced appetite, have trouble sleeping, feel very worried or have a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, realize that you may need some additional help to get back on track. See your Primary Care Provider or Baptist Behavioral Health (904-376-3800) for an evaluation to determine if additional treatment would be helpful.