Remember the first time you saw your first-born child? You might have been amazed at her eyes, or mesmerized by the perfection of his hands. You might have dutifully recorded the first smile, the first laughs, the first steps, the first dance. He or she became the most important individual in your life. When that little person came into your world, you knew that your life had changed forever.
There is nothing quite like the joy of parenthood. It can lift your spirits on the most miserable day. It gives you a reason to rise in the morning, and a good excuse for blowing bubbles, catching fireflies, or gazing at a fireworks display. When you give your child a hug at night, you know that all is right with the universe.
However, parenthood can also be quite stressful. There are so many demands on your time, so many commitments you need to fulfill. Your responsibilities can leave you feeling anxious and frustrated. If your child is sick, or is having trouble in school, or has become involved in drug or alcohol abuse, your stress level could rise to the max.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to eliminate the stressors associated with parenthood. They simply come with the territory. While you can guide your child, you cannot expect to control him or her, particularly when your child reaches the teenage years. Therefore, you have to learn to somehow manage the stress of parenthood before it gets the better of you.
The most important strategy you can adopt is to keep the communication going between yourself and your child, even when it becomes difficult. Your stress level will be greatly reduced if you can talk with your child, especially when something is bothering him or her. It is important for your child to know that your love is unconditional, and that he or she can turn to you at any time of the day or night. Strengthening the bond of trust can do a great deal to eliminate your stress.
Another stress-reducing tact you can take is to set aside time to spend with your child—other than helping him or her with homework. This is particularly important if you have more than one child. You need some fun time with your child—to let him or her know that you care. Plan for an afternoon of rollerskating or an evening playing checkers. You’ll find that such relaxing activities can help to alleviate your stress.
Also, it is important that you build into your day a break in the action. Have your husband or wife watch the children for ten minutes while you re-group. This is particularly important if you find yourself under so much stress that you are about to lose your temper. Give yourself a timeout—and watch your stress level drop considerably.
Mention needs to be made about the special stress that single parents feel. Theirs is a difficult lot and the pressures can be intense. That is why it is so critically important for single parents to strengthen their support systems. They need to have a parent, brother or sister, or friend they can rely on when the stress of parenting becomes overwhelming. Just having someone to talk to can be a tremendous stress-reliever. In other cases, a single parent might need someone to watch his or her children for the night so that the parent can re-group. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness—it is indicative of great emotional strength. If you find yourself falling apart, don’t wait for a crisis to get some assistance. If you turn to others for support, you will find that your family unit will only grow stronger.
Parenting is perhaps the single greatest responsibility a person can hold. As a result, there is a tremendous amount of stress involved. Recognizing that fact is an important part of the parenting process. Once you are attuned to stress—and the causes of it—you are more likely to be able to manage it well. It is important also for you to recognize that stress management is an on-going process—that it doesn’t happen overnight. However, with time, you can become a first-rate stress manager.