Today’s society is filled with parents who are overwhelmed and stressed out. There is often the expectation that little Timmy and all of his siblings need to be in every activity that they desire.
Social Media vs Reality
Our social media pages are filled with the perfect pictures of the perfect families with Pinterest-worthy after-school snacks and birthday party decorations. Parents, particularly moms, often feel that it is necessary to try to live up to standards set by others. These “standards” may be set by friends, family, and even strangers on social media websites even though they are often unrealistic standards.
However, many of us forget that social media is typically not reality. Everyone posts their victories, exciting vacations, and proud moments. Or they post the one picture that turned out from the 27 they took.
However, few people post about their daily struggles. We rarely see pictures of the tantrum-throwing two-year-old or the teenager yelling at his parent because he had to get up for school.
We don’t see the argument you had with your significant other about some chore not being completed or the argument you had with your mother over your parenting techniques. Social media often presents unrealistic family lifestyles and, all too often, leads parents to feel that they are unworthy or not as good of a parent as their children’s friends’ parents.
Everyone Struggles with Parenting
Typically, when we are feeling the most stressed and overwhelmed, we forget that everyone has stress and struggles. Every child had bad days. All parents have bad days. Everyone has bad days. We forget that every parent becomes frustrated with each of their children at times.
I’m a clinical psychologist with fourteen years of clinical experience and two decades worth of parenting experience from raising both biological and step-children and I still get frustrated at times. I even get frustrated with my easy child when he is not as easy as usual (and that’s just silly). Sometimes I forget my easy child or any of my children are allowed to have a bad day. I’m human too.
We are all human and we have to remember that it’s ok to allow ourselves to be human. It’s ok to not have the most social media perfect birthday party or baby shower. It’s ok to be who we are and enjoy what we enjoy. It’s ok to have emotions and frustrations and to be irritable at times. That’s all being human. However, it’s important to learn how to handle those emotions and frustrations and learn how to decrease them when we have the opportunity to decrease them.
Small changes lead to big improvements
Remember, all parents feel overwhelmed at times. When we feel overwhelmed and worn-out, we need to take a break and refocus our attention on what is important in lives—our families. We need to focus on taking care of ourselves. (Yes, you. You need to take care of yourself.) When we take care of ourselves, we are better able to take care of our family.
We need to eat nutritious food, get enough sleep, have time away from the kids, spend time with friends, and spend alone time with our significant other. When we take care of ourselves, we are able to feel refreshed and we are better able to handle whatever stressor our child or children throw at us. We are less likely to yell or make poor parenting choices when we are rested and fed…. just like our children are less likely to be grumpy when they are rested and fed.
Besides taking care of our own physical and emotional needs, there are many other ways that we can reduce our parenting stress. Some of these options for reducing parenting stress include picking your battles, being consistent, and making memories with your family.
Pick Your Battles
Being able to pick your battles with your children is a skill that often has to be learned by experience and trial-and-error. Does it really matter if the child wears the red shirt or the blue shirt? Does it really matter if the child has the Mickey Mouse cup or the Avengers cup? How important is it really that your teenager is home at 10:15 p.m. instead of 10:20 p.m.?
These are all decisions we have to make as a parent. However, we usually do not even think of these types of situations as picking battles. We need to be able to distinguish the important situations that are worth sticking to exactly what we, as the parent, desire (wearing seatbelts every time you ride in a car, not drinking and driving, looking before crossing the street, etc.…) from the not so important situations.
It’s ok to allow the children to have some say in their own lives. Even a two-year-old can choose between a red shirt and a blue shirt. This little bit of independence allows the child the freedom to make choices and this little bit of freedom is often enough to keep a tantrum from occurring.
With older children, allow them to have some say in their bedtime or curfew or how they decorate their room. You can give them a limited number of options to pick from (like with the toddler and two shirt options), but this allows them to make choices and feel they have the power to control at least part of their lives. Plus, it’s hard to argue with a parent when you helped decide for yourself!
At the same time, we also experience less stress when we are consistent parents. When we are consistent our children learn that we mean what we say. We have to follow through with what we say we will do in both the fun situations and when it comes to consequences. When our children understand we are consistent, not only do they feel safe and secure, they also know exactly what to expect from us and exactly what we expect from them. In the long run, this also means they are less likely to make poor choices requiring a consequence when they know that their parents will follow through.
When parents do not follow through consistently, children learn they can do what they want to do when they want to do it. This inconsistency leads to more behavior problems and, thus, more stress for the parent. Children learn they can get away with whatever they want to do because their parents’ actions, or lack of actions, have taught them their parents will not do anything about the misbehavior.
Consistency is best and easiest when started early in a child’s life. However, it is never too late to become a consistent parent! Even if you have teenagers and you have never been good at being consistent before, you can still do it! In these situations, it is best when you talk with the adolescent about the new changes in expectations. This allows them to be fully aware you are making a change and that you are serious about making this change. You can approach the situation from the perspective you are trying to better your life and better their lives by having less conflict and you have learned that being consistent can make this happen.
You can also approach this change in your behavior as a new start. Maybe it’s something you can start as part of a back to school routine or New Year’s resolution. However, as with any change, parents should be ready for children or adolescents to push the limits even harder. They push harder to determine if their parents are really serious about being consistent and holding to the limits. Starting consistency later in a child’s life can be challenging, but it is worth the effort now so you have fewer problems and behavioral issues to deal with in the future!
Lastly, make memories! We only have our children with us for a short eighteen years. (Yes, parents of young children, I promise eighteen years is a very short amount of time.) During the time we have our children at home with us we need to make good memories and spend quality time together.
Doing activities you enjoy with your children helps to reduce your stress because you are doing something you enjoy. It also makes great memories with your children that will last a lifetime. These activities can be as simple as playing your favorite childhood game, visiting a destination you enjoyed as a child, going through old pictures or scrapbooks, or getting them involved with whatever community organization you support.
I have always loved to travel and I’m very thankful that I have had the opportunity to share my love for traveling and seeing and doing new things with my children. As a family, we have seen mountains and beaches, gone on cruises, and flown on planes. We have made memories from the excitement of going to an indoor water park for the first time. We have also made memories of child #6 frequently getting lost and wandering off with the wrong family during our first trip to Disney World when he was seven.
And, of all these memories, my children will remember their brother getting lost at Disney World the most. It is the memory they talk about and laugh about the most now. Those are the best memories. Those unintentional, silly, or even stressful moments that occur in life can become the best memories because they are the best stories to tell! I promise you my husband did not believe one day we would laugh about our son getting misplaced so frequently in Disney World, but even he can laugh about it now.
The joys and struggles of parenting are never-ending
There are endless joys and struggles we experience as parents. We need to need to enjoy the good times and appropriately manage the not-so-good times. We need to remember parenting is just one phase in our lives and we need to enjoy that phase while we are going through it. We need to take care of ourselves, spend quality time with our family, and build relationships with our children and significant others that will last a lifetime.
- Parents need to take care of themselves (get enough rest and nutritious food)
- Pick your battles
- Be a consistent parent
- Make memories
Interested in more parenting tips and tricks?!?!?! Check this out!