How to Keep Your Cool While Parenting
Parenting is unarguably one of the most stressful jobs on the planet, especially when you throw in housework, carpooling and maybe an out-of-the-home job. But keeping your cool at home may be even more important than doing it in the office. As parents, you are modeling healthy habits to your children. And “blowing up” in front of the kids can have a long-term impact on them as well.
The proliferation of “Keep Calm” t-shirts, posters and memes may be indicative of how stressful our society has become. So how can you proactively deal with the crush of demanding roles?
Business writer Bruce Kasanoff shared some tips with executives on how to stay calm. But with a little tweaking for the circumstances, they can apply to the stressful role of parenting as well.
1. Watch the amount of caffeine you consume. Some people swear they can’t start the day without their cup of java and the long queues in coffee shops support that idea. But for many people, caffeine comes with negative effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, regularly drinking caffeinated beverages may increase blood pressure and that can lead to a narrowing of the arteries. Energy drinks are another popular and easily accessible source of caffeine. And that makes them especially risky for teens. An article in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology reports that the overconsumption of these drinks can increase the risk of arrhythmias and other cardiovascular dangers in teens and cause long-term effects on their hearts. If your daily caffeine habit is making you more jittery than tranquil it may be time to re-evaluate your caffeine consumption.
2. Exercise. Taking time to exercise can seem impossible to a time-strapped parent. A University of Pittsburgh study found that new parents are more sedentary than singles or married couples without children. That may in part be the result of sleep deprivation and other adjustments required for parenting. But Jon Chipko, a certified fitness coach from Montclair, New Jersey says that physical exercise is even more important for parents. “You want to be around for the kids. You want to be healthy, to be able to play with them, to be around when they get older.” Parents can sneak in more exercise time by taking walks with their children, doing a weight workout at home or popping in an exercise video that your kids can do with you or while they are sleeping. Find a friend to exchange child care with so you can get out on your own for a workout. Or meet up at the park with your strollers and take a brisk walk around the area together. Play with your kids at the park. Chase a ball, play tag or jump rope.
3. Get to bed at a reasonable time. Sure it seems like a good idea to straighten the house, fold laundry or just relax for a few minutes after the kids are in bed. But pretty soon those few minutes can become an hour or two or three. If you are a night owl it can be especially difficult to get to bed on time. But the challenge comes in the morning when you are still exhausted and your kids are ready to start the day. It may be even more important to get to bed earlier if you know you are likely to be up in the night with kids. Plus there are other benefits to sleep. According to Health.com, sleep can improve your memory, increase creativity, sharpen attention, help maintain a healthy weight, help you avoid accidents and lessen depression.
4. Control your temper. While waiting to pick up my son at school, I once watched a mother berate her child in the car behind me. I couldn’t hear a word she was saying but I could tell she was angry. While her child cowered in the seat beside her, she yelled and pointed her finger and contorted her face. This mom may well have had reason to be upset but from my perspective she looked ridiculous. When we want to get a point through to our children we need to do it in a way that lets them focus on what we are saying not how we are saying it. Keeping our emotions in check not only lets us remain in control of a situation but it provides a positive model to our children.
5. React slowly. Yes it can be difficult to take a minute to think when a million things are flying at you all at once. But taking a moment to breath or simply say to your child, “let me think about it” can take some of the pressure off when it comes to making a decision. It also allows us to make better decisions when we don’t feel like we have to instantly respond to every request that comes our way.
6. Remind yourself why you are doing this. Parenting doesn’t always come with a lot of positive strokes. In fact, moms and dads may be under even more stress thanks to social media. In a recent Huff Post Parents blog, Rachel Garlinghouse exposes a new mom-shaming trend where strangers take pictures of moms doing things they disapprove of and then post it online for others to comment on.
“Taking a photo of a mom and her children and using it to crucify her for her decisions is horrifying and a total invasion of privacy. These are moms doing everyday things: eating, browsing merchandise at a store, walking down a sidewalk,” wrote Garlinghouse. “Taking and posting photos of women during times when they are mothering in order to shame them publically is cowardly and quite telling of the person who takes the photo and those who choose to post comments online about the mother and her child.”
In the face of these kinds of online attacks, parents need to develop positive support networks and relationships with others who will offer encouragement and help rather than criticism. Developing a sense of humor can be equally important when it comes to staying calm under pressure. As well, it is important for parents to remember that raising happy and healthy children can have an impact on society as a whole.
So Keep Calm and Parent On.