Parenting – How to Beat Stress

Being a positive parent is not always easy. Most parents find staying positive the most challenging part of rearing a child. If you find yourself feeling like you’re going to go off the deep end, the main culprit is almost always stress. By reducing your stress, you can increase your patience, get a handle on difficult situations, and be the positive role model that your child needs.

1) Count to three. Sounds silly, but your brain’s reaction to a quick stressor is to yell or become angry. Fortunately, the primal instinct to yell only lasts for two seconds. So, if something bad happens that causes sudden stress, such as a gallon of milk busting on the floor, or your child has covered the bathroom in a liter of shampoo, you can count to three to get past the knee-jerk reaction time of your brain and react how you know you should.

2) Come up with a plan on how you will handle a difficult situation. Planning to react in a certain way will make you think twice before you have a negative reaction. Set rules with any other caregivers in the child’s life. Consistency is so important on many levels of brain development. For example, you can decide that an appropriate punishment is time-out. Make sure that all of the adults in the child’s life are “performing” the time-out in the same manner.

3) The most effective way to handle time-out is not to yell and scream all the way to the designated spot, but to purposely give no attention to the bad behavior. Quietly lead the child to the corner. Do not respond to fits, questions, threats or other attention-getting behaviors (unless the child is endangering themselves, of course). Only give positive attention for positive behaviors. The child will instinctively learn that positive behaviors get them the attention that they need for survival. Whatever the form of punishment is, you will find yourself experiencing less and less outbursts, yelling, anxiety, guilt and stress.

4) Train your body to react how you want it to. If you go nuts and stress out over things that are bound to happen while raising a child, then you train your body to react to stressors in this way. The cortisol surge that sends you flying can last for a very long time causing anxiety and health problems. When there’s a plan, your brain won’t be searching for a reaction because after those first two primal seconds, the routine of the plan will be apparent. Your stress levels will respond as you train them to and recover more and more quickly.

5) Lower the stressors in your life. TV’s blaring, computers running, lights in your eyes, clutter and a long to-do list can cause so much underlying stress that you’ll feel ready to blow at the drop of a hat. Purposely lower stress levels by leaving the lights off whenever possible. Set aside ten minutes of every hour to spend relaxing with your child. Do something that they want to do, or get something done that needs to be done daily. Babies and toddlers love to throw clothes into the washer or pour the laundry detergent. Get things done while giving your child some positive attention. Let them help you hang their clothes on their baby hangers or infant hangers. Anything that they can do to help will help keep their stress levels down as well and in turn help you keep yours under control.