Saying that parenting is a tough job is an understatement. After all, “jobs” are supposed to end when you clock out. And you know perfectly well that being a parent is a round-the-clock proposition, and even the best parents make mistakes and are unsure they’re always doing the right thing.
The truth is that raising people to be the best they can be is hard work. And it SHOULD be hard. It’s the most important job to be done in Nebraska communities, and as a parent, you’re in the thick of it. There’s plenty your community can do to support you to be the parent you want to be. Better still, there’s plenty that you can do to support yourself.
Protective Factors are attributes in families that increase health and well-being. All families have protective factors. You’ve probably heard of “risk factors.” Protective Factors act as a buffer against risk factors are are even more important in predicting positive outcomes for children.
If you look at any strong, healthy family, you will see the Protective Factors. When things are going well we are building the Protective Factors without thinking about it. But like many worthwhile things in life, living all of the Protective Factors takes practice. Basically, this means discovering the best ways to take care of yourself, be a strong parent, and build healthy family relationships.
Protective factor #3: Parental resilience
Parental resilience means being both strong and flexible. It is being able to manage stress and function well when you’re facing challenges big and small. Your ability to bounce back from stress plays a huge role in how you respond to your kids. When you’re able to come back from stress quickly, you spend less time in the “danger zone” of feeling overwhelmed or panicky.
What parental resilience looks like:
- Resilience to general life stress
- Hope, optimism, self confidence
- Problem solving skills
- Self-care and willingness to ask for help
- Ability to manage negative emotions
- Resilience to parenting stress
- Not allowing stress to interfere with nurturing
- Positive attitude about parenting and child
Here are a few ways to keep your stress under control
Time for you
You’ve heard this one before, but taking care of yourself will make you a better parent. This doesn’t have to mean an expensive spa day – go for a walk, have a cup of coffee in a quiet room, get a babysitter so you can go grocery shopping by yourself. Build in times when you can be alone with your thoughts and not being a care giver so your mind can recharge. You’ll find that you’re better at handing kid-related stress when you get some regular breaks.
When it’s past dinner time, but the food’s not even in the oven and the homework isn’t done and the living room is a mess, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Think of a perspective phrase for these moments, like “Blessed” or “Perfectly Imperfect.” Call that phrase to mind when the little things are piling up. Close your eyes and think about the good in your life, and how these problems are not important.
Some problems truly are small enough to shrug away. Some need to be dealt with. Financial, health and relationship problems can take a major toll on your own happiness and your ability to be the kind of parent you want to be. Deal honestly and directly with the real issues that are affecting your quality of life. Taking action to move in the right direction is usually less stressful than staying in an unhappy situation.
Make a plan
Sometimes the worst stress comes up when something unexpected does. Plan for what you can – have a schedule of how to get everyone out of the house in the morning. Pack lunches and backpacks the night before. Plan and shop for your weekly meals over the weekend – you can even make one or two meals ahead of time. Keep a big calendar in the kitchen of the family’s activities and spend a moment each morning looking at what’s coming up that day. Will you have to change dinner plans to squeeze in an appointment? Do you see conflicting activities that you need to make a change on? Make those decisions quickly and leave the house with your plan for the day ready to go.
Breathe and relax
Though it might not be for everyone, yoga and mindfulness meditation have been a source of stress reduction for many people. Visit your local YMCA or yoga studio about a free class. Books on mindfulness meditation can be found at your local library.
The occasional night out can do wonders for your stress level. But don’t forget the most powerful source of fun in your life – your kids! Take some tips from them on how to let go of your troubles. Spin around until you get dizzy. Have a dance party in the living room. Play Simon Says and charades. Laughing with the people you love most is a sure way to stave off stress.