7 Tips for Less-Stress Parenting
by Paula Statman, M.S.S.W.
Nobody ever said parenting was easy, but here are some practical tips for how to worry less and enjoy parenting more.
- Find a pediatrician you like. In many ways, your pediatrician is like a partner. In fact, some women say that during the first couple of years, they talked to their pediatrician more than their husbands! Choose a pediatrician who offers practical advice and knows how to listen. Knowing you have a good relationship with your child’s doctor gives you peace of mind and eases fears of calling with too many questions. Remember, there are no dumb questions when it’s about your child. Also, it is a good idea to interview several pediatricians and choose the one that best matches your childcare philosophies. Keep your pediatrician’s phone number handy and give it to relatives, babysitters, and anyone else who will be watching your child.
- Incorporate time-saving products and services into your daily routine, when you can. Without a doubt, parenting is one of the richest and most satisfying roles we play. It is also filled with repetitive, routine tasks that can zap our best energy. There has been an explosion of modern conveniences designed to save you time and sanity. For example, tear-free shampoos can help avoid bath-time battles; home-cooked meal delivery services ensure a nutritious dinner on the table. Of course, some of these luxuries may not fit in your budget, but decide where it makes sense to invest a little money to gain some time to do things that matter to you. Who said busy moms can’t read a book, take a long leisurely bath, or go to a yoga class? Balance each day to include something you enjoy. Time saving tools can help.
- Plan ahead for tomorrow. To make your morning less hectic, spend a few minutes at night making tomorrow’s bottles and cups, picking out clothes, packing an “on the go” bag, etc. Make a to-do list so you don’t forget important errands. If your children are in pre school or older, let them participate in this routine. In the course of managing your time well, you are teaching them valuable skills such as planning ahead, organizing, and problem solving.
- Establish a predictable night-time routine and create comforting rituals. Reading, singing or a warm bath at the same time each night will help your child understand it is time to go to sleep. Let your child use a safe comfort object to provide security. Keep an “open door” policy to make your child feel connected to you at night. The cuddling and intimacy of your evening routine will help your child say good bye until morning as well as create precious memories for you. With older children past the “read-me-a-story” stage, take a few minutes to relax with them. Most importantly, before you leave their room, tell them how much you love them and how glad you are that they are yours…no matter what kind of day it’s been.
- Avoid power struggles. Children don’t want to interrupt their playtime to do something we care about, like putting toys away. Help your child cooperate with you by easing into transitions with plenty of notice, by allowing them to make choices (“Do you want to put this sock on first or the other one?”) and by turning routine tasks like getting dressed into games and contests. You may not want to see the world through your child’s eyes when you are in a hurry. But, that extra minute you invest can mean the difference between a temper tantrum and a hug. As your kids get older, encourage them to problem solve with you about how to approach a task they don’t want to do. That way they are more likely to buy in to a solution they develop and in the process gain important cognitive and social skills.
- Play is a powerful antidote to stress. I always say, “Where there is flexibility and forgiveness, fun’s not far behind.” Forgive yourself for the unfolded baskets of laundry and the leftovers for dinner. Design flexible schedules for yourself and don’t let your to-do lists push you around. Parenting offers wonderful opportunities to rediscover and enjoy the child within you. Playing and laughing with your children not only deepens your relationship with them, it lightens your load and reduces your stress.
- Cultivate and use all the support you need. From your partner to your mother, from your school to your church, resources for parents are out there. Today parenting in isolation is unnecessary. Don’t wait until you are stressed to ask for help. Schedule help each week to maintain your energy for parenting or to replenish yourself with time to pursue other interests. The more satisfaction you feel in your day-to-day life, the more you have to give your children, who will benefit immensely from a role model who knows how to manage her responsibilities and satisfy her diverse needs.