Parents Need Support, Too!
Parenting is a fun, exciting, rewarding, busy, and stressful job! Family life these days means being on the go and trying to do it all without enough time or enough support. If you are a parent who is feeling overwhelmed, remember that you are not alone. There are many ways to manage your stress before it becomes overwhelming. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
Common Needs for Parents
- The need to vent
- The need to feel validated
- The need to learn
- The need to socialize
- The need to believe there is hope
When to reach out for support
- Too many demands are causing you stress
- You are frustrated because your children don't listen to you
- You feel as though your children misbehave on purpose
- You find yourself yelling at your children or saying hurtful things
- You feel that your children rarely do what you expect them to do
- You feel as though you take your frustrations out on your children
- You feel overwhelmed and see no way out
Tips for dealing with stress
- Make sure your kids are safe and then give yourself a timeout. Five minutes alone can give you time to calm down and regroup.
- Set realistic goals. Don’t try to be a super-parent.
- Sometimes it’s ok to take the phone off the hook, put aside the mail, use paper plates, or get pizza for dinner.
- Give yourself credit for doing a good job and try not to compare yourself to other parents. However, do share and compare your experiences with other parents because you may learn something new that works.
- Ask for help. Share your feelings with a friend, family member, or professional. Get a babysitter or ask a trusted friend or family member to watch your kids and do something for yourself.
- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of exercise, rest, and nourishment and HALT if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
If you are the parent of:
- A newborn: Nap time for baby means nap time for you. Leave the housework alone. Getting the sleep you need is more important. If your baby just won’t stop crying and you feel yourself becoming very frustrated, leave him safely in the crib on his back for several minutes while you leave the room to cool down.
- A toddler: Childproof your home so you can enjoy your baby’s exploring rather than dread it. Get a babysitter to give yourself a break.
- A preschooler: Enroll your child in a preschool program a few days a week to give yourself a break. Check out One Tough Job’s information on preschoolers to enjoy the time you spend with your preschooler and make it go smooth and tantrum-free.
- A 6-10 year old: Find other parents you can talk to on a regular basis at activities or parent groups. Don’t overwhelm yourself and your child with activities.
- A pre-teen or teen: You are not the meanest parent! Check out the rules with other parents and remember that this phase will pass. Enjoy your child while he/she is still a child.
Tips for meeting other parents
- Get involved with child-centered activities (Boy/Girl Scouts)
- Introduce yourself to other parents at your child's school or after school activity, at the library, in your neighborhood, or at your work
- Attend Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings at your child's school
- Volunteer in your child's classroom, even just by chaperoning a field trip, at the library or other community organization, or by coaching your child's sports team or leading a youth group at your church
- Organize a social gathering for your neighborhood or join a mothers' group or playgroup
- Ask neighbors or parents of your child's friends for help and reciprocate with giving rides and watching each other's children
Tips for finding a parent group
- Contact a number of groups to find the one that's right for you
- If an organization doesn't have a group that fits your needs, ask to be referred to other organizations
- Check the phone book and internet for possible groups
- Check places such as hospitals, health centers, childbirth education organizations, churches/synagogues, public libraries, college or university education departments, parenting newspapers or magazines, and community organizations (YMCA, YWCA, United Way)
- If you can't find a group that suits you, consider starting your own
Tips for starting a support group
There are plenty of other parents who need support. The best way to find them is to start locally. Post signs in your child’s school, in a religious organization, or at the public library. Even if you can only find one other interested parent, have a meeting to talk about what each of you need and hope to get out of the group. Define the group’s goals, decide on a meeting place, time, and frequency, and talk about whether you want to set a size limit or other criteria for joining (such as the age of your children, just dads, etc).
Other resources for parent support
Parents Anonymous: http://www.parentsanonymous.org/paIndex10.html
Nationwide program that offers parents support through parent support groups and children’s programs free of charge.
Circle of Parents: www.circleofparents.org
Nationwide program that offers support to parents and caregivers on raising children through free, weekly support groups.