Stress caused by those close to you is hard to escape. As they say, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” Children, elderly parents, and visiting relatives all can be sources of stress.
Children bring happiness and fun, but also can be exhausting. Becoming a parent dramatically changes your daily routine and sleep pattern, bringing many new pressures.
Whether you stay at home or work, are single or married, have one child or six, the challenges are enormous. Staying calm and collected all the time is an impossible goal. Small hassles can add up until you are ready to burst.
This stress won’t just disappear, so look for ways in which you can reduce the strain:
- Remember it’s not meant to be easy, but any problems you have will have been overcome by many parents before you. Search them out to use as a sounding board.
- Adjust your priorities, including previous standards of order and neatness. Don’t take on unnecessary duties and responsibilities.
- If you’re doing your best, don’t feel guilty. Every parent gets stressed and is sometimes overwhelmed.
- Accept any help that’s offered. If you can afford it, consider paying someone to help with the cleaning, shopping or laundry, especially at busy times.
- Take advice from people whose opinion you trust, and get specific advice when issues arise.
- Set up a lockable, fireproof filing system for important documents, and use it.
- Take care of yourself. Use stress management techniques and be alert to any symptoms. Take time for relaxation. You will be setting a great example for your children.
- Plan ahead. Get as much as possible ready for the following day, and give yourself extra time to leave the house.
- Anticipate and prepare for problems before they arise.
- Write lists and use a calendar. You can’t be expected to remember everything.
- Keep communicating with your children, and take the time to ease their worries.
Balancing Work and Family
Working and bringing up children often is challenging. During the tough times, remember and focus on why you made this choice. There will inevitably be conflicts between work and family responsibilities, so prepare as much as possible. Build up your support network, emergency funds, and your own energy. Use effective coping strategies and don’t put impossible pressure on yourself. Plan ahead, get help when you need it, and look for creative solutions.
Everyone finds parenting hard at times, but single parenting has added pressures. One of the most difficult aspects of single parenting is not having another adult in the house to offer support and validation. But there’s nearly always something you can do to reduce the stress you feel and make life easier, and there are often people who are willing to help.
Ideas for single parents:
- Develop and nurture several sources of support; perhaps team up with other parents. It’s always easier to cope if you have people to turn to.
- Stay on top of your finances.
- Always reassure your children and let them know how much you value them.
- Fit in some time for yourself, and explore your feelings. Be kind to yourself and build up your confidence if it has been damaged.
Stress from Relatives
Many people feel guilty if they don’t enjoy spending time with their relatives, but it doesn’t make you a bad person, just an honest one. Look for the good in others and try to see things from their point of view, at least temporarily.
When visiting relatives:
- Try to keep your expectations realistic. If you predict unpleasantness, don’t plan to stay for too long. Take a deep breath and remember it will be over soon.
- If you anticipate criticism and stress-inducing questions, have your (reasonable) responses already prepared.
- Strike a bargain with your children, perhaps a reward for behaving well.
- If you do get upset, go for a walk, have a nap, or find somewhere private to call a friend and get it off your chest.
- Pack a good book which lifts your spirits.
When relatives visit you:
- Plan in advance where they will sleep, what you will feed them, and how can you budget to meet any extra costs.
- Let them help with cooking and washing up, if they offer.
- Don’t attempt an elaborate — stock up the fridge and freezer with food that’s quick to prepare.
- If tensions are likely to arise, don’t provide too much alcohol.
- When you go out, don’t feel you have to cover all the expenses.
- Play games together to create a fun atmosphere.
- Don’t feel you have to fill up every minute with activities.
References and other resources
LifePositive (alternative spirituality)
Stress management on About.com