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Parenting Stress

How to keep your cool

Modern-day parenting can contribute a significant amount of stress to parents. What can you, as parents, do
to reduce the inescapable anxiety?

It’s a weekday night. Audrey Bay was rushing to meet a work deadline but needed to first put her two
children to bed. Her younger child was unusually clingy and wailing loudly, causing the older one to fuss too.
Trying to calm both down, she couldn’t help but groan inwardly as she worried about her unfinished work.

When they finally fell asleep, she rushed back to her work. That’s when she realised that her whole body
had broken out in hives. The itch was unbearable and she scratched herself raw for the entire night.
“I’ve not had hives before, nor did I eat anything out of the ordinary,” recalls Ms Bay, a psychologist at SKH.

“Then a friend shared with me that hives could be stress-induced, and it all made sense.” As a mother of two, Ms Bay shares that a lot of stress can be brought on by the demands of parenting. Parents are usually actively involved in their children’s lives and find themselves scheduling their children’s academic and social activities — school, enrichment classes and playdates — on top of juggling their own career, household matters and other

She adds that parenting stress is common — having experienced it herself, she sees it in her patients too.
In fact, when parents lose their cool and flare up at their children, it is usually followed by feelings of guilt.
So, to enjoy your parenting journey and create a safe, happy home for your children, learn to identify when you are stressed, and know how to deal with it.

What causes parenting stress?

Parenting stress can be brought about by several reasons like the mundane daily routine of childcare, challenging
behaviours and education concerns as well as different parenting styles and expectations. For parents of children
who have chronic health conditions, the stress is greater especially if there is a lack of social support.

Ms Bay elaborates, “All stressors are different and every family differs — it depends on the roles that the fathers
and mothers play, and how they perceive the stress and handle it.”

Know the signs and symptoms

Stress can manifest in many ways and the symptoms are unique to each individual. Most times, stress symptoms can physically affect our health and lead to problems such as headaches, migraines, muscle tension, as well as digestive problems like stomachaches and diarrhoea. Identifying minor stress symptoms early can prevent them from worsening, or else the prolonged strain on our bodies can contribute to health problems such as asthma,  eczema, heart disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Recognise the signs and symptoms in yourself, and take
immediate action.

Ask for help when needed

It will be helpful for parents to take time to recharge and be proactive in managing their stress. Where possible, seeking support from family and friends is a great way to start. For
example, Ms Bay sought help from her loved ones when she needed some time to rest.

It is essential to balance caring for your children and yourself. By
prioritising self-care, parents are not only taking care of their own wellbeing but showing their children the importance of caring for oneself. “It’s a myth that being a good parent means sacrificing all your needs for your child,” she adds.

I know a parent who’s stressed — how can I help?

Empathise with the parent and be his or her pillar of support by providing a listening ear. Sometimes, what a stressed-out parent may need the most is someone to confide in. Or offer practical help like babysitting, delivering meals, or keeping them company when they are alone with their child. Your little acts of kindness and thoughtfulness could make all the difference in reducing stress for these parents.