Parenting can be rewarding and wonderful. You might feel blessed and joyful. However, it can also be stressful at times. The demands on parents include many challenges and problems to be solved. Sometimes those challenges appear minutes after the joys. You can feel overwhelmed and out of control.
There are several possible choices when you are stressed. One is to take “me time.” That means that you step away from parenting for a short time to catch your breath and take care of yourself. First, you make sure your children are safe and that someone is caring for them. Then you recharge your resources. This is important for not only you but your children as well.
Being a parent requires taking care of someone else 24/7. In that process, sometimes parents forget to take care of themselves. Your me time break can change that. It can include anything from taking a relaxing shower to going on a walk, from going out with a friend or on a date night with your partner to reading a book. It is anything to renew you.
Parents who never take me time might miss a chance to reduce injecting stress into the family.
Research shows that parents who manage stress better are helpful to their children. Here are some positive outcomes for those households where stress is managed well:
- The households are more playful and stimulating for the children.
- Being playful and stimulating can help the children’s motor (muscle and coordination) development.
- It also can help their emotional development.
- The children are more likely to be ready for school when parents are less stressed.
- Parents who manage their stress can pay attention to their children. They can play with them and teach them things.
- Parent teaching and attention help the children get ready for the tasks and stages of school life.
- Parents who manage stress can help their children avoid behavior problems.
- This is because parents who are not stressed have more positive social interaction with their children. The children then learn to manage social interactions with other children and adults better.
- Parents can think more clearly when they are not stressed. Parents who think clearly are better parents.
Therefore, helpful steps are to…
- Identify the things that cause you stress.
- Understand your signs of stress. Know what events and experiences cause you to feel that way.
- Reduce stress.
- Take me time when you feel stressed.
- Try different activities during your break. See which activities are most helpful to you.
- Explore ways to create time regularly to renew yourself and take a break.
- Make a list of people you trust to care for your children while you take a break. Ask if they would be willing to help now and then to give you a break.
- Consider taking turns with friends or family members. You could watch their children sometimes in exchange for them helping you.
- Be creative about finding times for me time. Maybe it is during the children’s naps, when they are at school, on a weekend, early in the morning, or when a co-parent has parenting time.
Goals for Parents…
- Learn more about the impacts of stress on your children.
- Both you and your children benefit from lower stress.
- Children have better development in environments with lower stress.
- When you are less stressed, you have happier moments with your children.
- Identify the things that cause you stress. Know your signs of stress.
- Be ready to contact your support people when you feel stress. Tell them you need me time.
- Plan me time for the times when you are most likely to need a break.
- Consider sometimes including a close friend in your me time. Then you can talk about your feelings
- Use a calendar
- Schedule some me time in advance.
- Plan the breaks for the times you are most likely to feel stressed.
This link talks about the value of spending some time alone, which is one way to spend me time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1RgNSR-Up4
This link provides free resources to help with stress management: https://www.assp.org/news-and-articles/2020/04/06/10-free-resources-to-help-you-better-manage-stress
Here are some stress management tips from Australia: https://raisingchildren.net.au/guides/first-1000-days/looking-after-yourself/stress-grown-ups
This list of stress management hints includes self-care: https://vertavahealthtexas.com/coping-with-stress-guide-struggling-parents/
Karam, F., Sheehy, O., Huneau, M.-C., Chambers, C., Fraser, W. D., Johnson, D., … Bérard, A. (2016, March 8). Impact of maternal prenatal and parental postnatal stress on 1-year-old child development: results from the OTIS antidepressants in pregnancy study. Archives of women’s mental health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26957509.
Soltis, K., Davidson, T. M., Moreland, A., Felton, J., & Dumas, J. E. (2013, November 22). Associations Among Parental Stress, Child Competence, and School-Readiness: Findings from the PACE Study. Journal of child and family studies. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25750504.