How can we possibly accomplish all that is required of the mature, responsible adult who holds multiple titles of an employee, spouses/partner, individual, and parent?
This question is faced by the average parents daily. We are busy making a living to ensure our households have what is necessary and if we can, what is desired. Securing social and extracurricular activities to help expand the horizons, entertain and ensure well rounded experiences are had by our children. The effort and time required to raise children in this modern society can be overwhelming to say the least. The pressures of parenting often begin even before the birth of the child. Interviewing the right pediatrician, getting the unborn child the right care providers by getting placed on the waiting lists for the “best” child care centers and kindergartens. Scheduling play dates, organizing car pools, working on school assignments and projects, attending sports and music events, career day, book day costume creation, chaperone for school trips and events, the list goes on and on.
Many of us subscribe to the philosophy and social norms that more is better and “helicopter” parenting is the only way to ensure your children get what they deserve. There are in fact social-contextual forces shaping parental behavior and some parents are more susceptible to environmental factors than others. Research has shown that just as there are many individual characteristics and stages in which a child developments; there are various styles of parenting, not just one “perfect” way.
Our modern society with its many conveniences often serves to create additional distractions, chaos, feelings of depression, anxiety, inadequacy, strain, and superfluity. We PUSH (Put Unhealthy Strains on Us) trying to be the perfect rather than the joyful, harmony producing, peace filled parents. We even accept negative criticisms about our parenting styles and allow others to influence us instead of doing what we know is best for “ours.” This constant “pushing,” to press against with force in order to drive or impel or to try to move beyond or expand is not helpful to our children, ourselves, nor the communities we live and work.
Our bodies produce a natural hormone called cortisol in which many of us know in relationship to the “fight or flight” response. The body actually needs and uses this hormone every day to function normally. If we are constantly in the fight or flight mode, the cortisol levels stay elevated instead of in the cyclic pattern our bodies require for balance. This chronic condition along with other physical or mental health problems can impact the lives of our children. Persons who are exposed to chronic episodes of “stress” or trauma may feel overwhelmed to the point of depression or hopelessness referred to as “toxic stress” for which intervention is necessary.
The key to balancing multiple responsibilities is in remembering that you are also a person, an individual outside of these roles and find ways to focus on the joys of parenting by decreasing the “drama” and increase the “love.”
There are some basic principles and lessons that will help parents find peace in the midst of parenting no matter what style of parenting they choose.
Consider the developmental and emotional stage of each child. Increase the child's protective factors, help equip them to understand that they are not responsible for their parent's difficulties, accept responsibility for their own actions, and have the capacity to maneuver life's challenges by:
- Finding ways to develop a warm and supportive relationship with each child
- Accepting help and support from family and friends
- Providing opportunities for children to articulate their feelings
- Fostering a sense of being loved by you
- Helping children feel positive about their individual characteristics
- Encouraging healthy peer relationships
- Placing value on interest and personal success in school
- Exhibiting and modeling positive, yet honest interactions at home
Give your children the best version of your “Healthy” self.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle to include caring for yourself mind, body and spirit is important in order to parent peacefully. It also models a healthy lifestyle for your children.
Find ways to stay calm. Adopt meditation and relaxation techniques. Consider using the “Stop, Drop and Breathe” method when under parental duress.
Develop scheduled time to be active. Talk with your health care provider about what activities are best for you and make it fun. Remember exercise naturally produces hormones called endorphins that help to improve your overall health.
Consuming food that provides adequate nutrition, fluids, calories and nutrients help to maintain or improve overall health.
Get adequate sleep.
Have a set sleep schedule for the family. Everyone is different, so this is not an exact science, but something to consider and adjust to your needs. Sleep time recommendations range for adults versus infants, toddlers, children and the elderly.
Avoid alcohol and drugs.
These substances are often glamorized in social media as ways to reduce stress and blow off steam. The fact is they can often worsen stress. If you're struggling with disorders and substance abuse, get help.
Develop values and goals that are important to your individual family. Avoid the urge to imitate popular TV versions and/or faddish social styles of parenting. Know your child(ren), learn their individual emotional, physical and developmental needs.
Use support systems.
Engage and interact with people who are like minded and/or understand your family values and goals: Consider friends, family, counselors and community parent training and support groups.
Laugh, Play and Love More.
We live in a world of rush, rush, hurry up, get, get, give me, give me. Take time to let go by running, jumping, playing, laughing and loving your children. This simple advice goes a long way, does not have to be costly, and increases the flow of “happy” hormones for the entire family.
We have all heard the anecdotes of those who have lived long lives: “If I had life to live over again I would laugh and dream more, complain less, stomp in puddles, walk in the rain, stop and smell the flowers, play with my children more and find peace in the midst of chaos.”