Beyond the Textbook
Your teenager just walked in the house hours after curfew, or maybe you caught your two-year-old writing with permanent marker on your newly-painted walls. The muscles in your neck tighten and you try to remember where you left the Excedrin.
Parenting is a stressful job, and you have to be able to manage it without “going postal” on your children.
Left untreated, stress can lead to back pain, fatigue and high blood pressure. Stress not only affects you, it also affects your children. Stressed parents are quick-tempered, easily irritated and can be prone to cause physical harm to their children. According to Kids Health.org, the common triggers for parents who shake their babies are “frustration or stress when the child is crying.” Therefore, it is important that parents find ways to deal with stress. Use the strategies below to help reduce your stress-level and increase your tolerance for parenting.
Take a walk
When you find yourself reaching your breaking point, drop everything and take a walk. Whether you power-walk around Columbus Park or pace up and down your street, you will release the energy that could potentially explode onto your child. As you walk, focus on your breath and your surroundings. Notice trees, flowers, for sale signs, anything that will refocus your mind and allow you to gain a new perspective on the situation that upset you. Just a 15-minute walk will recharge you, so you can go back home and tackle the problems that will no longer seem big.
Phone a friend
Channel your pent-up stress into a healthy discussion with a friend. Even in the most stressful situations, sometimes all you need is laughter, a shoulder to cry on and/or evidence that you can make it through. A discussion with a friend can provide this, especially if that friend is a parent. A friend can also help you problem-solve possible consequences for your child and help you think of other ways to reduce your stress.
Take a warm bath or shower
Water soothes. A warm bath relaxes muscles, and an invigorating shower refreshes you. A single parent of five, my mother would often lock herself in the bathroom with the water running. Behind the door, in a tub of bath beads and hot water, she’d say, “I want to be alone,” when we would knock. That was her quick and inexpensive vacation time away from her kids. Although we hated to watch her disappear into the smallest room in the house, we knew that when she emerged, she would be a much better mommy.
Writing is a stress reliever, an academic skill and a faith builder. Recording your thoughts helps you make sense of them. As you write about stressful situations and your reactions toward them, you expose the feelings that have been bottled up inside you and reflect on what may have caused the stress in the first place. Writing about your situation will also allow you to polish up on what you learned in third grade. As you record every action and feeling, you’ll find yourself thinking, Now, when does that I come before an E? As you journal, you will find yourself writing personal essays, narratives or poetry. You may even be motivated to publish some of your works. Finally, writing about your experiences will give you evidence that you can get through tough times because you can read over what you have already written.
Buy yourself something special
When we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, sometimes all that is needed is a simple token of appreciation. If you’re lucky, you get it from your children in the form of a hug or crudely scripted card, or you may get flowers or chocolates from your spouse every week to keep you going. If not, treat yourself to something special. It can be a treat that is as simple as a snow cone. Whatever it is, relish it, and give it to yourself because you know you deserve it. When you indulge in life’s pleasures, you see that life is what you make it. So make it a more peaceful place.
Remember that stress comes along with every job, and the way you manage it helps you sustain your ability to perform your role successfully. Handle your stress in healthy ways so that you can be a better person and a better parent.
China Hill is a teacher at KIPP Ascend Charter School.