Do you know how to cope with parenting stress? I’ve done it the wrong way, that’s for sure. One night after sitting in rush-hour traffic, struggling through new math, and eating a cold dinner, I was just done. So when my younger son ignored my repeated commands to get in the shower, I got an inch from his face and yelled, “GET IN THE SHOWER. NOW!”
Here’s the thing—that exact scenario is probably going to happen again, to me and to you. But a big part of knowing how to cope with parenting stress is knowing the right tool to use according to the problem. If we do, we’ll not only keep from looking like crazy monsters to our kids, but we’ll probably manage the situations better too. So try these 5 tools next time you’re, well…done.
The problem: You can’t control things.
There are moments every day when things are out of our hands, like when the pediatrician is running behind or the cake that was supposed to say “Happy Birthday, Daniel!” says “Happy Birthday, Danielle!” It’s part of a mom’s life.
The Tool: Flexibility
Stressing over things going exactly as you planned will rob you of your peace and make you and others really tired. Flexibility, on the other hand, will save your sanity and even provide you with a new idea or a great memory. Moms who know how to cope with parenting stress know flexibility is the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.
The problem: You feel like you’re failing.
An older friend of mine joked that she started a “therapy fund” for her kids when they were toddlers. It’s true that moms constantly feel like we’re falling short of the gold standard that has been set for us, but all that criticism isn’t helping us love our children better.
The Tool: A Mom Friend
There are very few burdens in life that lunch with a friend can’t lighten. Chatting with another mom will remind you that you’re not alone, that your kids are doing just fine, and that what appears to be a failure might actually be a parenting victory. And at the least, you can have a good cry.
The problem: You are ready to explode.
I’d lit the candles on my older son’s cake. We were ready to sing. The wax was melting. My younger son was flipping over the back of the couch, completely ignoring me as I yelled, “Get over here so we can do this!” I grabbed his arm and pulled him to a chair and yelled, “Sit down, now!”
The Tool: Your Go-To Calming Mechanism
This isn’t one-size-fits-all, but I’ll tell you what I use: upstairs brain/downstairs brain. Imagine that your brain is a two-story house. The downstairs brain is in primitive mode. No reasoning. Just responses. The upstairs is more evolved and logical. When I am ready to explode, I think, “How can I stay upstairs?” Figure out your calming tool and keep it in your back pocket.
The problem: You can’t juggle one more thing.
Dinner should’ve been started 10 minutes ago, someone needs help with homework, the load in the wash is starting to smell, work is texting you… Even though you’re an expert juggler, if one more ball gets thrown at you, something is going to get dropped.
The Tool: Perspective
Which of the balls you’re juggling are made of rubber and which are made of glass? Some balls are always glass (your mental health) and can’t be dropped. Some others become glass for a moment (there’s a math test tomorrow and your daughter needs help studying). Identify what matters most and don’t drop it for something that just feels urgent for a moment.
The problem: Your kid screws up.
It’s bound to happen. Your child, whom you’ve taught right from wrong, will at some point choose “wrong.” You’ll get an email informing you that your daughter used her phone to cheat on that math test or something equally disappointing. The wrong response is a random punishment or manipulating things to get her out of the natural consequence.
Appropriate consequences require creativity, but they turn mess-ups into opportunities for growth.
The Tool: Appropriate Consequences
Forcing your daughter to clean the toilets because she cheated on a test is not an appropriate consequence. Writing an apology letter to the teacher, accepting the failing grade, and asking for extra work to make up for the zero (work she now has time to do because her phone has been taken away) is a consequence that will build character. Appropriate consequences require creativity, but they turn mess-ups into opportunities for growth.
Do you know how to cope with parenting stress? What tools do you use?