Manage stress in the midst of busy parenthood

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By Joan Martin

Men and women feel stress in their role as parents. Part of the challenge is balancing family life and work life plus community service. Some parents also go to school and others work more than one job. So how do you have peace and harmony at home?
There are some things only you can do. There are others that you think you are the only one who can do it. Some things can wait. A few tasks just can’t or won’t get done. I encourage you to have a serious discussion as parents about the responsibilities that drive your stress as a parent. How do they fit into the list above?
Some of the things that only you can do are eat, exercise and sleep. Some of you don’t eat well. You don’t exercise at all. You are constantly sleep deprived. You have to give up something in order to get more of something else. Give up some stress. Everyone in your circle of influence will benefit if you allow yourself the time you need to take care of yourself. You will be better in your parent role.
Learn to calm yourself in a way that works for you. Take a break; talk it over with someone you trust, or do something physically active. Some people work out, others jog or walk, some mow the lawn and others clean. What works for you?
Remind yourself that you are in charge of how you think about what happens and how you respond. You can’t always be in charge of what happens.
Learn to say no when someone asks you to help. You can’t do it all and someone else may step forward to do it if you aren’t available. Or, maybe that task really didn’t need to be done. Sometimes we create work for ourselves by making the event or more elaborate than needed.
Our children may feel like they are in the way or causing us problems. Is that the message that we want to give them?
Recognize the effort that your child makes. It may not be perfect but experience is how they learn. I usually teach the four times rules and the ten times rules at parenting class. Both of these rules really help reduce parental stress.
The Four Times Rule is that children generally take about four times longer than you to do a task. Of course, this amount of time does change with age and experience. If you factor in this greater amount of time a task will take, then you will relieve yourself of some stress. Packing and loading the car for vacations was certainly an example of this for me.
The Ten Times Rule is to ask yourself if this problem will matter in 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days, 10 weeks, 10 months or 10 years. Thinking like this will result in fewer parental explosions for rather minor problems. It will reduce your stress immensely when you learn to match your reaction to the real seriousness of the issue.
I encourage you to consider registering for the parenting class, Keys to Great Parenting which begins on Friday, April 20. The cost is just $3 per person or $5 per household. Call the Anderson County Extension Office at 502-839-7271 to register.
Educational programs of Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin. University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Kentucky Counties, Cooperating. Disabilities accommodated with prior notification.

Joan Martin is a family and consumer science agent at the Anderson County Extension.