Parenting Stress

Topics include: warning signs of stress, ways to reduce stress, where are your friends?, and things to do with kids (stess-reducing activities)

We all need stress. Stress is what gets us going every day. But too much stress can make our lives difficult. Learning to cope with stress is one of the best ways that you can help to make your family life happier for yourself and your children. This issue of Parents Count is devoted to ways to recognize and cope with stress.

Warning Signs of Stress

Taking good care of yourself begins by recognizing the warning signs of stress in your life. Take a close look at the list below and see if you can find the ways that signal you are feeling stressed.

One of the wisest pieces of advice about stress is to try to accept what you can not change.
  • frequently feeling low in energy
  • irritability with the children or family members
  • difficulty in making decisions
  • loss of the joy of life
  • changes in sleeping habits, excessive sleeping or difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite or excessive appetite
  • headaches and stomach aches
  • muscle tension leading to pain in the neck or back
  • inability to concentrate

Ways to Reduce Stress

Does trying to balance busy schedules between family and work seem almost impossible at times? Do you find yourself ready to scream or yell at the kids for the least little thing?

When this happens, it means that you are probably stressed and need to take time to refocus and take a break. Here are some ways to help. Make sure that your child is safe, then go to another room or to another area for a few minutes. Think about a place where you like to go to have fun or count to twenty or look at the sky.

Lie down for a few minutes, relax, place a cool wash cloth on your face.

Tell your child why you are angry or upset.

If your child’s behaviors are what made you angry, explain to your child the exact behavior that needs to be changed to keep this from happening again.

When your child goes to bed, take time for yourself. Relax — read a book, listen to music, take a bath, call a friend.

Find a hobby that you enjoy. This can be something like needlework, gardening, doing puzzles, carpentry, painting, playing an instrument or bowling. Make sure you schedule time for yourself regularly, even if only for a short time.

Have a special toy or activity for your child to be used only at times when you feel stressed. This will be special for your child and will give you a break.

Where are Your Friends?

It’s tough to keep friendships going after you have children. It’s even tougher to survive without them!

It’s a simple truth. A parent needs other parents. Whether you have one child, two, three, or more, there is nothing so reassuring as checking in with another parent in the same circumstance.

Unfortunately, getting together with friends is often the last thing we have time for when our children are young. When you find yourself racing to leave work so that you can pick up the kids, the thought of having a chat with a close friend quickly sinks to the bottom of your priority list.

Friends are the best prevention for stress. When you’re feeling alone and overwhelmed picking up the telephone to call a friend can be the best medicine. You might discover that her child has been whining just like yours and by the time you hang up the phone she has you laughing

It’s hard to think of a night out with friends the same way that you would as going for a medical checkup but both of them are preventative medicine. So pick up the phone, call a friend and set up a time for the two of you to get together. Enjoy it, knowing that it is good for your family as well as you.

Things to do with Kids

Play is a great stress reliever for kids and adults alike. The following are ideas for stress-reducing activities.

Paper Ripping

Let your kids have a “ripping good time” with old newspapers. Give them a stack of old newspapers to rip and tear in any way that they want. Kids can crumple the paper into balls and throw the balls all over. The balls are soft and safe.


Cover a table with an old plastic tablecloth, shower curtain or newspaper. Give your child large pieces of paper and fingerpaint. Using their fingers, hands and even elbows, kids can have fun fingerpainting.

Active Play

Make sure that your child has a chance for active play every day. Running, riding bikes, climbing activities, and playing ball are good for physical development and to relieve stress.

Laugh Together

Take time to be silly together. Sing silly songs or read funny poems or stories. Laughter is a great way to prevent stress.


Give your child playdough to make shapes and many things. The squeezing and pounding of playdough is a good way to reduce stress. Try this recipe for playdough — your kids love to help make this.

What You Need

  • bowl,
  • spoon for mixing,
  • 3 cups flour,
  • 1 cup salt,
  • 1 cup water,
  • food coloring,
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

What to Do
Mix the flour and salt in the bowl. Add water, a few drops of food coloring, and oil. Mix together, then knead until smooth.

Parent Count March 2000

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Parenting Stress

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