Parenting can be a challenging and stressful job. Between work, household responsibilities, and caring for their children, parents can often feel stretched thin and overwhelmed. Children, too, can be difficult to manage, with unpredictable behavior, intense emotions, and constantly-evolving needs. In the face of these challenges, it can be tempting for parents to disengage, to say "I can't do this now", or to look for ways to escape the pressures they feel. However, giving into that temptation can lead to major long-term regrets for parents. It can cause them to miss out on important moments with their children, to neglect their emotional needs, and to miss opportunities for growth and connection, all of which are difficult to process as parents age and start to look back on their lives.
One potentially beneficial response to this understanding is to intensify the support parents provide to their children. Essentially, parents can double-down on their commitment to handling the pressure without trying to escape or "cheat" it. This means embracing the challenges of parenting as an opportunity for personal growth and embracing the profound impact they can have on their children's lives. While it can be difficult to stay present and engaged in the face of stress, doing so can lead to a more fulfilling and rewarding parenting experience. By training to respond to pressure more effectively, ramping up the intensity with which they approach their day, and resolving some of the personal issues that repeatedly limit their functionality, parents can cultivate a strong and positive relationship with their children that will benefit them for years to come.
Strategies to Respond Effectively to Pressure
Avoiding pressure as a parent is an impossibility. It will materialize, most likely several times each day, and what matters most is how parents respond to it. Doing so effectively requires self-awareness, self-regulation skills, and the inner authority to take charge of what you are experiencing physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and guide that experience in a beneficial direction. Below are a few tips that can support that process.
As a parent, it can be challenging to find time for self-care. However, incorporating quick and simple practices into your daily routine can help you feel rejuvenated and focused. Deep breathing, listening to calming music, taking a quick walk, and even pausing to enjoy a cup of tea are all effective ways to reduce stress and improve mood. Each can help you clear your mind, boost your energy, and sort through the “residue” that has accumulated throughout your day, which positions you to take on whatever comes in the future with greater strength.
See everyday challenges as a “game”
Viewing daily responsibilities as a "game" that can be won can help parents handle pressure in a positive way. When parents approach their responsibilities with a competitive mindset, it can help them focus on the task at hand and find enjoyment in completing it. It can also help shift their mindset from seeing the task as a burden to seeing it as a challenge to overcome. This can be especially helpful when dealing with tasks the repeat on a daily or weekly basis. Seeing them as obstacles for you to crush can make them feel more exciting and engaging, which ultimately helps generate more resilience and optimism.
Build and leverage a support system
Having a strong network of support is crucial for parents to handle pressure. This can include friends, family, or anyone else who allows you to share your feelings and experiences openly. Many parents feel uncomfortable being vulnerable with other parents, as there is often an underlying sense of competition for who is the “best” at raising children or who has the “wisest” guidance on how to handle situations. Though those unhealthy dynamics may exist in many relationships, it is possible for parents to find connections that are more nourishing. Take some time to discuss with your partner how you can adapt your network and your time allocations to increase the overall quality of your interactions and open up new avenues of support for your children.
Be honest with your children about your challenges
Communicating openly with your children can be a great way to build camaraderie and to deepen your connection, both of which make it easier to handle stress. However, parents must closely monitor the way they communicate to ensure that they do not pass along toxicity or unsupportive vibes. If parents use conversations with their children as prompts to share what they are going through in ways that are energizing and empowering, it can inject their interpersonal dynamics with a shot of inspiration. Parents who engage their struggles head-on and in a noble manner can offer great guidance to their children.
Tips to Ramp Up the Intensity
Asking parents to double-down on their commitment can seem counterintuitive, as many would argue that what they need is more time and more space to recover from the everyday grind. However, it can be much more enlivening to “lean in” to challenges with a charged-up, unconquerable spirit than to seek to avoid the difficulty. Said another way, the stories that parents tell themselves can greatly impact their levels of energy. Below are some thought starters on things parents can do to reinforce self-motivating perspectives.
Stay organized and manage time well
When parents feel more in control of their day-to-day responsibilities, they can build positive internal momentum. Creating a schedule and breaking down tasks into manageable chunks can help parents avoid procrastination, stay on track, and put together “winning streaks” that catapult them into whatever they face next. This is also true when it comes to managing the environment in which they operate. Having a structured physical space, whether at work, at home, in the car, or anywhere else, can help reduce stress and increase productivity. When parents feel on top of their tasks and their environment, they are more likely to feel energized and motivated to tackle the challenges of parenting with a clear and focused mindset.
Set personal stretch goals
Setting stretch goals can help parents by challenging them to push beyond their comfort zone, which leads to personal growth. When parents discover that they have the ability to take on more than they had given themselves credit for, a new kind of confidence emerges. Expanding what one is capable of achieving is a deeply rewarding process. Conversely, when activities are repeated over and over without development or improvement, parents are more likely to experience boredom and dissatisfaction. By testing themselves, being willing to fail, and focusing on exploration of possibilities over checking the box on “the same,” parents can tap into new sources of enthusiasm and start to appreciate the depth of their potential.
Have faith in your abilities
When parents believe that they have what it takes to handle whatever life throws at them, they are more likely approach tasks with a positive mindset. This self-confidence can help them stay focused and motivated, even when facing difficult or overwhelming situations. Many parents have limiting beliefs about their skills, their energy levels, and, more generally, what they are capable of, that provide no benefit; if anything, these perspectives stifle potential. It is not helpful to believe things about yourself that result in you feeling less qualified to handle the challenges that life has specifically provided for you; rather, it is much more supportive to see those challenges as tests to bring forth more of what you have inside. By having faith in yourself, you ensure that you are “on your own team” as you move forward, and this itself is a meaningful form of success.
Manage consumption and movement
A healthy diet that includes nutrient-rich foods and plenty of water can help parents maintain steady energy levels and improve mental clarity. Regular exercise and movement throughout the day can also help increase energy and focus, as well as provide a break from sedentary activities. Finding time to stretch, dance, run in place, or bounce on one’s toes throughout the day can help parents feel more energized and productive. By taking care of their physical health, parents can increase their focus and intensity, and approach their responsibilities with more resilience and enthusiasm.
Finding Ways to Resolve Personal Issues
Many parents are carrying pain, trauma, or other baggage as they do their best to raise their children. These difficulties can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual in nature. To the extent that these issues impact parents’ day-to-day lives, they make it tougher to function at the highest levels in upholding responsibilities. What’s needed for parents is to carve out small periods of time to start healing the wounds from their past so that they can show up with greater strength in the future. Below are a few ways parents can start making progress in resolving the challenges they’ve been dealing with for years.
Journal to process your experiences
Writing down thoughts and feelings can help clarify and organize them, making it easier to identify patterns and gain new insights. By regularly reflecting on their experiences, parents can become more self-aware and better equipped to recognize and address areas for personal growth. Journaling can also provide a healthy outlet for emotions, reducing stress and anxiety. By making journaling a regular habit, parents can improve their emotional resilience, self-awareness, and overall well-being.
Identify and challenge negative self-talk
What do you experience when you pay attention to your internal dialogue? When negative thoughts arise, it can be beneficial to ask yourself if the thoughts are supportive to your overall well-being. If they are not, it is as simple as seeing the self-sabotage they generate, deciding to let them go, and using your willpower to choose other thoughts that are more empowering. Essentially, you learn to reframe the words that reverberate in your head in a more nurturing light. When you are able to respond to your harmful thoughts with a willingness to stand up for yourself, you can turn the tide in becoming a more aligned, integrated whole.
Eliminate blaming and complaining
Blaming and complaining can perpetuate unhelpful thought patterns and limit personal growth. By taking responsibility for their own actions and choices, parents can shift their focus to finding solutions and making favorable changes. This involves recognizing the power of their own agency. Eliminating blame and complaint can also improve communication and relationships, leading to greater connection and support. By adopting a proactive mindset, parents can work through personal issues and develop greater emotional resilience and fulfillment.
Be ok being imperfect
The pressure to always show up well for others – at least in one’s own eyes – can result in a lot of wasted energy. Constantly trying to conform your expression to what you think others will appreciate is an exhausting process. By accepting their inherent imperfections, parents can cultivate a more self-compassionate perspective. This involves acknowledging and accepting their own failures/setbacks, seeing them as learning opportunities, recognizing that mistakes are a natural part of the growth process, and choosing to respond with a renewed sense of purpose. By letting go of the need for perfection, parents can reduce stress and anxiety and improve self-esteem, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling and joyful experience of parenthood.
Ultimately, what most parents care about is developing great relationships with their children and seeing them succeed. Parents who achieve these accomplishments can rest easy, knowing that they have, to a high degree, upheld their responsibilities for guiding their children well. This kind of peace of mind is worth the effort it takes to handle the everyday challenges of parenting. By keeping long-term parental goals in the forefront of their minds, parents can find the motivation necessary to keep growing personally and to amplify their commitment to their children.
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