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Parent Stress – Recognise the Causes and Deal With it!

Stress is defined as any physical or emotional demand that you feel unable to handle. While some stress is a normal part of life, excessive stress interferes with your productivity and reduces your physical and emotional health, so it’s important to find ways to keep it under control. Parenting Stress is defined as those moments when life as a parent seems overwhelmingly unpredictable and uncontrollable. Parenting stress is important because it has been shown to be related to maltreatment and poor parent-child relationships. Parent stress is the single largest contributing factor to dismissive parenting and is also associated with a negative mood, which in turn may lead to parents’ negative attributions of children’s behaviour and to low tolerance of children’s misbehaviours. As a result, Parent stress is a Kid’s Stress. Thus, understanding the precursors of parenting stress is important because of the potential implications for child development and adjustment, as well as parental adjustment.

One of the best ways to deal with stress: Find your stress sources and stay AWAY from them. Knowing what causes you stress is powerful information, as you can take action to make it less stressful. Some of the common causes of parent stress are:

Social Isolation: It’s not that parents don’t enjoy their children or their roles, but the emotional toll of parenting can be high, partially because parents today are often relatively socially isolated and don’t always have support from the community or even their extended family. Parenting stress is negatively significantly correlated to social support. Lack of someone to share with (especially in single parenting) can cause significant parent stress.

Self Neglect: Parenting stress is caused by us neglecting our own needs. Always putting yourself and your demands at the bottom of the list, would result in piling up of frustrations, which can cause significant stress. This could ultimately end up in complete neglect of your surroundings and even your children as your basic needs are not met.

Financial Difficulties: In difficult times like we face today, loss of job or excessive debt can cause stress especially if you have children to fend for. Even if you are not facing difficult times, parenting stress is strongly affected by the perception of financial hardship. A core feature of parenting stress is the idea of a balancing act between the parent’s perception of the demands of this role and access to available resources for meeting these demands.

Lack of regard for child’s feelings: It is not the need to set limits with children that causes problems; it is the repeated disregard for a child’s feelings and needs in favour of demanding obedience and compliance with parental requests which can stunt emotional intelligence and development. This is especially true in case of teenagers; where such strict approach can lead to rebellion and cause parent stress.

Since stress is unavoidable in life, it is important to find ways to decrease and prevent stressful incidents and decrease negative reactions to stress. Half of the parental stress can be reduced if parents only change their perception. Once you realize that life will not always go as planned, you can begin to reduce some of the stress that comes with being a mom or a dad. Some of the common ways in which you can effectively deal with parent stress are:

Managing time and organise yourself: Time management skills can allow you more time with your family and friends and possibly increase your performance and productivity. To improve your time management, save time by focusing and concentrating, delegating, and scheduling time for you. Breaking a big task into smaller one and prioritising the broken down tasks will in fact reduce the challenges involved in completing the tasks. This will keep you more focussed and you will be able to relax and take better care of your kids, rather than constantly worrying about the tasks at hand.

Eat well & exercise: Exercise is an important component stress management program. Regular exercise is one of the best stress reducers. Taking slow, deep breaths can help slow your heart rate and reduce tension. Regular exercise improves flexibility and also helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and is an excellent combination and part of your stress management campaign. Breathing exercises, walking, cycling, stretching exercises can help to reduce stress while, punching, kickboxing are most effective to relieve stress and also tension. A well-rested, exercised, healthy body is better prepared to reduce stress. Finally, healthy meals can become an important factor in limiting your stress.

Stop abusing your body: One important stress management approach is to stop abusing the body. Take care for yourself as well as the children – keep a sense of self apart from your role as a parent. Do not over stretch yourself – say NO when it is not possible to cope. Simply learning to not stretch too thin and only commit to activities/projects/people that you care about can work magic in reducing stress. Ask for help when it becomes impossible to keep up to the routine. Just because you have kids does not mean that you have to be a super parent. Take time out for you – a planned break, be it for 5 minutes or a vacation for 2 days, will reduce the harmful effects of stress.

Change behaviours depending on the stage of your child’s life: You need to recognise the fact that you cannot maintain the same relationship with your child all the time. As a toddler or baby the child is more dependent on you, so you can take more control of their life and decide for them. But kids become more independent as teenagers and hence you need to give them space. A closer and mutually supportive parent-adolescent relationship and better communication between parents and adolescents are associated with lower levels of parenting stress. Your stress level will be greatly reduced if you can talk with your child, especially when something is bothering him or her. Recognizing their need and allowing teens the time they need to be with friends or alone, can reduce parental stress.

Share: Sometimes the best stress-reducer is simply sharing your stress with someone close to you. Social support is the positive support you receive from family, friends, and the community. Just knowing you have some people who are willing to assist you in times of stress will reduce your stress level. It sounds trite, but it is also true, that a problem shared is at least a problem reduced.

But perhaps the best way to combat early parenting stress is simply to accept it. Parent stress is nothing to be embarrassed about. Successful parenting comes from within, with an insight and inner values. Reduce stress in your life and start having fun with your kids again.

For more tips on parenting refer to my free e-book “New Parenting Style” on

The author is a successful marketing executive in a large consumer good company and a mother of two boys. She has had a rough ride in the past two years and has successfully saved her family from the brink of disaster by working on her parenting style. She has recently built a website, which touches upon some effective parenting tips that have helped her in her success.

Author: Kinjal S Shah
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