“The younger the child, the less able they are to take the adult’s point of view,” says Berger. “Even a three-year-old can say, ‘Mommy is mad right now, I’ll come back when Mommy isn’t mad.’ But a one year-old can’t be a philosopher about the ups and downs of Mommy.”
Although you should not burden kids with the details of your worries, you can be honest with them about how you are feeling. Saying something like “I know I’m not really paying attention to what you are saying right now, but I’d love to hear all about it in a little while” can be reassuring to a child and diffuse her stress before it starts.
Fast Stress Relief
Take Care of Yourself: Finding ways to recharge your batteries is key to managing your stress. This does not mean getting to the gym every day or languishing over gourmet dinners. Dancing in the living room to your favorite song lifts your spirits in only three minutes. Stepping outside and turning your face towards the sun for thirty seconds can be calming and refreshing. Knowing that caring for yourself is crucial to caring for your children can be just the motivation you need to get started.
Don’t Take Stress For Granted: According to Dr. Paul J. Rosch M.D., President of the American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, New York, too many of us believe that our frequent headaches, insomnia, and fatigue are an unavoidable part of modern life. Not so, says Rosch. These are signals that we need to slow down. Long-term stress can lead to a host of serious health problems including high blood pressure, heart attacks, and anxiety.
While Rosch admits that rest, exercise, and a healthy diet can help, he advocates finding ways to eliminate stress before it starts. Making a list of your daily activities can help you eliminate those that are causing you more stress than they are worth (i.e. striving for a 24-inch waist or floors clean enough to eat off).
Let Go of Perfectionism: Trying to get our homes, our children, and our bodies to look like those on television and in magazines is bound to make us feel inferior and dissatisfied with what we have. Challenge yourself to live with (and laugh at) imperfections that might otherwise drive you crazy. Letting little things go makes room for what matters to you most.
Aim for More Unstructured Time: We all want the best for our kids. But trying to enrich their lives with too many weekend or after school activities can leave the entire family overextended and stressed. Children need a quiet, relaxed atmosphere (without the TV) to explore and develop their own interests. Uninterrupted time with you is also important. Try talking to your children about their days as you prepare dinner or while they get ready for bed. Keeping family meals simple leaves you more time to talk, laugh, and reconnect with yourself and your family.
Ask For Help: Sometimes the only thing harder than admitting to ourselves that we are stressed is admitting it to someone else. But having support either from a trained mental health professional, a friend, or family member can help you relax and gain new perspective. If you do not feel comfortable confiding in someone you know, online chat rooms and support groups for parents abound. Journaling can help clarify your goals and identify stress triggers. Just remember: Doing something good for yourself is doing something great for your kids.