Being a parent is extremely rewarding, and, at times, extremely stressful. Whether we are stay-at-home parents, or those who work outside of the home, or some combination thereof, the demands on our time are intense.......Like, tonight, Johnny has a test to study for, Jenny has a soccer match after school and a doctor's appointment, Jimmy is home sick with the flu...Dad is out of town trying to help make ends meet, and Mom is left to do most of the parenting. This type of scenario is stressful enough with "typical" children, but can be magnified 10-100 times for the parent of a child with a mental illness, developmental disability, behavioral problem, or such. Then, factor in the challenges that the parent of a special needs child has with trying to identify competent and compassionate professionals to help their child, and reduce that group by the number of professionals who are financially in reach, finding appropriate educational settings and services, and the stress mounts even further for that family.
We all have stress in our lives just by the nature of living in today's high-tech and fast-paced times, where information about world disasters and worries is incessant and constantly bombarding us via television or internet with "bad news." There is also social pressure for children and for parents. Financial stress may be significant also, because, sadly, our country continues to have a terrible problem with children living in poverty. Even basic needs such as adequate rest and sleep, nutrition from wholesome foods, and family time and play time may be scarce commodities for some of us.
I'm highlighting these stresses because I think it is very important for every parent to stop a moment and take stock of what pressures are affecting them. Identify the stressors in your life. One by one, try to figure out how to reduce them, if possible. For example, if you are sleep deprived, schedule naps or extra rest-time. If you only eat fast-food, make a commitment to preparing at least one healthy, natural meal every week. If things are hectic at home because of busy schedules and parents and kids don't spend quality time together, figure out a plan to fix it -- start small! -- by dedicating one night a week to "family night" to watch a movie, or to create family rituals like sharing with each other stuff like "something good that happened during your day" and "something that you might need help with." Schedule family exercise time, like going for a walk around the block after dinner, or going to a nearby pond or lake for some quiet and peaceful time in each other's company. If you are a parent who works too many hours, grab one or two per week of "you-time" for a coffee, a walk, a drive, lunch with a friend, a jog, to read a favorite book, or listen to music -- whatever it is that you know can help you to recharge your own personal emotional batteries.
These are just some ideas of things that each one of us can do as parents to take care of ourselves and to make our lives more peaceful and emotionally more fulfilling. When we are calmer, more peaceful parents, we help to create a family environment for our children that mirrors our calmness and encourages more positive interactions among all family members.