Four tips to prepare for and manage parenting stress

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While being a parent is enormously rewarding, it can also be hard work. From interrupted sleep when your child is small to home schooling during COVID-19 lockdown. There will be times when you have no idea what you’re doing and at other times you’ll feel like you’ve got the parenting caper sorted. Feeling anxious and stressed as a parent is normal, but there are things you can do to help manage this. The tips below could help…

1. Acknowledge that parenthood is a time of change

From pregnancy and birth to breastfeeding and adjusting to life with a newborn. The early stages of parenthood involve a lot of changes including:

  • Physical changes like being tired, recovering from birth and learning how to breastfeed.
  • Body image issues for some women. This can be negative or positive and vary from day to day.
  • Lifestyle changes including loss of time for yourself and no time together as a couple.
  • Relationship changes including a loss of libido and having less sex.

Once you acknowledge the changes that have occurred, discussing these openly with your partner can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and result in you feeling stronger as a parenting team.

2. Ask for support

As a new parent, it’s important to ask for extra support from your friends and family. From helping with shopping and household chores to babysitting and emotional support. But asking for support shouldn’t stop once your baby is older. Building a support network of other parents, neighbours, relatives and family that can help you throughout your child’s life can make a huge difference to the emotional toll parenting can take. 

It’s vital that if you’re experiencing overwhelm or distress that affects your day-to-day functioning that you talk to a health professional. Our highly trained and experienced psychologists offer telehealth sessions and face-to-face sessions.

3. Manage your expectations of being a parent

While Hollywood movies, celebrities and social media influencers often portray parenthood as a positive and wonderful experience 24/7, it can be more stressful, tiring and messier than many like to admit. Being realistic about what to expect from parenthood can include:

  • Understanding that all parents will have good and bad days. With so many changes to adapt to throughout your child’s life, there will be times when you feel like you’re not coping.
  • Knowing how to parent is something you learn over time. As your baby grows into a toddler, you’ll feel more confident that the first 6–8 weeks of their life.
  • Being a parent can be challenging, unrelenting and intense. Taking a break and practising self-care by going for a run or calling a friend can reduce your stress and feelings of overwhelm.
  • Developing a local network you can depend upon and call on when you need to. From other parents in your mother’s group to neighbours who have children of similar ages. This type of support network is priceless, particularly if you’re a single parent or your partner works long hours away from home.

4. Understand you’re not alone feeling parental anxiety

Every parent faces feeling anxious about their child and how well their developing. Common anxieties include:

  • Are they meeting developmental milestones?
  • Does your child make friends easily?
  • What grades are they getting at school?
  • Are they the right weight for their height?
  • Do they eat enough healthy food?
  • Are they being bullied?

If you’re feeling anxious because an issue isn’t being resolved, it’s important to reach out and get help. 

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Dr. Chris Coleiro

Chris is a co-director of Cova Psychology, where he provides supervision to psychologists whilst cultivating a supportive culture within the Cova team. Chris has worked extensively in the assessment and treatment of trauma, PTSD, and Borderline Personality Disorder. He combines a range of therapies in his approach including CBT, Schema Therapy, EMDR and IFS.