Friday, December 3, 2010

7 Secrets to Reducing Parental Stress


By Michele Borba, Ed.D.
 
Sure parenting is wonderful. But let’s face it, parenting can be also stressful. Unless we find a way to stop that tension from building, anger is inevitable. We can’t kid ourselves: our stress and anger does affect our children. Recent reports tell us we better find a way to put a lid on our stress. Here are just two (of many) that show “happy days” on the home front may be taking a backslide. Our stress is impacting our kids:

* Drinking and taking drugs (marijuana and cold and cough syrup) is up amongst teen girls. The top reason girls say they are getting high? It’s to reduce stress at home.

* An American Psychological Association report showed teen stress increasing to epidemic levels and call it a “medical health hazard.” Teens say the top reason for the stress: pressures from home.

But the good news is there are strategies that will help reduce stress so you stay more in control.

7 Tips to Help You Remain Calmer and Reduce Stress Around the Kiddos

Here are seven secrets that help you remain calmer, and keep your household more peaceful. The trick is discovering which one (there’s a hint – just do one)..works best for you, and then practice it until it becomes a habit. Doing it as a family will help everyone learn how to put a lid on a hot temper. Remember: stress comes before anger. The trick is to reduce that stress so it doesn’t escalate.

Give Yourself a Time-Out. Stress comes right before anger and we usually have only seconds to stop that pressure buildup. So tune into your stress signals (a pounding heart, your clenched fists, the grinding teeth, your raised voice), and then act. “Mommy needs a time-out.” Then turn and walk, sip water slowly, or take deep breaths. Do whatever it takes to get back in control even if you need to lock yourself in your bathroom a few minutes. Then teach your kids to do the same.

A big secret on this one: Create a nonverbal signal (like an umpire uses that signals “Time Out”) and use the hand gesture to show you — or another member — needs a time out. When we’re in stress mode our voice tone goes up a notch (or two) and we’re more likely to do that thing kids hate: y-e-l-l. So try a hand signal. It can be a goldmine with a teen.

Use “Calm Talk.” Lean to say a simple message to yourself to control your temper. “Stop and calm down.” “Stay in control.” Or: “I can handle this.” Choose a phrase, and then rehearse it a few times each day until you can use it. One mom wrote her calm down phrase on a card and stuck it in her diaper bag. (Her baby was a real “mover and shaker” and changing him was a “challenge”). As soon as she opened the bag, she’d see her card. It reminded her to calm down, and so she did.

Take Five (or a 100). My girlfriend reduces her motherhood stress by listening to a soothing CD of rain sounds. Whenever she feels her “Wicked Witch of the North” mode coming on, Sharon quickly retreats to her bedroom, closes the door, turns on the tape, plops on her bed, and zones out—that is, for five minutes. She says those few minutes help her regain control so she feels calmer. Another friend has her mother phone her preschooler at four o’clock each afternoon and keep her daughter occupied, so she can “Take Five” (or ten, twenty? Or whatever it takes!)

Teach: “Stop and Breathe.” The very second you feel you’re losing control, take a deep, slow breath (or two or three). Getting oxygen into your brain is one of the fastest ways to relax. I used this strategy with my kids, they’d remind me when my patience-level was on a nose-dive. “Mom, ‘Stop and breathe’, they’d chime. (Such sweet little helpers. Now if they could only recognize their own stress signs).

Imagine Something Calming. Think of a person or place that helps you feel calm and peaceful—your Honey, that special romantic spot, the beach, your bed. The second you feel your stress building, close your eyes and think of the person or your calm place while breathing slowly. My girlfriend loads her ipod with soothing music and plugs it in when the going gets tough. Find what works!

Do Elevator Breathing. Close your eyes, slowly breath out three times, then imagine you’re in an elevator on the top of a very tall building. Press the button for the first floor and watch the buttons for each level slowly light up as the elevator goes down. As the elevator descends, your stress fades away. Just remember to do it the minute you feel that stress start to mount.

Try Stress Melting. Find the spot in your body where you feel the most tension; perhaps your neck, shoulder muscles, or jaw. Gently close your eyes, concentrate on the spot, tense it up for three or four seconds, and then let it go. While doing so, imagine the stress slowly melting away. Or let those yoga deep breathing exercises you may have practiced kick in.

Anger management isn’t just for moms and dads. Why not get your whole family involved in learning one of these secrets to help them cope with stress and quick tempers? Just choose one strategy, announce your intentions, and show everyone how it works. If you practice it as a family you’ll have not only a calmer you, but a more peaceful household. (Sigh! — and it’s back to Happy Days!) Stress is mounting–for parents and kids. Let’s get serious and find ways to reduce it.

ORDER 'The BIG BOOK of Parenting Solutions' for more of Dr. Borba's proven strategies. Your kids will thank you!


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