What Is Parental Stress?
Parental stress can be defined as anything related to caring for and rearing a child that causes frustration and interferes with how a parent relates to a child. Although it is the parent who experiences the frustration; in severe cases parental stress leads to child abuse. Why? Because the frustration is oftentimes taken out on the perceived cause of the stress – the child. Research in Jamaica documented in “Profiles: The Jamaican Pre-School Child; the Status of Early Childhood Development in Jamaica ” has shown that children who live in homes where there are high levels of parental stress have more behavioural problems and do not learn well in school.
What Causes Parental Stress?
Parental stress affects many parents in our society. However, most are unaware of what is happening to them and even fewer know how to prevent or stop it. There are several factors that can lead to parental stress. Some of these factors are:
Financial difficulty in caring for the child
An absent mother of father leaving the remaining parent to be the sole breadwinner and caregiver for the child.
Lack of social support from family and friends
Inability to cope with a child’s disability or behavioural disorder
Being overworked or overburdened
How Do I Know If I Am Experiencing Parental Stress?
Do you know if you are experiencing parental stress? Here are a few telltale signs:
I get angry with my child over little things
My child makes you so angry I beat him/her until some one pulls me away
I beat and/or say hurtful things to my child very often
I have violent thoughts toward my child
I beat or say hurtful things to my child very often.
I find myself worrying or depressed about meeting the financial needs of my child
You feel tired all the time
Your sleep pattern is disturbed
Your eating habits have changed
You have significant weight gain or loss due to stress
How to Prevent Parental Stress:
Prevent Parental Stress with the following tips.
Make sure your own basic needs are met; try to sleep and eat well.
If you do not get enough rest and eat well, you will be very irritable and get easily upset with your child.
Learn about parenting and child development. When you know what is normal for children at different developmental stages you will be better able to understand your child’s behavior.
Spend time interacting with your child. As you play and talk with your child you will build a bond with him/her and you both learn to understand each other better.
All children need discipline. Learn ways to discipline your child without being angry or upset.
What to do if you are stressed
If you are already suffering from Parental Stress here are some tips to help you cope.
If you are frustrated, and feel you will hurt your child, separate yourself from your child immediately.
Ask for help: join a parenting support group; call the parent hotline; talk to your pastor; doctor or a good counselor. Just don’t keep it to yourself.
Make time for yourself: ask a friend or family member to take care of the child for a day or weekend while you spend some time relaxing and rejuvenating and don’t feel guilty about it.
Above all else, be good to yourself.