I’m very pleased to welcome Catherine Coleman from Laid Back Mama to talk about parental resilience and staying strong when things get tough. It’s a topic that’s very familiar for me at the moment and I openly admit that I need help!
My toddler recently had an epic meltdown at the supermarket. He didn’t want to get in the car and he was tired. It was getting louder and more embarrassing the longer it went on for. People were starting to stare and I was getting stressed trying to coax him into the car seat. So I drew upon my parental resilience. I stopped, took a deep breath and got in the back seat of the car next to him. I let him have his tantrum while I sat next to him. Eventually he stopped, let me cuddle him, and I was able to strap him in and drive home.
Having kids is a wonderful, rewarding experience but it can also be tough. Being a parent means you need to have infinite patience and understanding as well as have the knowledge, resources and skills to answer any question, solve any problem and fix any broken toy. Parental resilience is essential in order to navigate the challenges of raising kids without going stir crazy yourself!
Being a resilient parent means having the coping skills necessary to deal with all the ups and downs of life with children. You need to be able to bounce back from setbacks and move forward.
Everyone has different levels of resilience. What makes one person feel like giving up and heading for the bottle of wine, another person brushes off and forgets about. It’s partly a result of your personality and partly what you have learnt throughout your life about how to cope with problems and setbacks.
How to build parental resilience
Parents have to be resilient because our children depend on us. Whatever age your children are, they need their mum and dad to be strong and stable for them.
Worrying about your child is normal and natural, and there are so many sources of anxiety in parenting, it is almost impossible to avoid feeling worried. But it’s how you deal with that stressful situation that is important.
Don’t forget, kids watch and learn from what you do. How well you cope with stress and the way you face tough situations will influence them. Your parental resilience will affect their resilience as they grow into adults.
Whether it’s your toddler having a temper tantrum in Sainsbury’s carpark, or your teenager being bullied at school, parental resilience is essential to provide a safe place for them to come back to. It’s also essential so that you don’t feel stressed and overwhelmed by your child’s struggles.
Stop and take a deep breath
There are some things you can do to improve your parental resilience and make your life as a parent a bit less stressful:
Dealing with a difficult situation with your child
• Stop and breathe – If your stress is caused by your child having a tantrum or running late for school (again), before you let yourself get worked up and fly off the handle, just stop, take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down. It’s probably not worth getting too stressed about and certainly not worth a screaming match with your child.
• Take control of the situation – Whether it’s your child struggling with their homework or being bullied at school, take control. Your child might need you to be strong for them as they are unable to manage the situation alone. Give yourself the opportunity to calmly work out the solution to your child’s problem and help them get there.
• Listen to your child – If they have come to you with a problem, they have been very brave. Don’t dismiss them or tell them to sort it out themselves. Let them talk to you openly then ask them how they would like you to help them. Make them a part of the solution and they can build their own resilience for future challenges in their own life.
• Work as a team – A good support network can help you see your problem from a different perspective. Just talking about things can help reduce your stress and anxiety. If you are dealing with a difficult problem with your child, you and your partner should work together to solve it. Being a united family can help ease the burden and reassure your child they are not alone.
• Be flexible – Kids don’t always do what we want them to do! Being flexible and being able to bounce back from a setback is part of parental resilience. Learn to roll with the punches.
• Don’t expect perfection – Accept that your child will probably struggle with some things. Then invest time in helping them develop those skills instead of getting angry and stressed when they struggle. Focus on what your child can do well. Praise them and encourage them to build on their natural talents.
• Give them a cuddle – Just giving your child a big hug, playing with them and making them giggle can be a huge stress-buster. Let them know you love them and enjoy being with them.
Practise some self-care and build your parental resilience
Self-care is essential for good parenting. You should spend time looking after yourself so you can be a great parent to your child. After all, if you are feeling tired, stressed and unhappy, it’s much harder to take care of your family. Being healthy improves your ability to cope with challenges of parenthood better.
• Take time for yourself – Self-care is about doing what you love. Whether it is getting your nails done, going for a walk, painting or gardening, just make some time at least once a week to spend time recharging your batteries.
• Look after your health – You don’t have to hit the gym to get active. You could go for a walk in the park, a gentle bike ride with the kids or swimming at the weekend. Try to eat a balanced diet and don’t turn to alcohol when you feel stressed.
• Get enough sleep – Sleep is so under-rated but is vital to a healthy mind and body. Make sure you get enough sleep every night so you can feel refreshed and alert during the day and are able to deal with any crisis that comes up in your child’s life.
• Connect with people – Build strong relationships with friends and family can help you deal with difficult situations and allows you the space to let off steam. Meet up with friends regularly, go for a coffee or the cinema. And take time to nurture your relationship with your partner. You are in this together and must support each other so you can be there for your children.
• Try to do something fun every day – You need to be able to destress every day and doing something enjoyable – no matter how small – can help you unwind after a long day. Have a bath, read a book, do some yoga or look at some old photos. You could even involve the whole family and make it a way to strengthen your bond with your children.
Of course, having kids means there will always be a new challenge, a new hurdle to overcome. But with these coping mechanisms, you will be able to take on those challenges and bounce back again and again!
Catherine is a blogger, writer and registered mental health nurse.
She is now a stay-at-home mum living in Kent with her 18 month-old son. Her blog explores parenting, lifestyle and wellbeing. She is passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of those she works with.
Catherine loves to share her experiences and advice on how to keep positive and relaxed about parenting, reduce stress and enjoy the journey into motherhood.