By Kritika Dharia
In today’s fast paced life, parents have adopted a style of parenting called “Parenting on the run”. Parents spend a great deal of time balancing work and family, often feeling stressed and fatigued. This stress often manifests through physical changes, behaviour and thinking patterns. Most of our focus as parents is on our children — their growth, happiness and wellbeing, ignoring our own mental health. I often tell my clients, “If your pot of love is not full, and yet you keep giving others, it will eventually leave you empty, leading to a burnout.”
“Parental modelling” is a common thing children do. Children look up to their parent’s way of handling conflicts and imitate similar behaviours. If a child sees his parents screaming and yelling as a medium to resolve conflicts, he is more likely to do the same.
In the book “The Antecedents of Self-Esteem”, Dr Stanley Cooper Smith writes that children with high self-esteem who are competent and capable of independent action have parents who themselves are high on self-esteem. Parents with high self-worth approach their children with warmth, respect their child’s opinions and practice healthy communication. A parent will have high self-esteem and self-worth only if they have developed efficient coping strategies to manage difficult situations. Hence, taking care of ourselves becomes a vital part of healthy parenting.
Here are some strategies for parents to improve their mental health and manage stress:
Coping with stress
Accept your mistake; this is the first step to improve mental health and developing a constructive solution to a problem. If an issue is beyond your control or not a result of your actions, develop coping strategies that will help alleviate your stress by indulging in your hobbies, deep breathing and spending time talking to a close friend or loved one. Dedicate a few minutes in your daily routine to introspect, confront and resolve the issues that are stressing you out. This valuable practice will avoid a buildup of stress over a period of time. Divide responsibilities at home among family members and rotate these chores periodically to avoid monotony and overburdening.
Develop healthy habits
Exercising is an important contributing factor to self-care and has an immediate positive impact on mood. About six to seven hours of sleep is vital for our body to function effectively, which may not always be possible thanks to all our responsibilities. Set a time-table for your daily routine and make it a priority to sleep on the decided time. Regularly perform deep breathing, meditation, yoga, listen to calming music, allowing your mind to relax. Take time out to have fun with your kid – be spontaneous. Cut out the pressure of productivity from everything, and do things just for the joy of the activity.
Rekindle the romance with your partner
Make time for date nights. Do things with each other without your kids. Ask your parents and in-laws to babysit your child for a few hours. Arrange playdates with groups of other kids, so each couple takes turns baby-sitting while other couples can spend quality time with each other. Understand the pressures of parenting and give each other leeway to make mistakes. Don’t blame each other, don’t fight, support your partner, let go of their errors.
Mental health as an individual
Unclutter: The role of a parent is demanding and overwhelming. Take time to maintain other relationships to be in touch with who you are. Don’t ignore your friends, parents, and colleagues.
Go out of the house: Staying at home means constantly being available for crisis management. Join a book club, go to a library, learn something new, or just go have coffee by yourself.
(The writer is Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower–The Centre, Mumbai.)
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