By Brian Shires, Family Support Worker
Everyone has heard of stress, but what actually happens to us when we are stressed and how it might impact on our functioning as parents.
Stress is when an event or series of events builds to the point when we feel pressure and become ‘on edge’. What occurs in the body during such times is that certain hormones are released which causes our physical and mental body to prepare for a potential threat. This is commonly known as the fight/flight response. Mentally as our body prepares for action our thinking brain (the frontal cortex) starts to shut down while circulation is diverted to our primitive emotional reactive brain which prepares us to defend or attack.
Under stressful situations we may find ourselves shouting or overreacting to things that under calmer situations we would have handled more appropriately. As a result we often experience guilt after an event when our thinking brain comes back on line and we re-evaluate our earlier actions.
Parenting under stress negatively impacts on decisions such as blurting out consequence that we later regret. This may leave us stuck with something unreasonable or impacts on our consistency if we later reduce the unreasonable consequence. Furthermore if our children become stressed by our behaviour then their ability to think and respond appropriately is also hindered due to their own stress response, hence learning is hindered.
Stress can never be totally prevented but there are ways it can be managed. Managing the early stages of stress is much easier if you can pick the signs. Learn your own early warning signs of stress and act sooner rather than later. To prevent unnecessary stress set yourself realistic expectations and be prepared to let some less important jobs go undone. Be flexible and prepare for change, rigid thinking doesn’t leave space for the twist and turn or life events.
Exercise, sleep and diet are important as they restore our vitality and energy levels and help us cope better with stress. Also talking things through with family or friends can be helpful, as they say “a problem shared is a problem halved”.
Finally don’t be critical of yourself, no one is perfect remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. If you do need help and are struggling there are lots of health providers and support agencies who can help. If you don’t know who to call, call us at Homebuilders and we’ll put you in contact with the support you need. Needing help is normal as the saying goes ‘it takes a village to raise a child’