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How to Make Parenting More Joyful and Less Stressful

How to Make Parenting More Joyful and Less Stressful

Parents these days spend a lot more attention and time on their children compared to that in the past. A recent analysis of 11 wealthy countries estimates that in 1965, the average mother spent 54 minutes a day caring for children, that number doubled to 104 minutes in 2012. And the time men spend caring for their kids has jumped from 16 minutes a day to 59.[1]

Take a look at these graphs that show the trend of time spent with children since the 1960s:

      Every parent wants what’s best for their children. Most, if not all of lifestyle and parenting choices are centered around trying to provide the best opportunities for their kids. Parents are preoccupied trying to ensure their kids are healthy, safe, have access to the best education and are set up to be successful adults.

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      Parents don’t mind going the extra mile to make sure their kids are doing okay. They pick their son up from college in a blizzard because he wants to spend the weekend at home. They insist that their daughter discuss every decision with them–no matter how small to help them avoid making mistakes of any kind. And though these intentions are honorable, the methods could be doing the parents (and the children) more harm than good.

      Protection Going to Extreme

      Think back to a time when you were in grade school. You probably had special school supplies that you loved. It could have been a special notebook or maybe it was a pencil or a special eraser. Because you liked it so much, you worked hard to preserve it.

        Your special eraser became an item that was for show and was never used. You didn’t allow anyone else to use it and you worked hard to keep it clean and in pristine shape.

          Instead of allowing your eraser to serve its purpose and help you erase your mistakes, the item became a source of stress. Whenever you’ve accidentally caused some dirts on the eraser, you blame yourself for it. Not only could you not use, you had to actively work to keep it safe and in perfect condition.

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            Now that you look back on the incident, you understand that these actions were irrational and silly. The eraser was created to be used. You were supposed to erase things with it. It never truly served its purpose. The same principle applies to over-parenting.

            Stressful Kids and Stressful Parents

            Parents have to be careful that they don’t project their own issues and ego onto the kids. If the child isn’t doing well, our culture has a way of making the parent feels as though they’ve done something wrong. Parents are pressured into feeling that their child’s successes and failures are a direct reflection of themselves. Consider the following questions:

            • Do you think that children’s accomplishments are a direct reflection of good parenting?
            • Does a child’s bad behavior signify a failure by the parent?

            If you answered yes to most of the questions above, such parenting is more ego-driven and is less beneficial to the kids than you think it is. The better the kids do, the better the parents feel about themselves as a parent. Parents’ value and worth have become directly tied to the success and/or failures of the children. This creates a mountain of unfair stress and pressure on parents.

            When parents’ focus is completely on their children and their work tirelessly to keep them from experiencing failure and making mistakes, they set themselves up for disappointment and depression. A 2013 National Health Interview Survey reported that five percent of all U.S. parents living in two-parent families with their children, and eleven percent of single parents, report two or more depression-related symptoms.[2]

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            Parents’ world shouldn’t revolve entirely around their kids because it can cause them to lose their own identity. All of parents’ likes, dislikes, hobbies and interest become driven by their children’s interests and needs. They no longer know what they truly enjoy doing, who they are and they can’t take time for themselves.

            Always allowing children to be the number one priority and the center of parents’ joy is unfair to others in the life. Parents’ relationships will begin to suffer and they may be tempted to put their marriage on the back burner as is the case with many couples with children. Over time, if parents continue to neglect their romantic relationship, the relationship will wither. This is a path to stress, unrelenting pressure and unhappiness for parents.

            Parents may believe that once their children are grown, they can focus on themselves a bit more and reignite the romance with their partner. But the truth is that once parents have established a pattern of co-dependence, it doesn’t end with the kids becoming adults. Parents will continue to worry, over-parent and allow their children to rule their universe for the rest of their lives.

            Bringing Back Joy to Parenting

            What is the key to healthy parenting? Relax. Like the eraser example mentioned before, let it do its job and don’t get too worried about making it a little bit dirty.

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              Children are going to make mistakes. In fact, they need to make mistakes. Shielding the children from failure shields them from valuable life lessons, robs them of the tenacity and fortitude failure provides and it tampers with their destiny. Being a child is the safest period to fall and learn to be independent. When children fail early, they learn stuff earlier too.

              When parents accept wrongdoings, for their kids and for themselves, they’ll be less stressful. Not only does this make both parents and their kids happier, children will also grow up handing things independently. They’ll grow up as a real adult who can take good care of themselves in the long run.

              The litmus test of good parenting is not determined by the successes and failures of the children. Preventing the children from making mistakes is an exercise in futility and counter-intuitive. A parent’s role isn’t preventing failure but showing their child how to get up and recover when they do fail. It is parents’ job to demonstrate how they should handle mistakes and cope with missteps with integrity. This is how parents truly impact and shape their character.

              Parents’ job is to love unconditionally, guide and gently correct their children. Parents are not their child’s savior, force-field and life compass. So, relax, stop hovering and have a bit of faith in the process. The kids will be just fine.

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              Anna Chui

              Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the editor of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

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              Last Updated on August 22, 2019

              14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

              14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All

              According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 27% of children under the age of 18 are living with a single parent.[1] That’s over 1/4th of the U.S. population.There is a common misconception that children who grow up in single parent homes are not as successful as children living in two-parent homes.

              One crucial detail that was often left out of studies when comparing single and two-parent homes was the stability of the household. There is a correlation between family structure and family stability, but this study shows that children who grow up in stable single-parent homes do as well as those in married households in terms of academic abilities and behavior.

              But providing stability is easier said than done. With only one adult to act as a parent, some tasks are inherently more challenging. However, there are a few helpful things you can do to make the parenting journey a little easier for yourself and stay sane while doing it.

              1. Don’t Neglect Self-Care

              Before anything else can be done, you must be caring for your own needs adequately. Only when you are feeling well-rested and healthy can you be at your best for your children.

              Many parents tend to put their kids’ needs first and their owns last, but that will result in a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and feelings of inadequacy. Make time to eat regularly and healthfully, get plenty of rest, and squeeze in exercise whenever you can. Even a short walk around the neighborhood will help your body get much-needed movement and fresh air.

              Your children depend on you, and it’s up to you to make sure that you are well-equipped and ready to take on that responsibility.

              2. Join Forces with Other Single Parents

              At times, it may seem like you’re the only person who knows what it’s like to be a single parent. However, the statistics say that there are many others who know exactly what you’re going through.

              Find single parents locally, through your kid’s school, extracurricular activities, or even an app. There are also numerous online communities that can offer support and advice, through Facebook or sites like Single Mom Nation.

              Although single moms make up the majority of single parents, there are more than 2.6 million single dads in the U.S. A great way to connect is through Meetup. Other single parents will more than happy to arrange babysitting swaps, playdates, and carpools.

              Join forces in order to form mutually beneficial relationships.

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              3. Build a Community

              In addition to finding support with other single parents, also build a community comprised of families of all different types. Rather than focus solely on the single parent aspect of your identity, look for parents and kids who share other things in common.

              Join a playgroup, get plugged in at a church, or get to know the parents of the kids involved in the same extracurricular activities. Having a community of a variety of people and families will bring diversity and excitement into your and your kids’ lives.

              4. Accept Help

              Don’t try to be a superhero and do it all yourself. There are probably people in your life who care about you and your kids and want to help you. Let them know what types of things would be most appreciated, whether it’s bringing meals once a week, helping with rides to school, or giving you time to yourself.

              There is no shame in asking for help and accepting assistance from loved ones. You will not be perceived as weak or incompetent. You are being a good parent by being resourceful and allowing others to give you a much-needed break.

              5. Get Creative with Childcare

              Raising a child on a single income is a challenge, with the high cost of daycares, nannies, and other conventional childcare services. More affordable options are possible if you go a less traditional route.

              If you have space and live in a college town, offer a college student housing in exchange for regular childcare. Or swap kids with other single parents so that your kids have friends to play with while the parents get time to themselves.

              When I was younger, my parents had a group of five family friends, and all of the children would rotate to a different house each day of the week, during the summer months. The kids would have a great time playing with each other, and the parents’ job becomes a lot easier. That’s what you would call a win-win situation.

              6. Plan Ahead for Emergencies

              As a single parent, a backup plan or two is a must in emergency situations. Make a list of people you know you can call in a moment’s notice. There will be times in which you need help, and it’s important to know ahead of time who you can rely on.

              Look into whether or not your area offers emergency babysitting services or a drop-in daycare. Knowing who will be able to care for your child in the event of an emergency can relieve one potential source of anxiety in stressful situations.

              7. Create a Routine

              Routines are crucial for young children because knowing what to expect gives them a semblance of control. This is even more important when in a single parent home.

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              If the child travels between homes or has multiple caretakers, life can seem extremely chaotic and unpredictable. Establish a routine and schedule for your child as much as possible. This can include bedtime, before/after school, chores, meal times, and even a weekend routine.

              Having a routine does not mean things cannot change. It is merely a default schedule to fall back on when no additional events or activities are going on. When your children know what to expect, they will be less resistant because they know what to expect, and days will run much more smoothly.

              8. Be Consistent with Rules and Discipline

              If your child has multiple caretakers, such as another parent, grandparent, or babysitter, communicate clearly on how discipline will be handled. Talk to your ex, if you are sharing custody, as well as any other caretakers about the rules and the agreed-upon approach to discipline.

              When a child realizes that certain rules can be bent with certain people, he/she will use it to their advantage, causing additional issues with limits, behavior, and discipline down the road.

              This article may help you to discipline your child better:

              How to Discipline a Child (The Complete Guide for Different Ages)

              9. Stay Positive

              Everyone has heard the saying, “Mind over matter.” But there really is so much power behind your mentality. It can change your perspective and make a difficult situation so much better.

              Your kids will be able to detect even the smallest shift in your attitude. When the responsibilities of motherhood are overwhelming, stay focused on the positive things in your life, such as your friends and family. This will produce a much more stable home environment.

              Maintain your sense of humor and don’t be afraid to be silly. Look towards the future and the great things that are still to come for you and your family. Rediscover and redefine your family values.

              10. Move Past the Guilt

              In a single parent home, it is impossible to act as both parents, regardless of how hard you try. Let go of the things that you cannot do as a single parent, and instead, think of the great things you ARE able to provide for your children.

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              Leave behind the notion that life would be easier or better with two parents. This is simply not true. There is a multitude of pros and cons to all family dynamics, and the one you are providing for your kids now is the one that they need.

              Don’t get bogged down by guilt or regret. Take control of your life and be the best parent you can by being present and engaged with them on a daily basis.

              11. Answer Questions Honestly

              Your kids may have questions about why their home situation is different from many of their friends. When asked, don’t sugarcoat the situation or give them an answer that is not accurate.

              Depending on their age, take this opportunity to explain the truth of what happened and how the current circumstances came about. Not all families have two parents, whether that is due to divorce, death, or whatever else life brings.

              Don’t give more detail than necessary or talk badly about the other parent. But strive to be truthful and honest. Your children will benefit more from your candor than a made-up story.

              12. Treat Kids Like Kids

              In the absence of a partner, it can be tempting to rely on your children for comfort, companionship, or sympathy. But your kids are not equipped to play this role for you.

              There are many details within an adult relationship that children are not able to understand or process, and it will only cause confusion and resentment.

              Do not take out your anger on your kids. Separate your emotional needs from your role as a mother. If you find yourself depending on your kids too much, look for adult friends or family members that you can talk to about your issues.

              13. Find Role Models

              Find positive role models of the opposite sex for your child. It’s crucial that your child does not form negative associations with an entire gender of people.

              Find close friends or family members that would be willing to spend one-on-one time with your kids. Encourage them to form meaningful relationships with people that you trust and that they can look up to.

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              Role models can make a huge difference in the path that a child decides to take, so be intentional about the ones that you put in your kids’ lives.

              14. Be Affectionate and Give Praise

              Your children need your affection and praise on a daily basis. Engage with your kids as often as possible by playing with them, going on outings, and encouraging open dialogue.

              Affirm them in the things that they are doing well, no matter how small. Praise their efforts, rather than their achievements. This will inspire them to continue to put forth hard work and not give up when success is not achieved.

              Rather than spending money on gifts, spend time and effort in making lasting memories.

              Final Thoughts

              Being a single parent is a challenging responsibility to take on. Without the help of a partner to fall back on, single parents have a lot more to take on.

              However, studies show that growing up in a single parent home does not have a negative effect on achievement in school. As long as the family is a stable and safe environment, kids are able to excel and do well in life.

              Use these tips in order to be a reliable and capable parent for your kids, while maintaining your own well-being and sanity.

              More Resources About Parenting

              Featured photo credit: Eye for Ebony via unsplash.com

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