Being a parent can bring up a lot of unexpected emotional responses, from all-out rage to debilitating stress. If you regularly or occasionally experience anger, frustration, anxiety, overwhelm, burnout, or any other “negative” feelings, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent or that you love your kids any less!
Here are some of the top tips, resources, and insights that have resonated with parents and helped them focus on their own emotional wellbeing.
Acknowledging your own challenges as a parent
Parents spend so much time and energy managing their kids’ needs and problems that they sometimes don’t stop to realize it’s totally normal to have their own needs and problems too. Parenting is a LOT, and that often goes unrecognized. The first step towards improving your parenting is acknowledging your own feelings about it.
The physical, mental, and emotional “invisible load” of parenthood can feel crushing. Watch this short video to start to acknowledge the unseen load you’re carrying, and remember to have compassion for yourself and other parents.
Being able to recognize the first signs of burnout can help you get ahead of it and build in self-care when you need it most. It’s OK to need a break, and it’s OK to take a break!
No one can be at the top of their game all the time, and that includes parents. Give yourself grace for those daily mistakes and not-so-amazing moments, and realize that they’re all a completely normal part of parenting (and being human). Kids don’t need you to be perfect!
Understanding the root cause of your emotional responses
If you are struggling with frequent blow-ups, shut-downs, or more yelling/nitpicking than you’re comfortable with (on your part!), it’s important to examine the reasons behind your responses.
Kids’ behavior can be triggering for parents, but more often than not, they’re just being kids. Anger and frustration come with the parenting territory — but it’s important to recognize that you can control how you express those feelings to kids. Digging into the things that set you off the most and why can help you diffuse those big feelings when they arise in the future.
Sometimes parenting makes you realize some of the issues with the way you were raised, or the way your parents were raised. Especially if your parents, grandparents, or other relatives had traumatic experiences that they never healed from, the resulting pain and dysfunction can be passed down and affect your parenting skills. Learn more about generational trauma here.
Anxiety can show up in your parenting in unexpected ways — but once you recognize that anxiety is the source of some of the negative emotions and behaviors you’re experiencing, it’s much easier to address it and get your day back on track!
Must-learn emotional regulation skills for parents
You’re never too old to learn and practice new ways to manage your emotions! In fact, by focusing on self-regulation, you can set a great example for your kids as they learn to navigate their feelings and work on their self-control.
In stressful moments, when you’re feeling your shoulders clench, your muscles tense, your heart rate rising — what can you do to calm down and avoid boiling over? Aside from stepping away to take a walk or have a moment alone, which isn’t always possible, here are some quick de-stress techniques you can try!
It helps to have some go-to phrases to remind yourself of when in distress. Practice these when you’re feeling calm so that your brain will be able to access them when you’re feeling anger or frustration coming on. You can even say these out loud to model healthy coping behaviors for kids.
Having anxiety as a parent isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it can actually be a good opportunity to share helpful insight and emotional management skills with your kids, as long as you’re mindful of it. See more detailed tips for parents with anxiety here.
Sometimes parents are reluctant to address their own emotional or mental health needs, either because it feels indulgent, or there never seems to be time. However, taking care of your own wellbeing is essential to caring for your kids! Taking some time to examine the pressures you’re under, why you tend to react a certain way, and practicing techniques for being more calm and patient will not only make you happier, but your children will reap the benefits, too.