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Apr 23, 2006
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Stresses of Parenting

Being a parent can be a true joy, but it isn't easy. Parenting is a round-the-clock job with many concerns and demands that can be very stressful. When you factor in caring for and worrying about the health of a child or newborn with medical problems, the stress increases. In an article in the March 3, 1999, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that mothers of very low-birth-weight babies had higher levels of stress than mothers of babies with average birth weight. They also found that mothers who had very low-birth-weight babies with medical complications had an even higher level of stress and that they continued to have higher levels of stress even two years after the birth of their child. To effectively manage the stress of being a parent and the caregiver of a sick child, it is important to recognize the accumulation of stress from each role.

Signs of Too Much Stress:

  • Feeling tired and irritable most of the time
  • Feelings of being down or low that last more than a few days
  • More than usual difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty enjoying regular activities that used to give pleasure
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness or guilt
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping problems
  • Loss of sexual desire
If you are experiencing any of the above problems, which may also be symptoms of depression, see your doctor. What to do About Stress:
  • Take a breather (deep breathing can quickly and effectively relieve stress)
  • Take a break (even a short break of five minutes can provide stress-relieving benefits)
  • Make time for yourself (provide regularly scheduled breaks by having a reliable and trusted person help with parenting duties or enroll your child in a certified daycare program)
  • Make time for exercise and regular daily activities
  • For severe stress, seek the help of a physician or other health care professional
How to Minimize Stresses of Parenting:
  • Share household responsibilities and chores with other members of the household (spouse, partner, even older children when appropriate).
  • Set realistic rules for children and stick by them.
  • Try to maintain a fairly regular schedule for children, including set meal times and bed times.
  • Have realistic expectations of your children's behavior and respect their individuality.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff. Many little problems and mistakes that children make are not worth getting upset over - just let them go.
Where to Go for Help:
  • See your physician if you are having serious difficulty dealing with stress
  • Create a network of caring friends
  • Contact local mental health services
  • Contact your local religious organization to ask about counseling services
  • Contact local family services agencies
For More Information:
  • American Academy of Pediatrics(Send a SASE to

    Child Care: What's Best for Your Family?

    Attn: Publications Department HE0028

    141 Northwest Point Blvd.

    Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098

  • National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral AgenciesChild Care Aware

    (800) 424-2246
  • Parents Anonymous(909) 621-6184

    Parents Anonymous® Inc.

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