Being a parent is the most wonderful and possibly the most difficult role you will have. It isn’t always easy and it can prove challenging. That’s why it's important to look after yourself as well as your children. It can feel hard if you're tired, stressed and unhappy.
Try to set aside time for yourself
Taking a break to relax means you are more likely to be able to cope. Take 10 minutes to have a bath, read a magazine or talk to a friend. Don’t spend time feeling guilty about the jobs that “should be done” when your child is asleep. Use some of this time to relax and do something you enjoy.
Try to eat well
This can be difficult for busy parents but NHS Healthier Families (www.nhs.uk/healthier-families) has lots of ideas for simple and quick recipes and tips to stay fit and healthy.
Get together with other parents and their children
Your child will enjoy the company of other children and you will enjoy some adult conversation. There may be groups in your area where you can meet other parents and where your child will have some fun.
Managing big feelings
Most parents have times when they feel tested to their limits. You may feel stressed about personal, medical or financial problems. It may feel even worse when you are tired. Getting angry or yelling can turn things into a major battle. When you shout at your child it triggers cortisol – a stress hormone. This makes it much harder for them to listen and learn. Learning to manage your anger will be beneficial to your health and your relationship with your child. Do not smack or physically punish your child. This is illegal in Wales.
Try to get to know your own body’s signals when feelings of anger are building up.
These might be: clenched jaw; fists tensed; pounding heart and feeling hotter. Act before it gets out of control.
If you feel anger getting the better of you it may help to:
- Stop and count to 10 or even sing before you act. Counting and singing engages a different part of your brain from the ‘anger reflex’. It diffuses tension so you can ‘reset’ your emotions.
- Try to breathe out the tension. Try to breathe out longer than you breathe in.
- Take some time out. Leave the room briefly, phone a friend, play your favourite music. Ask a friend or family member to care for your baby or child for a while so you can have time to yourself.
- Work it off. Exercise can help you deal with stress-related anger. Try swimming, walking, running or yoga. You could put your child in their pushchair and go for a walk to let off steam.
- Ask yourself "Is it really worth getting angry about?" Is it about what your child has done or is it about you feeling stressed?
- Think it through. Are there some things that wind you up more than others? Are there ways of avoiding those situations?
- Try not to bottle things up. It may help to talk it over with a friend of family or talk to other parents. It can be helpful to share experiences and tips.
- Think whether there are some underlying feelings making you angry. If you feel angry in spite of everything you have tried, it may be worth getting some advice. It may help talking it through with a counsellor or getting some advice on managing your anger. You could speak to your GP about this. Alternatively you may find these helplines useful:
- C.A.L.L. Helpline (www.callhelpline.org.uk) on 0800 132 737 (24 hour service) - Community Advice and Listening Line - (or text ‘help’ to text 81066). This is a confidential helpline which offers emotional support on mental health and related matters.
- Samaritans (www.samaritans.org) - call on 116 123 (confidential 24 hour service). You can get in touch about anything that’s troubling you, no matter how large or small the issue.
It’s OK to ask for help
Nobody gets it right all the time. By getting help, you will be doing the best thing for your child, your family and yourself.
Meeting up with other parents may help remind you that you're not alone. Your Family Information Service will be able to tell you what’s on in your area.
If you want to learn more about positive parenting, find out what parenting support and groups your Local Authority offer.
Family Lives offer a confidential and free helpline service for families in Wales on any aspect of parenting and family life. To speak to someone call 0808 800 2222 or visit Parenting and Family Support – Family Lives to access the live chat.
Parent Talk Cymru (Action for Children) offer a free and confidential live chat with a parenting coach available in English and Welsh. Visit Parent Talk Cymru