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  • Writer's pictureEmma

It's when our children struggle that us parents feel stress.

Raising a child is a stressful business. Fact. Managing as a parent includes living a functioning adult life, keeping our homes running and paying the bills, as well as helping our children grow up healthy and happy. Most of us can run our own lives well enough, with the occasional ups and downs, but it is when our children start to struggle that we tend to experience the most stress as a parent.

To highlight this I’ll give some typical examples of the things that cause parents stress: When a child is not sleeping; When a child is not eating; When a child is refusing to go to school or nursery; When a child is behaving poorly at school or nursery; When a child is behaving poorly at home.

As the above list demonstrates, it is when our children are struggling to do the things we expect and need them to do that we start to worry and look for solutions or support. Typical responses to these stresses include adjusting family routines to accommodate their struggles. We may give a child extra time and encouragement to try things out. We may try giving alternative foods, or changing the way our family eats together. We may need to go to extra appointments or assessments with specialists or at hospital, and we’ll often need to work with their school or nursery. When dealing with professionals, we may feel the need to stick up for our child, or feel blamed and embarrassed that our children are not functioning according to the norm.

All of these necessary practical responses require us to shift out of autopilot and draw deeper on our resources when we are already probably stretched quite thin, and can cause – you guessed it – a substantial amount of stress. It is in times like this that we can start to doubt ourselves, losing confidence and resilience when we need it most.

A common buzzword is self-care, and I do want to bring this in here, but possibly not in the way we typically understand it. When our children are struggling, it can feel counter to our desire to nurture or at the very least impractical, to suggest getting some time alone. Yes of course we all need time alone, and yes it can feel good, but when we know our child desperately needs us, or when we’re worrying non-stop, getting away may feel like the last thing we want to do.

What I want to promote here is sharing our concerns with others. Off-load, vent and hear our own explanation of the situation. Just that alone can lighten the load and bring clarity. Hearing what others think can give help us think logically and consider different options of what could work for us and our family. Seeing connection with others, letting ourselves be supported by others, these can be powerful opportunities for self-care.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to connect safely with others in a group, but it can be easier when there is a shared focus and a facilitator who can promote safe interactions within the group. At Dream Your Future Families, we have created just such a space, where parents can meet, children can play and our facilitators can offer a point of focus for discussion. We love offering you the support you need, and recognise that often this means talking about your children. Our sessions are structured to demonstrate ways of problem solving through play with your children, followed by discussion points about the typical joys and challenges you may face.

For more information about our parent support group or to book your place each week, click here.

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