11 Stress Relief Tips for Young Families
- Parents are generally kindly. If their child is not as bright and intellectually inquisitive as might have been hoped, they blame it on Great Aunt Susan's genes. It is far more likely that the true cause is the conduct of the delivery and the care the child had at birth. It is pointless to work for the shiniest and fastest car in the street and not to work with equal determination to make certain that your child comes into this world in a way that is going to preserve every grey cell possible.
- The interval between the children's birth is important. Under two years, and sibling rivalry is very likely to be an issue in the household - very stressful. Much over three years and it will be like having only two children. One of the secrets of family life is having children who can play together peacefully. It is better if there are three children, because then the children become three musketeers who are emotionally interdependent. The stress on the parents is eased.
- Newborn babies nearly always produce stress. The mother is tired after her pregnancy; she is still recovering from delivery. Newborn babies cry. While this may be music to a grandmother's ears and delight old-fashioned Victorian nannies, for everybody else it produces anxiety and attention. Nature has designed it this way. What is remarkable is how quickly most healthy babies settle into a routine. A word of warning, however: they may not settle into a routine if they sense that their parents are stressed.
- The sleepless baby or young child can be a problem. Seek expert advice. All that is usually needed is confidence, and talking to an expert may instil this into you. Exclude any physical cause; be firm, follow all the usual rules, and if the child is happy, healthy but merely sleepless, don't worry.
- Once a couple has a child, the parents' love should not be divided but rather it should expand to cover all. It is, however, stretched between that for a spouse and that for a child. Likewise, the amount of time available needs to be shared between partner, child and work. Just as it is difficult to have a lover and spouse because of the lack of time so that neither feels well looked after, the same problem arises with children.
- If only one parent is working, then the mornings, before setting off for work, should be reserved for thoughts about the job. Conversely, after taking time to re-orientate to home life, the evenings and all weekends should be reserved for the family.
- If two parents are working, then daytime child-carers are essential. They need to be chosen carefully. Many regard your child as a meal ticket: a means of making money. And their love for your child is dependent on his or her good behaviour and ready smile. Yet even good child-carers can cause stress. The trouble is that the good nanny naturally attracts devotion from a child - a devotion that may seem greater than that currently offered to the parent. It would be unnatural if there wasn't jealousy. This jealousy and the associated stress it causes is the price paid for continuing to work. The consolation is that everyone has a role; the parents' role grows as the child grows, whereas that of the nanny, au pair or mother's help diminishes. The important decision to make is whether daytime child-care should be extended into the evenings and even weekends. In some jobs, this is inevitable, and not to have help other than during normal working hours would produce tiredness, irritability and stress.
- Jealousy, usually neither admitted nor spoken, isn't confined to jealousy for the caretaker. It can extend to visiting grandparents, attentive aunts and boisterous uncles. And it frequently exists between the two sets of inlaws. As parents, your role is to put your child first and to be as scrupulously fair as possible between your own parents and relatives and your spouse's relatives. This jealousy, although common, is absurd. Even the most intrusive inlaw disappears after a comparatively short time. Your carefully created regime may be shattered for a day or two, but it is not enough to worry about for more than a second.
- There may be jealousy between the two parents if one is favoured by the children. Each parent will have his or her day. When children are young, the absentee parent, whether mother or father, usual has 'treat value' when they are actually there. This is very jealous-making for the parent who has struggled at home looking after them. Be aware of it, and be aware it is happening in hundreds and thousands of families throughout the country. As children grow up, so their needs will change and they will turn to either parent depending on what particular need they have that requires satisfying at that particular moment.
- Many parents find discipline difficult. It is stressful for everyone to have a battle royal with a child or children. To avoid this stress, decide what matters and ignore everything that doesn't. Does it really matter if a three-year-old has broken a mug or spilt the milk? Does it matter if the child doesn't finish its supper? To make it an issue will only ensure a repeat performance at the next meal, and a worsening in the child's father's angina. Just forget it and ease the stress. The issues that matter are those which affect the health and safety of the child and the rest of the family. Everything else can shrugged off.
- The over-anxious parent will cause great stress in family life. What do you do about it? Nobody is going to be able to give a parent a new character in his or her twenties or thirties, but it would be worthwhile to seek expert advice. Just realizing that the problem is not the imminent danger to the child but the chronic anxiety state of the parent is a help, as thereafter it can become a family joke, provided the over-anxious parent has insight into his or her condition.
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