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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