We’ve put together some simple strategies and coping skills for stressed parents that you can use to manage your stress.

Whether you’re in need of long-term support for your child, or day-to-day activities that will help you unwind, find everything you need here!

Stress is your body’s reaction to the demands of the world, therefore as a parent, there are many common causes of parental stress. Learn more about what stress from NHS.

Remember you are not alone and there are coping strategies that you can implement to support you with problem-solving any worries on a daily basis.

Causes of parenting stress

It is important to be aware of the causes of parenting stress and understand the support which you and your family can receive to minimise the effects of both internal and external stress. Stressors can originate from a variety of sources such as:

  • Children having problems at schools (e.g: bullying or falling behind) 

  • Health 

  • Family issues

  • The general wellbeing of your child

Internal stressors

Internal stressors occur within us, some often find that internal stress levels occur as a state of mind.

For example, having unrealistic expectations or allowing negative self-talk can induce and invite parenting stress.

Negative self-talk may begin with parents feeling as though they are not doing enough at home to be able to support their child’s learning at school. This can then go on to affect parents but also children’s daily life through anxiety and negative mental health.

Therefore, it is important to find the best way for you to release these emotions and cope with stress, whether it be writing it in a journal or talking to someone else. Find out more about managing stress and building resilience.

External stressors

External stressors include major life events such as job loss or demands placed by the physical environment.

This stress is usually caused by circumstances which children are aware of, so it is important to remember to reassure children in these situations.

For example, a way to reduce external stressors for both parents and children could be to keep adult conversations private or expressing news to your child in a way that they will understand.

Parent case study

Carey Ann Dodah, Explore Learning Curriculum Developer and mum of two, speaks to us about how she conquers stress relief by wearing noise-cancelling headphones: 

“Am I a stressed parent?"

I would love to answer no to this question but if you asked my kids they would say I am 100% a stressy mum! Even on my good days!

However, I know that things are changing even if my children don’t admit it. I am finding ways to reduce that stress and provide a happy, safe space for me and my family.

It is stressful being a parent – being a child’s ultimate protector comes with a lot of responsibility.

I’ve been doing it for 13 years and every day still has its challenges however I have discovered it’s only stressful if I let it. Over the years I have had to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths:

  • There is no such thing as mastering being a parent – I will make mistakes every day.

  • My children are my harshest critics – in their eyes, everyone else is doing a better job at parenting than me.

  • If there is chaos in the rest of my life you can bet that my children will feel the brunt of it.

My top tips

  1. Look after yourself and control the chaos: Exercising, spending time out with friends, treating yourself to really tasty exotic food that the kids don’t like.

  2. Don’t compare: Be the parent that you want to be, know what that is, and don’t be swayed by what you think all the other parents around you are doing.

  3. Know when to let go: How can you both protect and let go? Trust your instincts and make every decision with love. Letting your children know that you believe in them, but you must also make judgments of when something is safe or not.

  4. When things are getting really tough, put on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones: Silence is golden! It’s amazing how calm you’ll feel when your children realise they have to actually come and find you to get your attention rather than shouting out your name!

Remind yourself that being a parent is a beautiful gift and that to protect our children we have to be with them, we have to walk alongside them through their challenges, and most importantly we have to grow with them.”

Coping strategies for parents

Whether you’re in a moment of stress or starting to feel the stress in your life build-up, there are steps that you can take to help: 

Reach out for help

Asking for help is a positive step to take – not a sign of weakness. So don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or family for support, or to seek professional advice. Sometimes just talking and communicating your worries can help. 

Feeling like you need someone to talk to? Here are some places that may help:

  • Family Action provides a National Parent Support Service which helps to support you with the challenges of parenthood. To talk through an issue, call 0808 802 6666 

  • Family Lives gives support on all aspects of family life. To ask a question, call 0808 800 2222. 

  • Samaritans offer emotional support if you’re feeling distressed or if you’re in despair. Get in touch with them by calling 116 123.

Focus on the positive

Sometimes even just a change of language can help to shift our mindset to focus on the positives. Rather than thinking ‘Oh no, we need to get this homework done’, try telling yourself that you get to spend quality time with your child and be involved in their learning!

Plan your time

Create a consistent routine by sticking to set times for daily tasks, like scheduling in regular slots for after-school clubs. If you find that your schedule doesn’t seem to be working, try to identify the possible stress points in your day and consider what you can change about them to make them work better for you.

Mindfulness and Wellbeing

You and your wellbeing are important, so don’t skip out on self-care. From breathing exercises to mindfulness techniques, take a look at the 8 top relaxation tips recommended by Mind, one of the UK’s leading mental health charities.

Carve out some ‘you’ time

Making time within your weekly schedule for your hobbies or exercise can be a great way to carve out some ‘you time’. Though, the reality is, when you’re feeling exhausted after a busy day, going for a run may be the last thing you’d like to do! ‘You’ time doesn’t have to be a huge task and can be something that only takes 15 minutes such as listening to your favourite music. It can be as simple as putting on your favourite TV show or treating yourself to a nice dinner – something which you can do consciously every week for your own happiness and self-care.

Encourage positive attitudes in your children

Leading by example is the first step in encouraging your child to reflect positive energy and keep their head above the waves. Try to be mindful of saying anything negative yourself, and remember to frequently tell your child affirmations, such as how proud of them you are to increase their positivity and outlook.

Coping with parenting stress

Parenting stress is the distress you feel when you cannot cope with the mounting pressures and high demands of being a parent. Whereas parental anxiety is excessive worry about the future, with things that might go wrong. 

  • Focus on your wellbeing

If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to look after any other aspect of your life; work, home, or children. Take that moment to read that book, watch that film you are always too busy for, and spend time on your own aspirations. This will help calm nerves and encourage you to live in the moment.

  • Use relaxation techniques

If you do find yourself worrying and thinking of negative scenarios, use relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques allow us to have a clearer mind that helps positive thinking. Why not try one of these relaxation methods to relieve stress or tension. All you need is a green space outside, to take a deep breath and explore the nature around you. Focus on the sounds to calm you. 

  •  Know what you can control

You may feel like everything in your child’s life is your responsibility, but remember you can’t control and balance everything! Put effort into what you can control and let go of what you can’t. Children need to make mistakes and experience life to be prepared for adulthood! You can encourage building this resilience by giving them responsibility – get your child to clean their room or help prepare dinner. 

Managing family homework stress

"Sometimes we start arguing as a family over schoolwork, contributing to overall parenting stress. What can we do to reduce this?"

Sarah Fox, Head of Ofsted & Safeguarding, gives us her advice: ⁠

If like many parents, you feel like the pressures of homework often end in tears (child or parent!), you may find the following top tips to help you to feel more under control!

  • Identify the problem

Lots of children have anxieties surrounding schoolwork but talking openly with your child about what they are struggling within particular will help overcome this. Is time management an issue? Does your child always leave things to the last minute? Is it the pressure from the teacher or a looming exam pushing them over the edge? Or are they finding the work too challenging and need a bit of extra time or maths and English tuition support? Getting to the root of the issue is really important as it means you can work together to find a solution.

  • Create a schedule (but balance work with play!)

Sit down with your child to work out when and how they will manage their schoolwork. If they come up with the schedule and how they would like to reward themselves with free time, they are more likely to stick with it. Lots of children benefit from routine and planning, so reminding your child in the morning that ‘we have agreed tonight you complete your maths before football’ keeps them feeling prepared and in control. 

  • Ensure the environment is conducive to learning

Everyone can start to feel stressed when there is so much going on in the house, it’s no wonder that children may be reluctant to do schoolwork in the same room where parents are cooking dinner and siblings are playing computer games or with family pets. Try to find a quiet space where your child can do their work without distractions, but a parent can be on hand to support where necessary.

  • Offer choices

We all know that schoolwork needs to be done but giving your child options about when will help them to take ownership and control. For example, when your child needs to do spelling practice, ask them if they would like to do it before or after dinner. Or if they need to read their library book, would they like to do that with mum, dad, Grandma on the phone or to a younger sibling?

If you do find that tension starts to build and arguments happen, you should address this as a family. It’s important that as adults we set a good example, so if you feel you might have lost your cool, be the bigger person – explain that you haven’t handled the situation well and apologise so that your child can learn from your actions.

Coping skills for parents facing change

Change can be stressful, for children and adults, but we’ve collected some top tips and skills to help parents cope with whatever comes your way next. Whether it’s changing, houses, jobs or your children transitioning from reception to year 1, we’ve got some top tips to help you through it.

  • Acknowledge it. It’s okay to be stressed when our routines get shaken up, and even positive change can lead to stress. Telling yourself you shouldn’t be stressed is a recipe for disaster!

  • Talk about it. Bottling things up never helps – we all need support. Make sure you have friends and family you can talk to about your worries and concerns.

  • Don’t forget the positives. Most changes bring both positives and negatives, so keep the good things in mind.

  • Give your children time to process too. Change can be scary for children, and it’s only natural to want to protect them from that, but the earlier you can let them know what’s happening, and what it means for them, the more easily they’ll adapt.

  • Try to keep to a routine. While everything else changes around you, it can be incredibly empowering to know that some things stay the same, for you and your children. Whether that’s family game night, or taking a little time for yourself once a week, a little stability can go a long way.

  • Remember you’re only human. You can’t fix everything, and you can’t be perfect 100% of the time, so mistakes are going to happen! Remember to forgive yourself when they happen, and try to learn for next time.

You’re not alone!

Explore Learning’s experts are on hand to support the whole family, alleviating any stresses around your child’s schooling. Our tuition is designed to fit perfectly around your family life, meaning that your child can learn in an environment and at a time right for them.

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