When parenting you need all the support you can get.

Kenyan mother of four girls

Parenting Can Be Tough. Asking for Help Doesn’t Have to Be.

You’ve heard it before—parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love. Being a parent is not easy, that’s for sure. Whether you’re just learning how to deal with diapers, trying to manage toddler tantrums or navigating the teenage years, children are a constant challenge. And they certainly don’t come with instructions.

It’s OKAY to ask for help.

We often hear parents say they are embarrassed or ashamed when they don’t know how to handle their children. There is a misconception in our society that parents should just automatically know how to be a parent! How silly! We take tests before we drive, study for years to earn professional degrees… why is parenting any different? Yet parents have to learn as they go.

Because of this, it’s incredibly important that all parents realize it’s OKAY to ask for help! In fact, when you ask for help you are taking a huge step toward becoming a stronger, happier parent.

Seeking support, strategies and resources is a smart and simple way to improve your parenting skills. There are some easy ways you can start today.

Take care of yourself. Raising a child is tough on a parent. It often means fewer hours of sleep, more stress about things like family dynamics and finances, and less time just for you. But it’s important to take care of yourself so that you have the energy and enthusiasm to really nurture your child. They will model your behavior, and if you are stressed out, angry or sad you will often see their behavior reflect that.

Reach out for support. You’ve heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” right? So why not reach out to trusted adults in your circle of family, friends or community? If you ask for their support in an effort to be a better parent, they will often be happy to help. Trusted adults can babysit, run an errand or just listen to you vent about stressful situations with your children.

Find resources in your area such as parent support groups and parenting classes. Many parents don’t realize just how much help is out there in the form of parenting classes, support groups and playgroups! A good place to start looking for these types of programs would be your local recreation center or library. Talking to other moms and dads can be very valuable, not to mention a great reminder that you are not alone in the challenge of parenting!

Remember that children can be a source of joy in your life. Sometimes we get so caught up in the stress and structure of parenthood that we forget how much fun our kids can be! Talk about comic relief! How many of us haven’t laughed at something cute or clever our kids have said or done? Parenting is not easy, but it can be so helpful if you can take a step back and find the humor in day-to-day situations.

Understanding Child Development

Children can be especially difficult to handle when they are going through developmental changes (which can be pretty often as kids are always growing up!) Newborns, toddlers, school children and teenagers each come with their own unique challenges and milestones.

Prepare yourself for these changes by learning more about child development (which is often covered in parenting classes). By knowing what’s ahead, you can be ready for the challenge!

Other Special Challenges

Parenting can be especially challenging when you or your family is dealing with significant change or trauma. If your family is in the midst of a situation such as homelessness, debt, divorce, illness or the death of a loved one, be prepared for the added stress and parenting challenges that, understandably, come along with this territory. Seek extra support from your family, friends, a local community center or your child’s school. Parents, just like anyone, need extra help to navigate through times like these.

When parenting overwhelms you…

It happens to all of us at some time or another. You’re in the midst of parenting your child and suddenly you hit your breaking point. Maybe your baby won’t stop crying. Or your toddler bites you. Or your teenager is screaming at you.

You might get very angry. Or very sad. Perhaps confused, depressed, or aggressive. We all react differently, but there is a simple, easy-to-remember strategy that can help:

First, count to 5. Take a deep breath and give yourself a moment to calm down before reacting. Make a conscious effort to focus on the positive in your child before taking any action.

Next, give your child 5 minutes. Drop whatever you are doing—cooking dinner, paying bills, talking on the phone—and give your child at least 5 minutes of undivided attention.

Finally, take these 5 steps:

  1. Get down on their level.

  2. Make eye contact.

  3. Smile.

  4. Ask a question. It can be as simple as, “I am listening. What would you like to tell me?”

  5. End with a hug and say, “I love you!”

By taking a moment to do something like this, you’ll be better prepared to first CONNECT with your child and then REACT to your child in a nurturing and constructive way, thereby teaching your child an important life coping lesson by your example.

Parenting is an endless challenge. Often as we get through one challenge we immediately hit the next! From sleepless nights with an infant to potty training to schoolyard fights, it never seems to end! Our children—like us—have good days and bad days. Take the time to celebrate the highs and find support during the lows.

And remember, it’s absolutely, 100% NORMAL to be frustrated, confused and challenged by parenting. But know that there are ways to deal with those feelings, and learn how to turn them into constructive energy that can help you be a better parent. Take care of yourself, reach out for support and find resources like a parent support group. You will be amazed at how these simple steps can make a huge difference in your parenting skills and personal happiness!

Parenting isn’t easy, but it CAN be a very rewarding experience. Your children—and YOU—deserve a chance to enjoy the adventure. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to get there!

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