First Aid for stress just isn’t good enough. You need major surgery.

If you’re anything like me, you find yourself, from time to time, asking why so many self-help books and articles provide nothing more than sticking plasters for parental stress and overwhelm. They offer things like ‘Twenty Ways to Eliminate Overwhelm or ‘Top Ten Tips for Stress Reduction’. What? So sitting down for ten minutes and drinking a cup of tea is going to make your screaming kids parental responsibilities disappear, is it?

Now, I love a cup of tea, me. Always good in a crisis – and goes particularly well with a squidgy cream cake – but, along with many other stress-busting suggestions, it only offers an immediate fire-fighting tool. It doesn’t tell us how to avoid starting the fire in the first place. What we need is something that will signpost us through the hot-spots to our goal. We need to focus on the destination, not on the hurdles that are in the way.

I did a quick search, and it seems that stress is everywhere:

  • It’s the number one factor in work absenteeism.
  • It’s the subject of a whole plethora of academic studies that show it’s bad for the kids, it’s bad for us. It’s bad for the unborn, the newborn, the lovelorn and the careworn!
  • It can lead to tiredness, ill health, anger and abusive family relationships.
  • In one parent survey, 23% of mums felt so overwhelmed that they craved time alone.
  • 47% of parents with children under the age of 18 report feeling stressed. That’s almost half of us!
  • In one month alone there were 9,140,000 stress-related searches on the internet.
  • A stress breath-test is now being devised, similar to an alcohol breathalyser. Ooh, does that mean we won’t be allowed to offer child-taxi services if we’re over the stress-limit? Some hope.

Seriously though, when it comes to our homes, is having the socks paired up and the toys ‘boxed’ more important than showing our children how valuable they are by reading them a story for ten minutes, or checking out their latest music video? Is having our bathroom as sparkling as our kitchen really necessary? (Don’t know about you, but I never eat in mine!) But, as we start to ask the right questions a change in our parenting perspective starts to take place. We go beyond the quick-fix Band-Aid to some heart-changing surgery. Take a look at these and see if you can answer them.

What kind of adults do you want your children to become?

  • What ideas or attributes do you most value?
  • What kind of values do you want your children to pass on to theirs?
  • How are you preparing your children to contribute to the world, not mindlessly consume it?

You see, I believe that stress is largely borne out of an excessively intense focus on the minutiae of daily living. When we take the time to look at the bigger picture, when we take a step back and re-focus on where we want our family to go, much of the stress will fall away.  Jobs will still need to be done; homework finished and dishes wiped. But we’ll be able to see what’s really important and focus on picking the battles we really need to fight.  If we lose a skirmish here or there we haven’t lost the war.  If we can establish what the really important things are for our family we’ll know exactly where we’re going and how to take our children there.

To read more about the importance of values, how you can discover yours and how they enable you to parent more effectively, see my book, ‘Unlock the Cage

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  1. Sally Sutcliffe
    4 years ago

    Thanks for this reminder that so much stress is self-induced, by worrying about the little things and losing sight of the bigger picture. And yes, for the perfectionists among us, it’s so hard to let things go – maybe we should actively AIM to lose a few battles!!


  2. Jackie Charley
    4 years ago

    You’re welcome, Sally. If we get the foundations right, our family ‘building’ and children’s future will be so much more robust and able to take the inevitable knocks that life will throw at us. And yes, I love your idea of aiming to lose a few battles. Have fun!


  3. Jackie Charley
    4 years ago

    Thanks, Harriet. Yep, it’s the important,not always the urgent that needs our attention – the urgent usually gets enough ‘air time’ of its own. With you on embracing the joy of the moment though – they don’t have to contradict, do they?

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