The Overwhelmed Parent
Does this sound familiar?
“I just don’t know what to do. I feel overwhelmed. My husband is recently disabled and very limited in what he can do. We have two small children, both with a lot of needs and I feel like I’m doing a lot on my own. We have support from people at church and some friends, but the day to day stuff is overwhelming as I cannot leave my kids alone with my husband. I am tired and stressed from work, being the sole provider was never our intention. Work used to be great but now there is drama there too. Help!”
So the first thing I would highlight is that this mother sounds overwhelmed and unable to manage all of her stress. The questions I would be interested in, in terms of how stress has been handled before are: How is this stressor different from others? And what is it that you are looking for in terms of help? You have resources you can access which is a big plus.
*please note this overwhelmed parent can be a mother, a father, grandmother, or really anyone who is taking primary care of their children.
Managing Triggers as an Overwhelmed Parent:
After drawing attention to and narrowing down the problem, I would focus on expanding this parents tool box. I will focus on giving you some tools to manage in the moment triggers.
#1 When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a moment and reflect. Sit with those thoughts and feelings for a few moments (not literally sit) but just try to start to relax . This is where grounding techniques will come in handy. Grounding allows you to become present and focused in the moment. This is done by telling yourself to take slow and steady deep breaths. Talk to yourself, “calm down, it’s ok. I can handle this”. etc Just repeating until the anxiety begins to subside. You will feel your heart beating slower and the thoughts moving slower in your head as well.
#2 If you can, grab a piece of paper and pen and just jot down whatever comes to mind, knowing that you will be able to access this when you have quiet moment. This allows you to have a concrete place for all your thoughts rather than trying to move them to the back of your mind. This will decrease the anxiety as you wont have to worry about forgetting something important.
At this moment your anxiety should be significantly reduced and you can then you can move to step 3.
#3 Prioritize. What needs to be done right now? What can wait? What do you need? If your trying to take care of your family, then here is where you prioritize. Maybe your husband can take things out for dinner while you get your kids settled into an activity or maybe he can settle them into an activity while you get dinner done. Play off each other’s strengths. You mentioned that he is disabled, but if he can engage with the children in an activity while your getting dinner ready then that is one load off your mind. If he becomes overwhelmed by the children, then maybe he can get dinner going.
If your children are old enough elicit their support. Kids, especially younger ones (under 12), love being near (proximity) their parents. They also look to their parents as models and so they will be happy for the added responsibility of taking food out of the refrigerator or stirring the sauce, especially when the parent is right there encouraging them.
If need be, separating the children, having one help in the kitchen with you, while the other is doing something with your husband is also a good strategy, since sometimes sibling rivalry (competing for the attention and affection of their parents) can often be higher on some days and can cause more stress if your trying to support them in reducing conflict. If one or both children had a particularly bad day at school, which you can tell if they are snapping at each other in the car, your best bet is to have them separated immediately, while your trying to organize and get into your evening routine (i.e. Dinner and homework).
#4 That evening or another quiet/slow moment when you have time look at your list and see what needs to be done. You focus on develop a plan and routine for your family. Kids love routines because it reduces anxiety. Routines help children understand more complex operations such as causality (A comes before B), which is helpful for children who can’t tell time, have anxiety and/or ADHD. If every day the routine is wake up, make bed, brush teeth, get dressed/shower, eat breakfast and then go off to school your children will learn to incorporate that and move more on auto pilot. Similarly if you have an evening routine which you set up with your husband before hand, using these strategies then it will be a lot easier to manage your own feelings when you have a particularly bad day. You may be able to have your husband or another resource come in and support you during those times when your needing a minute by being able to explain, either in writing or in person, the routine of your evening and how they can get things done effectively.
These are just a few strategies, tips, and recommendations! I hope you found this post helpful! I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!
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Until we connect again,
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