Contributed by The Indiana Gazette
Blaming Your Gray Hairs on Your Teen? Findings show that parents of young and school-age children are becoming more stressed. The Pennsylvania Psychological Association offers parents tips for managing stress. Parents have a lot on their plate: shuffling children from school and activities, worrying about their health and well-being, and balancing the family’s budget, for example. The good news is that as your kids grow, your stress levels may actually shrink. According to a recent national survey from the American Psychological Association, parents of teenagers experience lower levels of stress than parents of young or school-age children. While parents with children of all ages report that work interferes with their ability to fulfill family responsibilities, the survey revealed that parents of young and school-aged children are more likely than parents of teens to report that work interfering with their personal time is a very significant source of stress (18 percent and 12 percent verses 2 percent). And while stereotypically rebellious and cranky teenagers are traditionally blamed for causing more gray hairs and worry lines, parents of young children reported more stress originating in the home as well. For parents of young and school-aged children, intimate relationships are a source of stress (54 percent and 57 percent vs. 38 percent of those with teenage children), and these parents are more likely than parents of teenagers to report arguing with a spouse or partner (52 percent young and 53 percent school-aged vs. 35 percent teenagers). “Younger children are more dependent upon parents and require more attention than teens,” says Dr. Andrea Delligatti, Ph.D., President of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association. “So it’s no surprise that parents with infants and elementary school-age kids experience more stress.” Between work and raising small children and relationships with their significant other, they’re juggling a lot of demands. The key to dealing with stress is recognizing what triggers stress and implementing healthy behaviors to address it. The Pennsylvania Psychological Association offers the following tips for parents: * Understand how you experience stress. Everyone experiences stress differently. How do you know when you are stressed? How are your thoughts or behaviors different from times when you feel calm? * Identify stressors. What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your children, family health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else? * Recognize how you deal with stress. Determine if you are using unhealthy behaviors to cope with the stressors of parenthood. Distinguish between routine behaviors and those specific to certain events or situations. For example, when you feel stressed are you unusually short tempered with your children? * Change one behavior at a time. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Don’t take on too much at once. Focus on changing only one behavior at a time. * Find healthy ways to manage stress. Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities – taking a short walk, exercising or talking things out with friends or family. Making time for what’s really important will lower stress levels. * Prioritize and delegate responsibilities and delay or say no to less important tasks. * Ask for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to persevere during stressful times. If your stress level is affecting your daily life or feels overwhelming, consider speaking with a psychologist who can help you manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors. To learn more about stress and mind/body health, visit the Pennsylvania Psychological Association’s Web site, www.papsy.org.