How to Manage Stress When You're Raising a Child with Behavior Problems

Manage the stress of parenting a child with behavior problems.
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It’s happened again – your child’s school called because he talked back to the teacher, got into a fight, ran out of class or exhibited any other myriad problematic behaviors. It’s exhausting to be the parent of a child with behavioral problems.

And while it may be tempting to overeat, relax with a glass of wine, or binge watch your favorite reality show, these aren’t the healthiest ways to deal with the stress.

And, not to add to the guilt factor, but unhealthy stress-coping tactics can actually affect your child negatively, exacerbating the problem.

Depending on the severity of the stress, you might just need some time alone and solid meditation tactics. However, a much more stressful situation could call for professional help.

Engage in Healthy Coping Skills

Although research is limited, there’s evidence to suggest that a parent who reports unhealthy levels of parenting stress are more likely to be negative during interactions with kids – and, in time, that can lead to a poor parent-child relationship and additional behavioral problems with the child.

So, ask yourself: How do I cope with stress? Do I engage in healthy behaviors like taking a long run or drawing a hot bath? Or do I turn to alcohol, a cigarette and other risky behavior? Your child is learning how to cope with uncomfortable feelings by watching you.

Practice Self-Care

As a busy parent, there’s usually very little opportunity for “me” time. However, this alone time is necessary, particularly in a stressful situation, to keep your sanity.

Although asking for help can be hard, be willing to ask your partner, your parents, a friend or a paid helper to take your children off your hands for a few hours.

Decide whether your time is better spent taking time to relax or getting work done.

Maintain this “me” time throughout the week as much as possible. After the kids go to bed (or, in the case of a teenager, when he’s watching his favorite prime time TV show), go out for a walk or take a hot bath. Even 15 to 30 minutes will let you find a little Zen.

Start Slow with Deep Breathing

In a stressful situation, it’s easy to let your breathing get out of control. When you tense up, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid, worsening the situation because you’re being deprived of oxygen.

When you notice yourself growing increasingly stressed, the best way to stay calm is by taking a time-out. Similar to the way you may place your child in time-out, go to a quiet place, even if it’s a bathroom. Spend a few minutes gathering your composure.

Close your eyes and focus on taking deep breaths. The breathing should expand your rib cage and abdomen. At night, spend 5 to 10 minutes practicing deep breathing, and you’ll be able to do it more effectively when you experience a stressful situation.

Seek Professional Help

If you’re struggling to manage your stress, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a therapist or counselor who can assist you in managing your stress.

A therapist may offer tips on how to deal with your child’s behavior, or you may learn strategies to help cope with your stress. Either way, an objective person can assist you in creating positive changes in your life so you can parent your child at your best.

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