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  • Writer's pictureHaim Omer

Helping the parents of small children cope with fatigue and daily hassles

We all know that the parents of small children are often exhausted. If in addition to the “normal parenting fatigue”, the child also suffers from such conditions as sleep problems, ADHD or acute anxiety, the parents’ task can be particularly demanding. It is not surprising that articles on “parental burnout” have appeared both in the leading media and in professional journals.

The new authority model is probably the only approach to parenting that views parental wellbeing no less than child wellbeing as a central concern; and this, for a double reason: a) parents deserve help no less than children, and b) parental distress increases child distress. My recent book “Courageous Parents” presents a detailed program for improving the situation of both parents and child.

In a series of studies (see, we have shown that our approach leads not only to improvements in children’s problematic behaviors, but also help parents overcome their helplessness, reduce family chaos, enjoy more support, diminish conflicts with the child, and reduce hassles and fatigue (we developed a special “parental hassles questionnaire” to measure this variable). Moreover, not only the child’s behavior improves, but also their feelings of anxiety and depression, showing that the child is not only behaving but also feeling better.

The chief concept that allows parents to help themselves and their child is that of the anchoring function. Parental anchoring refers to the parents’ ability to become more controlled and emotionally regulated, reconnect to their resources, stop “chasing after the child”, overcome their isolation and set the child warm and loving limits. The following are some of the principles and “tips” that allow parents to do so:

Your wellbeing, tranquility and personal space are not only vital for you, but also for your child! Without them, your child won’t benefit from a parental anchor, for a hassled and exhausted parent cannot confer stability and safety.

Learn how to avoid useless conflicts, verbal battles and endless explanations. When you feel your child is pulling you in those directions, breathe deeply, and tell him instead: “I don’t accept this! I’ll tell you later, what I’ve decided!” This illustrates the principle “Strike the iron when it is… cold!” This principle will save you a lot of energy that is wasted in bootless conflicts. You’ll be surprised to find out that a delayed response is also more effective than an immediate one.

An isolated parent is inevitably weak and hassled. Ask yourself how you can get help from grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. Our studies have shown that parents can access much more support than they had thought possible. To achieve this, they have to learn how, what and whom to ask. Help can often be given by phone, text messages, zoom and email. You’ll be surprised how a child reacts, when her grandpa calls her to talk about something she has done.

Self-control helps you to rest! Here are a few “mantras” that may help you regulate yourselves in difficult situations: “Strike the iron when it is… cold!” “You can’t control your child, but only yourself!” “You don’t have to win, but only to persist!”

Make a judicious use of the power of time. When you stop trying to resolve everything on the spur of the moment, you become able to prepare yourself, implement your decisions and follow up on them. This will not exhaust you, on the contrary, you’ll find out that you are the one to decide when and where to act. As a rule of thumb, it may suffice to perform one decision of this kind (involving preparation, implementation and follow-up) once a week, to improve your life and the family atmosphere. A parent who stands upon “the pillar of time” is much taller.

Ask yourself which services you perform for your child, that are not only unnecessary but potentially damaging. Doing so will make you avoid “harmful giving”, which can be deeply hurtful for you and your child. You may discover that, especially when you rest, your child grows.

These tips are only “the tips of the parenting iceberg”. In our work with parents, we have shown how they can be systematically implemented. In reconnecting to yourselves, your resources and your sources of support you may actually be giving your child the biggest gift of all: a parent who is well-anchored to his/her parental ground, thus becoming able to offer their child the needed anchor for growing up safe and well.

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