Parents' lives are packed with change. Changing family structures, changing economic demands, changing developmental stages of our children. We are constantly being forced to adapt.

Each of those adaptations is stressful.For example, we must rearrange our lifestyles to accommodate a teenager's growing need for independence. Or we must be ever vigilant to keep a newly walking toddler safe.

Even positive events induce stress. The discovery of a long-desired pregnancy moves a couple from the stresses of the fertility clinic into the changes associated with pregnancy, possible career adjustments and nursery decorations.

Certainly some events are more stressful than others. Caring for a seriously ill child, for example, or handling a teen's drug problem are far more stressful than helping a child on a history project.

But because stressful events are cumulative, even seemingly minor events can be too much. Changing hours at work, one child at home with the flu, a car in the repair shop and an argument with your spouse can shoot your stress levels through the roof.

Suddenly, one innocent request to bake cookies for the school picnic seems overwhelming, and you fall apart at the seams.

All stressful events, if left unchecked, can take their toll on our bodies and our lives. Stress has been found to be related to myriad physical ailments from headaches to peptic ulcers and arthritis.

Overly stressed parents usually report feeling irritable and tired. They do and say things to their loved ones that they wouldn't do or say under calmer conditions. They don't enjoy their children or spouses.

In short, they find little enjoyment in their lives. High stress levels make us feel out of control. We're no longer in the driver's seat of our lives, but rather chasing along behind the car.

You can help diminish stress, however, by examining different areas of your life and determining where you can regain control.

For example, let's say you have a new baby. You feel stressed and out of control because you can't get anything done during the day. You can't change your stage of life, but you may decide to do household chores during the baby's first nap, and put your feet up and read a magazine during the afternoon nap. You'll be taking care of both your family and yourself.

Set limits on your time. You can't do everything for every person in your life, including your kids. Limit your children to workable after-school activities. Say "no" to other commitments you just can't take on.

Find solutions to stressful situations to the best of your ability. One wise mom I know drastically cut the stress around her home in the evening by hiring a tutor to help her daughter with her homework. Mom didn't have to lock horns with the daughter over her geometry and was free to help her other youngsters.

View Comments

Keep realistic expectations about what you and your family should be doing. For instance, don't expect that your 5-year-old will keep his room immaculate, or that your toddler will be able to sit quietly through dinner. Work with them as best you can, but don't develop an ulcer over their behavior.

Allow yourself plenty of time to relax and recharge. You can't do anything if your internal battery is drained.

While high stress times are the LEAST conducive times for relaxation, they are the MOST important times to do so. Whether you take a walk, catch a movie, read a book or ride your bike, you'll be taking a positive step toward minimizing your stress.

"Rattle Fatigue" (Impact Publishers Inc.).

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.