Dear Parents, Are You Too Stressed Out?

3 important elements to healthy parenting

By Sarah Chua | 18 July, 2017

Parenting has got to be the toughest gig on earth.

Sleep deprivation and fatigue in the early years of parenthood take a toll on us. It lingers as more babies come and grow, and after rearing babies, we battle toddlerhood where they respond with tantrums, test our patience and push boundaries.

With older children, there’s the stress of getting them into the right school, their schoolwork and whether they are excelling. The list of parental stresses and challenges just never seem to end!

Recently, a video of a girl publicly caned by her parents was circulated online. While I empathise with these stressed-out parents — who felt caning was the best way to convey their message to their daughter — it’s my belief that discipline should come from a place of love, instead of anger.

On the occasions when my husband and I responded to our children’s misbehaviour in anger by shouting at them and saying unkind things, we regretted it instantly. We’ve since learnt to step away from our children to calm down when they’ve pushed too many buttons and almost drove us insane!

Recently, our elder son bit his brother on the cheek because they were fighting over a toy. I was furious! Thankfully, my husband was around and he helped me to calm down by taking my elder son for a time out while I comforted my younger one.

Eventually, we calmed down as a family and talked through the incident. We reminded our children of the family rules — do not hurt yourself, others and things. Our elder son apologised to us and his brother and promised not to do it again.

Healthy parenting requires teamwork between husband and wife and we often remind each other that children do not misbehave for no reason. When our children misbehave, we take time to identify the cause and try to solve the root issue. Patiently doing so requires us to stay sane in this parenting journey, so these three elements have been helpful for us.

Healthy Community = Happy Kids

We lived in Australia for over a decade before returning to Singapore in 2016. We relocated shortly after our second child arrived; the parenting challenges affected our emotional and mental wellness. Our families were thousands of kilometres away, unable to give us the support we sorely needed.

Since our return, our families’ help has been such a reprieve. Be it a late-night medical emergency or last-minute need for childcare help, we know we can rely on our extended family for support. Our children are also happy to have regular playdates with their cousins.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

A side-note to family and friends who are thinking of birthday presents for the kids — make it a gift of time by bringing them to the park or zoo. Your gift will be truly appreciated by the parents, who get a break, and the kids, who get to spend quality time with you. Win-win-win!

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.”

Healthy Parents = Happy Kids

You can’t take care of your kids without taking care of yourself. It’s not selfish to prioritise self-care, especially those struggling with guilt when they want to take a “break” from their kids. I struggle with that too.

In the early days of first-time motherhood, I just made sure my baby was fed rather than feed myself. While the baby slept, instead of taking that much-needed rest, I would busy myself by cleaning the house!

“You can’t take care of your kids without taking care of yourself.”

I’m still learning to make time for myself regularly so that I can recharge and face the challenges of parenting with a renewed body, mind and spirit!

Fathers also need time for themselves, in the midst of providing for the family’s myriad needs. It may be some time out with friends or a long run after a day’s work; whatever the preferred manner of unwinding, spouses have to support each other in our time of need.

Healthy Marriage = Happy Kids

The best gift you can give your children is a strong marriage. Our children thrive when they see their parents in a loving relationship. Many couples tend to neglect their marriage when the children arrive.

My husband and I were on survival mode when our first child arrived and our marriage took a hit. We were tired and cranky a lot, and all we were concerned about was whose turn it was to feed the baby, change his nappy or do the chores.

We have since learnt to carve out time to talk about us and our marriage, not the kids nor the house. Since returning to Singapore, we have gone on lunch dates and children-free holidays because the kids are with their grandparents!

“Our children thrive when they see their parents in a loving relationship.”

Parenting is tough, but it can become more manageable and enjoyable when we surround ourselves with a supportive community, and take time to recharge and prioritise our marriage so that both of us stay strong as a team.

© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

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