Category Archives: Anxiety, Fears and Phobias

Parent Stress (Part 2)

Stressed Mother on Telephone --- Image by © Goodshoot/Corbis● Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends and families of new parents will often offer their help by way of babysitting services, or cooking meals for the new family in the early days after baby’s arrival home. New parents may accept this help in the beginning but begin to feel they need to cope alone and refuse later offers of assistance. If you have more than one child, the load becomes even greater and asking for assistance may become vital to the well being of everyone in your family.

● Spend time together: Spend time with your family doing something fun. Parents have so many daily demands on them that it is common to feel we don’t have time to enjoy our families. It may seem ridiculous, but consider scheduling in fun time with your family ­ we schedule everything else and those things that don’t get allocated time often don’t happen. Spending “quality” time with our family members alleviates stress, improves relationships, improves the behaviour of our children, and reminds us why we decided to have kids in the first place.

● Manage mental health issues: Recognise when your own anxieties and worries are playing a role in your overall stress levels. Many parents find they have a set of their own personal concerns regarding their new family that contributes to their overall level of stress. Be this financial concerns, anxiety about raising children or other personal worries that may be contributing ­ it is important to seek professional assistance in working through those issues.

We all have ideal notions about what family life will be like but, unfortunately, daily demands of parenting, job requirements, running a household, financial stressors, and other responsibilities can tend to drain our mental and emotional resources, leading to stress. However, there are a few simple things you can do to alleviate some stress in your life and take the time to enjoy the family you have created.

Parent Stress

Parent stress 2Many new parents spend the greater part of the 9 months of pregnancy dreaming and romanticising about their new family constellation and the “bundle of joy” they are about experience. Often the reality of having a baby is very different to the idea, and many parents find themselves somewhat overwhelmed by the adjustments and demands being placed on them in the first few months of caring for their new baby, and during periods of the years that follow when new challenges arise.

In fact, a new study on parental happiness (or the lack thereof) has found that, whileanticipatory happiness rose in the year preceding the birth, a significant percentage of parents reported a drop in overall happiness once baby had arrived. Then, each additional child introduces a new level of stress to the family dynamic.

Parental stress, while inevitable and normal, certainly has an effect on baby. Children are well aware of their parents’ reactions and attuned to their emotions. Many studies have indicated that when mum is stressed, the baby is likely to experience stress too. So while some of this stress is inevitable, managing parental stress becomes a priority – ­ not only for the children’s sake, but for your own mental health as well.

What can I do to manage my stress?

● Self care: The first step is to ensure that you are looking after yourself. It is very easy

to forget about your own needs, or at least bump them to the bottom of the priority

list, when you have children. However, it is really important that you prioritize your

own needs as well. That means ensuring that you follow a healthy diet, get enough

rest (wherever and whenever you can) and exercise. Taking out 30 minutes for a

brisk walk by yourself can do wonders for your mental state ­ not only does it get the

blood flowing, but it gives you some valuable time to yourself.

Other self care activities can take a few seconds and may seem more do­able if you

feel strapped for time:

● breathe ­ take a long deep slow breath in and an even longer slower breath

out

● focus on what you are doing ­ use your senses to fully notice your actions and

surroundings, e.g. with a mouthful of food take a second or two to notice the

taste, texture, smell, sounds, and sights

● stop what you are doing and sit with silence (for the few seconds that you get)

● gently stretch ­ raise your arms above your head or out in front/to the sides,

look left and right, roll your shoulders, try and touch your toes.

● take a moment to switch off from the outside world ­ read an article in a

magazine, check facebook (briefly!!), look through your junk mail…

References:

1 http://www.alternet.org/culture/new­study­finds­having­your­first­child­makes­you­miserable

2 http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/stress­and­your­baby

 

Click here to read the rest of the article on parent stress

Managing Parenting stress

Many new parents spend the greater part of the 9 months of pregnancy dreaming and romanticising about their new family constellation and the “bundle of joy” they are about experience. Often the reality of having a baby is very different to the idea, and many parents find themselves somewhat overwhelmed by the adjustments and demands being placed on them in the first few months of caring for their new baby, and during periods of the years that follow when new challenges arise.

In fact, a new study on parental happiness (or the lack thereof) has found that, while anticipatory happiness rose in the year preceding the birth, a significant percentage of parents reported a drop in overall happiness once baby had arrived .  Then, each additional child introduces a new level of stress to the family dynamic.

Parent Stress changes child psychology brisbaneParental stress, while inevitable and normal, certainly has an effect on baby. Children are well aware of their parents’ reactions and attuned to their emotions. Many studies have indicated that when mum is stressed, the baby is likely to experience stress too . So while some of this stress is inevitable, managing parental stress becomes a priority – not only for the children’s sake, but for your own mental health as well.

The first step is to ensure that you are looking after yourself. It is very easy to forget about your own needs, or at least bump them to the bottom of the priority list, when you have children. However, it is really important that you prioritize your own needs as well. That means ensuring that you follow a healthy diet, get enough rest (wherever and whenever you can) and exercise. Taking out 30 minutes for a brisk walk by yourself can do wonders for your mental state – not only does it get the blood flowing, but it gives you some valuable time to yourself.

Other self care activities can take a few seconds and may seem more do-able if you feel strapped for time and energy:

  • breathe – take a long deep slow breath in and an even longer slower breath out
  • focus on what you are doing – use your senses to fully notice your actions and surroundings, e.g. with a mouthful of food take a second or two to notice the taste, texture, smell, sounds, and sights
  • stop what you are doing and sit with silence (for the few seconds that you get)
  • gently stretch – raise your arms above your head or out in front/to the sides, look left and right, roll your shoulders, try and touch your toes.
  • take a moment to switch off from the outside world – read an article in a magazine, check facebook (briefly!!), look through your junk mail…

Click here to read the second part of this article

Post Natal Depression – Dad’s get it too

The birth of a child can be emotionally challenging for both parents. While it is widely recognised that women struggle with post natal depression and are often overwhelmed by sleepless nights and fussy babies, research shows that fathers may also struggle with post natal depression . In fact, one study in the UK suggested that as many as 1 in 3 fathers were concerned about their mental health . In Australia, about one in twenty fathers are diagnosed with depression during their partner’s pregnancy or in the year following his baby’s birth, with symptoms most concerning between six weeks and six months after the baby’s birth.

While men may not always be directly affected by 2 hourly feeds, sleepless nights and fussy babies, fathers do feel affected by the changing roles in the family, the increased financial demands and worries about extra responsibilities being placed on them. In many cases, dads experience PND alongside their partner. However, they can also suffer depression independently of their partner.

What can I do if I am concerned about my mental health or my partner’s mental health following the birth of our child?

  • While men can often feel uncomfortable about talking about their feelings, it is necessary to seek assistance and support as soon as possible. Find friends and family that you trust to confide in and, if possible, seek psychology support
  • The added demands of having a baby sometimes leave people feeling they have no time for themselves. However, it is important that you and your partner still find time to do things that help you both relax and take your mind off every day challenges.
  • Trying to allocate even a few minutes a day or an hour a week to hobbies or activities you both enjoy or find relaxing. This might involve one of your caring or monitoring the baby during that time, or it might involve taking the baby with you

Just Baby Blues or Post natal depression?

Everyone has heard of the “baby blues” and, while this is a normal aftermath of giving birth, post natal depression (PND) is not. The baby blues are a brief period of time after giving birth when the mother feels teary and emotional. It is more than likely due to the change in hormones, particularly in breastfeeding mothers, and should resolve itself within a week or two. Post natal depression, however, is an illness that can occur at any time during the first year following childbirth and needs to be treated. It is surprising how many women struggle with PND and yet few can identify the symptoms or feel comfortable seeking help when they are struggling. In Australia it is estimated that that 6-22% of women experience depression following the birth of their baby (Braun and Hartmann, 2015).

Changes psychology Brisbane Post natal depression supportSome symptoms of PND

Telling the difference between ordinary baby blues and Post natal depression is the first step in finding help and getting through this difficult time. While baby blues leave a woman feeling teary, irritable, lonely, or anxious for the first week or so after giving birth,Post natal depression takes it a step further and often leaves mum feeling hopeless and anxious consistently for two weeks or more. Other symptoms include disabling thoughts about not being fit for motherhood, negative feelings toward the baby, irrational fears, persistent low mood and loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. The mother struggles to sleep, even when given a chance, and experiences changes in her appetite. Some women may even begin to have suicidal thoughts.

What can I do?

Struggling withPost natal depression does not mean you are “weak”, or that you have failed at motherhood. There is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about. The statistics show that there are a significant number of women who struggle withPost natal depression. Unfortunately Post natal depression also robs most mothers of the joys of parenting in the early days and in some cases affects the attachment between mother and baby. In this sense, identifying the condition and acknowledging your need for help will assist on the road to recovery and to a more fulfilling relationship with motherhood. So, if you are concerned about how you are feeling and have been having symptoms for over two weeks talk to your partner or other supportive people in your environment and, where possible, seek professional assistance. Changes has several psychologists experienced in supporting families through Post natal depression and other parenting challenges.
Reference list

Braun, K., & Hartmann, J. (2015). Antenatal and Postnatal Depression. Womens’ Health: Brisbane, QLD.

Regular time together

5. Plan a regular block of time every day or every couple of days after school to do an activity WITH your child.

Changes Psychology school routinesDo something individually with your child, that doesn’t involve homework or getting ready for school or for bed every day. Even just 5 minutes a day together, without the use of electronic devices, can really help strengthen the parent-child relationship, as children often really look forward to it as part of their day.

 

It is even more difficult for working parents who often do not get home until 6 or 7pm at night, however this makes 5 minutes together even more valued. You might choose to spend this time doing something together for 5 minutes before you start the dinner and bed routines. Or you might choose to  spend it just before bed, engaging in a ‘quiet time’ activity. Some examples are reading a book together, working on a puzzle or research a topic that might involve looking up information on the internet. It doesn’t really matter what the activity is, it’s more the fact that parents do it TOGETHER with their child, and not simply direct them to go and do it while they do something on their own.

The research shows that the strength of the parent-child relationship, called attachment, is enhanced with small blocks of time, from 1 to 5 minutes, spent engaging positively with children on a regular and predictable schedule – at least once per day and at a similar time of the day so children learn to expect it. The more you spend these brief blocks of time engaging with your child, the more your relationship will develop with them! And it’s also a good way to help reduce the frequency and intensity of challenging behaviours, as connecting more with a child can only help to reduce the anxieties or emotions underlying their behaviours.

 

5 Tips to get your kids back into the swing of school

There are many factors that can help children settle back into the school year – all involve consistency and predicatability of implementation.

It’s the consistent application of these areas that helps to reduce anxiety and aims reduce the incidence of challenging behaviours

1. Re-establish a regular before-school and after school routines from week 1

They might vary each day depending on commitments and might need to be varied for different children in a family. Routines are the foundation you can build other strategies and helpful behaviours on. Families that have inconsistent or unreliable routines tend to encounter more problem behaviours and more challenges on a daily basis.

The most helpful way to avoid inconsistent routines that vary from day to day, is to write down the morning and afternoon routines – most inconsistent routines are verbal and based on the parent verbally requesting the child to engage in the next activity.

The start of a new school year is a great opportunity to develop consistent morning and afternoon routines and enjoy a smoother running household overall.

2. Look into engaging or re-engaging your child in an activity or sport outside of school

For many kids, participating in activities such as scouts, guides, martial arts or sports gives them something to look forward to each week, an opportunity to develop social skills/ develop friendships and gives them an opportunity to develop their self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s quite common for kids to decide they don’t like an activity part way through a year or after only a couple of attempts, but don’t necessarily disregard last years attempt as something they won’t like for ever. Maybe sit down and have discuss a couple of ideas for this year and then go and organise to just go along and watch before committing to an activity. Choosing something that matches your child’s strengths and interests is often importantChanges Psychology extra curricular activities

How to regulate a child’s emotions and behaviour

Children are generally less able to regulate, or control, their emotional expression and behaviour than adults.

Changes Psychology regulate emotions and behaviourEveryone experiences emotions – the feelings we have in response to situations and events. It is healthy to have a spectrum of emotions but the way our responses are expressed to others can cause difficulties, especially with children.  This is due to brain development,  is age related and also dependant on the levels of resilience the child has.

However, supportive adults can help children express their emotions and associated behaviours in socially acceptable ways and improve a child’s resilience and ability to deal with things better now and in the future.

Some ideas include:

  • Talking about emotions with your child in your everyday conversations. Using a variety of words to describe emotions encourages children to verbalise what they are feeling rather than act it out. Normalising ALL emotions is also important so your child feels ok about themselves, even when they are experiencing unpleasant emotions.
  • Setting up realistic expectations and boundaries for behaviour. Children have very little control over what happens in their lives but being able to predict the outcomes of their behaviours helps them to make choices about how they express themselves.
  • Guiding behaviour with attention and acknowledgement of efforts to behave appropriately and safely. Pay more attention to the behaviours you want and less to the behaviours you don’t want (considering safety needs).
  • modelling the expression your own emotions with appropriate words and behaviours. Children learn from those around them so your ways of expressing and managing emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, are ideal opportunities to show kids that emotions can be felt and expressed safely and appropriately.

Promoting resilience -making decisions

 When our children struggle we often want to try and fix things for them

However doing this all the time can undermine our child’s belief in their own ability to make decisions and confidence in their problem solving skills. The ability to problem solve and make decisions is paramount in life as humans are constantly faced with choices  and challenges. The ability to solve their own problems is a huge part of resilience for kids.Changes psychology- making decisions

When your child is faced with a problem, listen to their perspective on the issue and let them know you are willing to help and support them before looking for solutions.

 

Problem solving involves a few basic steps that you can help your child to learn and implement:

  • Define the problem – it is very difficult to manage an issue if your child (or you) are unclear as to what the problem actually is. Also consider whether your child needs or wants to do anything about this problem
  • Brainstorm ideas to deal with this problem – write down any ideas no matter how silly they seem.
  • Look at each idea and discuss what might happen if your child did each idea.
  • Encourage your child to choose which ideas he or she may like to try out. Support your child in picking out a few ideas.
  • Encourage your child to put their chosen ideas into practice – try the first idea, see if it works. If not, try the second idea (and so on).

The fact is that kids learn to make decisions by making decisions, not by following directions~ Alfie Kohn

If your child seems stuck on choosing poor ideas, offer gentle guidance by helping them to think about the potential consequences of their actions. As your child practices these problem solving steps, he or she will become more confident in making decisions for themselves, and willing to try out their ideas knowing that they have backup plans if things don’t turn out as expected. And that fosters resilience as they know they can try things another way.

Read more: How to regulate a child’s emotions and behaviour

 

Resilient children and flexible routines

Routines that allow flexibility are a good way to create resilient children.

Routines are important for children as they provide a sense of predictability in an otherwise unpredictable world. Routines also facilitate a sense of control and independence as children know what is expected, know how to complete tasks  ask for help, and learn to manage their actions within a set pattern of activities to be done.

Changes Psychology Chore chart family chore chartRoutines can provide much comfort in times of distress, again because your child knows what to expect and what comes next, helping with their resilience or ability to continue on and cope with the situation. 


Encourage your child to be involved in establishing routines within the family, e.g. what needs to be done in the mornings before school?

Making the list of tasks into a visual chart can be helpful for both yourself and your child as it makes the routine easy to refer to and can be personalised to encourage a sense of ownership and adherence.

 

For routines to be most effective, they need to be able to have some flexibility too.

Changes Psychology Flexible routinesWe can’t always predict what is going to happen on a daily basis and life will throw challenges our way, and at our kids too! So helping our children to understand that, and experience some flexibility rather than being stuck in rigidity, teaches them that it is a positive skill to be able to adapt to changes and go with the flow and fosters resilience.

 

 

Read More: Resilience and regulating emotions