The 3 most important coping skills for parents

"Tenderness" by Paul Lancz, Montreal

“Tenderness” by Paul Lancz, Montreal

When we become parents, we become over-anxious. Watching the questions parents were asking at the (very successful) Bellies to Babies Celebration and trade show today in Vancouver, there are so many unknowns one has to prepare for and so much knowledge to absorb! Yes, there is the excellent “What to expect when you are expecting” series, but it’s really not enough compared to the complexity of the task.

So over the last decade, I have come to realize that there are 3 core coping skills parents can adopt to make life better:

  1. Ask for advice. While there is much variability between our situations, personalities and needs, there are some “life hacks” – tips on how to cope with different situations that others have come up usually through trial and error. And today it’s even more accessible, with the wealth of information available on parenting forums, magazines like Parenting and Parents, but also websites like Quora, a place to ask questions and get people’s answers. Any way you want to do it – just do it. There are also innovative resources like “7 cups of tea“, a new site where you can connect anonymously with a listener, a person who loves to help others and want to do something meaningful in their free time.  Ask how others handle the issue you are curious about or struggling with. We asked everyone we knew on advice on what to buy, how to travel with a baby, how to best introduce a baby to an older sibling – and it saved us so much time, money and effort!
  2. Aim for “good enough” parenting – not perfect. I already explained in another post the importance of not aiming for excellence in parenting and all the evidence that the “good enough” mother leads to happier and more successful kids.
  3. Learn to say “Yes!” when offered help. Too many parents act on a mistaken belief that only they can provide the kind of care and experiences that their child needs, and thus end up exhausted or sacrifice their own activities and happiness. My default answer to offers of help is “Yes, please!” – and through that my children have been enriched with experiences with other adults / families that I would not have come up with, while I was given the gift of time to be able to focus on my own needs and priorities. Too many parents as well are firmly in belief that reciprocity must occur, but sometimes, there are situations where you might need more help, but can’t immediately return the favor. As a doctor, I have seen many a family struggle with one child’s illness, yet refuse all help with the other healthy siblings. Why? Because they felt a need to immediately repay the kind gesture. Most of us would agree that especially in hard circumstances it’s not required nor is it expected, yet the self-imposed pressure is hard to break through.

Parenting is stressful enough – let’s make it easier 😉

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, mother of three CEO and Co-founder myBestHelper

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