Being a parent is one of the most rewarding things we can do as humans, but it’s also one of the hardest. Stress happens, and we have to keep going. Because our kids don’t stop needing things just because the bills are due. They still need food and supervision even when we feel too tired to keep our eyes open.

There are ways we can cope with this stress. It doesn’t go away, but you can manage it in healthy ways. By modeling healthy stress management, you’re also teaching your child how to manage their stress. You can be an example for them to follow. Plus, managing stress as a parent makes room for you to have a joyful relationship with your child.

How Parents Can Cope With the Stress of Raising Children

The first step to managing stress is identifying it. If you feel worried most of the time, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and have despairing thought patterns, you’re probably stressed. Stress is a natural and important defense mechanism. Manage it better by:

Identifying your triggers

Identifying when you’re stressed is step one. Step two is identifying why you’re stressed. If you can get to know your triggers, you can better manage them. It might enable you to avoid certain triggers. In other cases, knowing your triggers and coping with them can help you manage your stress.

Whenever you notice that you’re feeling stressed, see if you can trace the feeling back to when it started. What were you doing at this time? Who was around? What was your environment like? Having a better understanding of yourself is key to stress management.

Having a social life

Parenting is a social skill. We teach our kids to count, sing their ABCs, and what healthy foods look like. We also teach them how to show gratitude, empathy, and compassion. They learn this from watching us with our families and interacting with other children. Having a social life is good for your child. They need to learn how to make friends, solve conflicts, and interface with other people.

Even when your own social life takes you away from your child, we can do it healthily. Teaching them they can feel secure with care providers other than you helps them become independent adults. It helps them learn how to form social bonds outside of their family unit. So go out for a night every once in a while and hire a sitter.

Focusing on your health

If you’re feeling run down, unhealthy, and just plain yuck, your parenting is going to suffer. Many of us are familiar with what they tell us on airplanes. “In case of emergency, put on your air mask first. Then your child’s.” Of course, the knee-jerk response is shock. Why would you not put your child first? Because in the face of adversity, you are your child’s anchor. You can’t be their anchor if you can’t show up.

It’s important to get gentle daily movement and drink plenty of water. If you feel sick, take the time you need to get better. This might mean asking someone to cover a shift at work and asking a friend to watch the kids. That’s okay. Your health is important, too. When you feel your best, you parent at your best.

Talking to a professional

If you feel you’re using these coping mechanisms with little relief, contact a professional. Parenting is hard. It’s okay to ask for the help you need. Mental health professionals can help you establish coping mechanisms that work for you and your children. They can help you strengthen your self-awareness so you can better manage stress.

Depending on the age of your child, consider group therapy or family therapy. These options give you an opportunity to strengthen your communication skills. Establishing fair and respectful communication helps everyone thrive.