6/30/2015 2:09 PM
Early this spring, a local counselor reached out to us, asking if we'd be interested in writing a short article about a topic related to Crisis Nursery for her website. Since parental stress is our most common reason for admission, we explored that topic. While this was first published on the counselor's blog, we thought our readers here may be interested in it as well!
While there is a lot of joy in parenting, all parents know that parenting can also be stressful. It is common for parents to feel overwhelmed, and it is easy to understand how that can happen. In the first years of life, without language, children cannot exactly tell you what they need – and they need a lot! Parenting is a full time commitment, and it can be hard to adjust to it. Also, parents want what’s best for their children, and it can be nerve-wracking to determine what that is, or how to provide it.
While stress is natural, too much of it can have an impact on the relationship between a parent and a child, as well as on the child’s development. When parents feel overwhelmed all the time, it can impair their judgement, leading to poor decisions. Stress can sneak up on individuals as well, and parents may not recognize how uncomfortable they are right away. We once had a family use Crisis Nursery after a trip to the Emergency Room; Dad hadn’t realized how overwhelmed he was feeling until he punched a wall and hurt himself!
Children feel stress too – and too much of it can hurt them. “Toxic stress” is a term defined by Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child to describe a child’s exposure to strong, frequently, or prolonged stressful experiences – such as having a caregiver with a mental illness or substance abuse problem, physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, or exposure to violence. When children grow up in environments with toxic stress, their ability to learn, grow, and develop healthily can be negatively impaired.
The most common reason families use Crisis Nursery is to relieve parental stress, and we really praise those families for asking for help. We know that when parents take the time to take care of themselves, they are better positioned to parent well and love well, and that benefits both the parent and the child. We are happy to partner with families to relieve that stress, so that a situation never has the chance to escalate to the point where a child could be hurt.
Using Crisis Nursery is easy, and it is a service available to all families in Champaign County with children ages 6 and under, completely free of charge. To use our services, families call our crisis line at 217-337-2730 and explain their situation to one of our Crisis Advocates. In the case of parental stress, it can be as easy as explaining that the parent is feeling overwhelmed, and would like a break so that she can be a better parent. The Crisis Advocate will then schedule time for the child to come play at the Nursery, which gives the parent the break she was looking for. Children can stay at the Nursery for up to three days at a time, but average stays are much shorter – around 8 hours.
Of course, calling Crisis Nursery is not the only tool available to families who are feeling overwhelmed. There are lots of strategies parents can try to help manage their stress. For example:
· Join a support group, or call a friend. Sometimes it’s enough to hear you aren’t alone, and that others have felt the same.
· Meditation or prayer can be helpful to some people, or try reflecting on what you value. Practicing gratitude can help relieve stress.
· Exercise: movement can release endorphins, which can help you feel better. Take a walk, dance in your kitchen, or try something more aerobic – if it gets your heart rate up, it can help!
· Try something relaxing: listen to music, do some deep breathing, or soak in a hot bath.
· Make time for yourself so you can read a book or watch a favorite show. Sometimes, a brief break is all that’s needed to feel more in control.
It’s important to remember that some stress is natural, but that parents do not have to suffer alone. There is help available – often, all you have to do is ask for it! For more information about how Crisis Nursery can be of service, call 217-337-2730.