Mother and daughter sit on the couch together.

Staying Grounded While Parenting

Children's Health
When stress pushes you to the limit as a parent, you must be mindful that your emotional health impacts your children. Luckily, there are tools to help guide us during stressful times. Behavioral Health Practitioner Su Chafin, NCC, LPCMH, with Bayhealth Family Medicine, Dover, offers some advice to help parents through challenging times.

Build a healthy self-concept
How you re-direct or discipline children has the ability to help them build a healthy self-concept or to crush their spirit, explained Chafin. Being lovingly firm is a good rule of thumb. This means you are clear and stand your ground when setting boundaries for acceptable behavior. And you do this while staying calm in your interactions, and showing love and empathy for your child.

Take a parenting time out when necessary
The day-to-day duties of parenting and of life in general can wear on all of us. We need to be aware of and manage our stressors so we’re not taking things out on our children. “Never discipline a child when you’re feeling highly emotional,” said Chafin. “Wait until you can make a better decision, not an impulsive one.” If you feel yourself getting angry or upset by your child’s behavior take some time to cool off before addressing it. Always keeping safety in mind as the primary concern, it’s okay to take a break in the moment, even with young children. It also gives you time to discuss with your partner, friend, or adult family member to determine an appropriate response or consequence for your child’s action.

Be intentional and consistent
Remember that being intentional and consistent go hand-in-hand in parenting. When a parent is in a highly emotional state, they’re more likely to make empty threats, or use physical or corporal punishment, which is proven to be ineffective and comes with negative consequences for the future behavior of your child, Chafin said.

Avoid threats that are too strict or unrealistic, such as telling a child that they will never be allowed to go to a friend's house again. Unless you’re capable of making that happen, don’t use it as a threat. Try to always consider your normal daily lives in the consequence. For instance, punishing them from bike riding may make it more difficult as they need to get some exercise and burn energy. “Small, consistent, swift, and emotionally uncharged consequences work best and are easiest to follow through on,” explained Chafin. “When you don't follow through, your child learns that your no means yes. Consistency is more important in the long run.”

Keep communication channels open
Family journals are great ways to interact with each other, especially when life gets busy and hard, advised Chafin. They can be helpful in recording special moments or sharing feelings or opinions on difficult topics that may be easier to put on paper. Or consider having family meetings where everyone’s voice can be heard.

“Family life gets so busy with obligations and distractions,” said Chafin. “Prioritizing our quieter moments such as car rides and bedtimes in which to just talk with our kids establishes trust, safety and understanding.”

Chafin offers counseling to patients of all ages at the Bayhealth Family Medicine, Dover practice, located at 1074 South State Street. She and her fellow providers are accepting new patients of all ages. Please call 302-725-3200 to schedule an appointment or visit bayhealth.org/Family-Medicine for more information.