Ask Nicole: Stress-busters for Positive Parenting Awareness Month
By Nicole M. Young, MSW
Are you a parent or other caregiver who’s raising children and teens? If so, it’s that time of year to celebrate YOU! The County Board of Supervisors has partnered with First 5 Santa Cruz County to declare January 2022 as the 10th annual Positive Parenting Awareness Month. Other California counties are doing the same, and the California legislature will pass a resolution, declaring January 2022 as Positive Parenting Awareness Month across the state.
Celebrating positive parenting during the first month of the new year is an opportunity to remember that:
- Raising children and youth to become healthy, confident, capable individuals is the most important job parents and caregivers have.
- Positive parenting is a protective factor that prevents and heals Adverse Childhood Experiences, which can have lifelong impacts on health and well-being.
- Many parents and caregivers raising children and youth feel stressed, isolated and overwhelmed, no matter their age, race, ethnicity, tribe or income level. Families in California come in many forms, with children who are raised by parents, grandparents, foster parents, family members, and other caregivers.
- Families can benefit from a “tool kit” of proven strategies and receive support from programs such as the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program.
- Everyone in our community has a role to play in raising awareness of the importance of positive parenting and supporting the health and well-being of children and families.
But let’s face it. The past two years have been stressful for both kids and adults, to put it mildly. Although experiencing some stress is part of everyday life, experiencing constant or severe stress creates biological changes in our brains and bodies. When this happens to children and teens, it can affect their future health, development, and behaviors.
So throughout Positive Parenting Awareness Month, we’re sharing “stress buster” tips and strategies to help parents and caregivers help their children learn to cope with and reduce stress.
- Maintain open communication and connection. Create space to have open, honest conversations about what’s going on in your kids; lives, and practice active listening. This will help them feel understood and supported. It will also give you the opportunity to share any concerns or ideas that may influence how they cope with stressors (i.e., setting limits around screen time or creating a family dinner time).
- Connect daily through fun and play. Kids thrive when their parents are physically and emotionally available to them. Spend quality time together (remember it can be brief—even a few minutes at a time—as long as it’s frequent). Plan family activities that are fun and relaxing, but also help to build connections. This can be something as simple as taking a walk together, playing a game, reading stories, playing their favorite video game, or making their favorite snack.
- Build a “parenting village.” Parenting can be a lonely, isolating job sometimes. Develop a “village” of trusted adults you and your kids can count on. This could be aunts, uncles, neighbors, close family friends, clergy members, teachers, coaches, camp counselors, etc. This provides your kids with emotional support and guidance that is independent of you, which can relieve parenting stress and pressure for you, too. It also allows kids to feel like they have safe adults in their lives who can offer help when they want to talk with someone other than their parent or guardian.
- Use routines that create healthy habits regarding sleep, nutrition, and exercise. A consistent bedtime will help kids feel less rushed in the morning and will also ensure they get the right amount of sleep to stay focused at school and be ready to handle emotions and challenges that come up throughout the day.
- Regular meals, especially breakfast, can help your child get through the day without feeling hungry or tired (which often leads to meltdowns). A balanced diet will help maintain healthy moods, reduce anxiety, and promote clarity of thought.
- Encourage your kids to be physically active every day. Exercise releases endorphins which have mood-boosting effects. A healthy body contributes to a healthy mind! Incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine to teach kids tools to manage stress and anxiety. Meditation, journaling, and deep breathing are a few simple ways your kids can practice mindfulness.
Final Thoughts: It’s important to remember that every child and teen copes with stress and anxiety differently. What works for one may not work for another. Be supportive and understanding, while also remaining patient and flexible. These stress-buster tips can give you a solid foundation to help your kids care for their mental and emotional health.
Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 18 and 21, who also manages Santa Cruz County’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, the world’s leading positive parenting program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit http://triplep.first5scc.org, http://www.facebook.com/triplepscc or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or email@example.com.