by Marissa Muller: Support is vital, and a sense of community can help with that…
Kate Middleton may be a royal, but, as a mother of three, even one with help, she is well-acquainted with the stresses of parenting. That’s why the Duchess of Cambridge’s latest initiative is all about minimizing those stresses for families. Today, Middleton helped launch a helpline for overwhelmed parents and caretakers at the nonprofit Family Action in London. (While there, Middleton also highlighted the issue of human trafficking in a custom olive dress by Beulah, a brand that is working to eliminate it by giving jobs and education to its victims, per People.)
The message behind the Family Action initiative is relatable for many parents. “Being a parent or carer to a child or young person can often be difficult without emotional support and guidance there to help,” the organization says. “Many parents feel confused by what information is available or struggle to access services close to home. Our free FamilyLine Service tackles these issues in a new and innovative way by using a network of ‘virtual’ volunteers from across the country to support parents and carers through telephone calls, email, and text message.”
The helpline, which is accessible in the UK by text message (07537 404 282) as well as telephone (0808 802 6666), not only helps parents navigate through specific challenges, it also offers more long-term support. The goal is to give parents more tools, with recommendations for relevant services, information, and guidance, as well as emotional support in order to help parents feel less isolated.
“I define stress as the thought, belief, or perception that we can’t handle whatever is going on,” Carla Naumburg, Ph.D. and the author of three parenting books including Parenting in the Present Moment tells Thrive. “Sometimes we’re right, and sometimes we’re not, but either way, it’s a terrible feeling. In addition, we are more likely to feel stressed when we’re exhausted, in transition or crisis, or doubtful about how to proceed, which is often basically the definition of parenting.” Once you recognize that you are suffering from parenting stress, Naumburg has a few recommendations:
- Sleep is one of the most powerful ways to tackle stress, but getting enough high quality sleep on a regular basis is a tall order for most parents. Do the best you can, in your current situation, enforce a regular bedtime, and keep electronics out of the bedroom.
- Slowing down, focusing on one thing at a time, and connecting with like-minded parents whenever possible are powerful tools for you.
- Finding a support system that works for you: You’ll know you’re with supportive folks if you come away feeling empowered, confident, and calmer than you did before. If you end up feeling more stressed, doubtful, or confused about parenting, then you’re not with the right group for you. They might be great folks, but they’re not the ones to turn to when you’re maxed out by life with little ones.
One of the absolute most important things overwhelmed parents can do is to show kindness to themselves, and keep in mind that no negative feeling is permanent. “Do what you can to have compassion for yourself,” Naumburg says. “Parenting is hard. It’s hard for all of us, and you are absolutely not alone in your struggles. You’re not going to be perfect, and that’s totally ok — you don’t have to be. Hang in there, do what you can, and remember that whatever feels so hard right now is not going to last forever.”