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What is Parental Stress and How to Manage it After the Kids Return to School?

After more than two years of the pandemic, the return to "normality" also poses challenges, since the world is no longer the same and many habits within families will change again. In this scenario, learning to manage parental stress is essential to have a family life with well-being..

Father talking to his son

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LatinAmerican Post | Luis Ángel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: ¿Qué es el estrés parental y cómo manejarlo tras el regreso de los niños a clases?

The pandemic has been an earthquake in the different social relationships that we human beings experience, from work to economics, without leaving out the domestic sphere. The coexistence of a few hours that occurred before the crisis became 24 hours in an atmosphere of global tension. The accumulation of stress was more intense for some people, especially for those who exercise motherhood and fatherhood. The change in habits and the new dynamics in coexistence pushed the mental health of parents and children to the limit, who must now adapt to normality again, similar to what existed prior to the crisis. The paradox is that this new change in habits is also a challenge.

What is parental stress?

Parental stress is that which occurs in a situation in which the father feels overwhelmed by the demands of his role as such, according to an analysis by the University of Huelva in Spain. The parents contrast the situation of the family dynamics, and specifically of their children, with their capacities to face the demands that this implies. The result is the accumulation of stress due to frustration, which causes depression, among other mental health problems. If the tension generated by the relationship between parents and children, that is, the family dynamics, is also added to the labor and academic dimensions of the children, the problem becomes more complex. The problem itself is not feeling stress, it is a normal situation to present negative sensations from time to time, the difference will be in how they are faced. The pandemic caused greater parental stress by having to maintain a balance between family dynamics, work and online classes that undoubtedly added long hours of stress.

The consequences of parental stress

The mental health of parents is undoubtedly one of the points that suffers the most from the consequences of stress, however, children are the ones who ultimately suffer the worst consequences, especially in the long term. According to the Inter-American Development Bank, domestic violence increased during the pandemic in Latin America, along with women, children are the main victims of this violence. The consequences in the medium and long term are important, for example, by avoiding facing the situation that generates the stress, it is likely that this tension will be directed towards the children in the form of abuse. Therefore, it is necessary to learn to deal correctly with emotions from an early age, since in the long term, behaviors also related to stress and negative social interaction are generated.

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Does going back to school make things better?

Going back to school means a change to the family dynamics adopted during the pandemic, coexistence is reduced again, so stress should also decrease, at least that of a parental type. This reduction is not free or total, school as one of the aspects that generate the most tension and stress will continue to do so even with children in face-to-face classes. The little space that parents will have thanks to the return to schools could be beneficial. The habit of confinement can be a temporary obstacle, but change in this case can improve family dynamics, if we cannot avoid stress, the ideal is to learn to deal with it correctly. Thus, for children, going back to school represents the opportunity to release stress generated by confinement and situations such as domestic violence, mentioned above.

Managing parental stress

Parenting Science magazine gives us some recommendations to learn how to work with our stress and improve the way we deal with it. As always in this type of situation, the first thing is to seek help, even if it comes from a parent helpline. In an overwhelmed situation, the first thing is to regain control of yourself before anything else, that is where support becomes crucial to prevent negative situations from taking the lead. Although it may seem like a cliché, it is recommended to think positive, a positive relationship with your children will reduce or avoid your stress, in addition to the one that the child may have. Finally, avoid life against the clock, there is nothing that generates more stress than time on the clock as it puts additional pressure on your daily life.