Recently I was horrified when I read in New York Daily News about Leisa Jones and Michaela Jackson, two overwhelmed mothers who chose disastrous means to terminate parental, family, and personal image difficulties.
Leisa Jones took her own life and her own four children’s lives, including one son who suffered with emotional issues. Michaela Jackson took her own life and her twelve year old autistic son’s life. Both cases of murder/suicide hit home with me because as a mother of an autistic son besides raising two other children I’ve often felt overwhelmed, wondering if I could go on. As a retired pediatric nurse I’ve observed mothers who’ve also experienced parental collapse. As a parent advocate I’ve also spoken to parents who were experiencing feeling overwhelmed.
Parenthood, motherhood, in the best of circumstances is a difficult job, none the less having to also deal with children who have emotional and physical disorders. The family unit’s tested, with many relationships breaking up due to the added stressors. Single parenting adds additional stressors, testing any sane parent who don’t find methods to cope or don’t seek assistance to stop that feeling of being overwhelmed.
I’ve learned through experience, both professionally and personally, several methods to cope in beating that feeling of being an overwhelmed parent.
Parental Stress: You have to be aware of when you’re approaching a point when you’re going to lose all sense of rationality. You have to face the situation and sometimes let it go. Retreat to take a couple or maybe more deep breaths. Repeat that labor breathing you learned when you were practicing for childbirth. If you must, shut a child in his room or shut yourself in your room, don’t feel any guilt or shame about not being able to handle the problem at that moment. Find time in your daily schedule to feed your own soul, a temporary break from parenting. Exercise, read a book, keep a journal, or gossip with a friend. Keep your children’s and your own daily schedule stress free. Today some parents overwhelm their children with social or sport activities and then receive the impact of a stressed family life.
Parental Anger and Rage: Do not allow yourself to stoop to your out of control child’s level. In the case of an out of control child and adult, both experiencing temper tantrums, nothing can happen positively except to annihilate each other. Two screaming voices make it impossible to understand anything or dissipate the out of control situation. In the case of a child who has an emotional social disorder, sometimes you may have to repeat to yourself, “This child is not purposely attempting to anger me.” Children can be very manipulative but in the case of an out of control child, it’s gone past that stage and the child really can’t control themselves. They have to be brought back down. Any parental signs of vivid rage will only fuel the fire. If you feel yourself approaching that level, walk away or call a friend or a neighbor. Remember you must be the cooler one, be the adult parent.
Allow A Child To Voice Their Anger: Encourage a civil disagreement between you and your child, allow their opinions to be heard in a calm setting. Sometimes a child may need a safe physical method to release their anger. The boundaries of a child’s room should feel like a safe zone for them. Try not to increase the tension inside their safe domain. Allow them to retreat to their safe zone to attempt to cool down. Some children do well having a physical object to release their anger on, a blow up punching bag, a pillow, tearing up paper, or a safe place where they can run around and burn off their tension. Some children don’t have full use of vocabulary to express their annoyance. Sometimes photos of facial expressions could be used for younger children to express how they feel. Do not deny their anger, but attempt to show better ways to vent it.
Feeling Overwhelmed: Sometimes you feel like you just can’t take it. You may be stressed from many outside personal and work factors and raising your children can push you over the edge. We’ve read about too many parents who’ve taken the wrong method to solve this feeling. From what is reported in the news Leisa Jones and Michaela Jackson didn’t express their sense of feeling overwhelmed to any outsiders. These mothers allegedly saw no other way to escape except to end their own lives and their children’s lives. I believe there has to be other methods to cope and beat feeling overwhelmed.
Parental Support: Again I stress there’s no shame in admitting you can’t handle being a parent. No-one ever hands us a handbook on how to raise children, along with dealing with your significant other, work, family, and household issues. No-one hands you a handbook on how to be a single parent, raise and feed children on one salary. No-one hands you a handbook on how to deal with the stressors of raising children with emotional or physical disorders, and who has time to read them. Reach out for live support.
Neighbors and Family Support: Reach out and get to know other mothers, neighbors who are willing to be there in an emergency or to offer a break. Find playgroups, babysitters, churches or synagogues if you share a faith. If we all learn to assist each other as parents, ask for assistance or offer help supporting each other raising children, parental stressors may be reduced. The old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is so true and sometimes it takes a village to save a parent from reaching that point of feeling overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to offer assistance, a hand, an ear, if you notice anything that appears a child or parent may be in danger. You may one day save a life.
Professional Help: Don’t be afraid to reach out for medical and mental assistance. Medical professionals should be alert if they notice an overly stressed parent and take the time to question. If doctors or nurses notice an overly stressed child, a child falling outside the normal guidelines, information about parental classes and parental resources should be offered. If a doctor’s too busy to take time to answer your questions, switch doctors if you can. If you feel you need professional help, therapy, don’t feel ashamed. Sometimes medication may be needed. There’s available parenting groups and online parental resources for guidance, all people sharing your same experience, and eager to talk and share ideas. Postpartum depression’s a treatable medical disorder. Being overwhelmed as a parent may cause physical and emotional disorders also. As a parent you should make sure you attend your physicals and keep up with your own medical welfare. Just reach out.
And lastly have a sense of humor, my main coping skill. Sometimes just stopping to laugh at the situation lessens the stress level, and then you can pick yourself up and continue on. Parenting’s the most difficult job anyone can do in their lifetime. Raising a free minded child can feel overwhelming. I just wish Leisa Jones and Michaela Jackson had found other methods to cope; five children’s lives and two mother’s lives would’ve been saved.
Below is an excellent site for parenting resources by the USA government with multiple links to sites to assist you as parents, overwhelmed or not.