Factors Affecting Parental Confidence
Author: Andrea Woodard, LMCH
Parenthood is a complex journey that frequently evokes feelings of uncertainty, and can be driven by a multitude of contributing factors. This month, we shall consider the influence of external stressors on shaping parental uncertainty. Why do I feel this way? Is this a feeling shared by others parents? How normal is it to feel this way? Some external stressors are elements that originate from sources beyond our own selves, and often lay outside our sphere of control. As these stressors exert pressure on our existing capacities and resources, they have the potential to escalate into overwhelming experiences. One affective strategy to increase your ability to cope with external pressures is to cultivate a loving and supportive support system that allows you to practice your coping skills.
Seeking assistance and discussing your worries with people you trust, like pediatricians or fellow parents, can provide useful advice and support as you steer through the challenges of parenthood. Asking for help and sharing your concerns with trusted individuals can yield invaluable insights and assistance in navigating the complexities of parenthood. These supportive avenues offer opportunities to gain knowledge, exchange experiences, and explore affective coping mechanisms, contributing to a more informed and confident approach to parenting.
The experience of uncertainty due to external stressors is a universal human emotion, not confined solely to parenthood but relevant across various aspects of life. Acknowledging that feelings are neither inherently right nor wrong and actively seeking support from a positive network can significantly enhance your success during uncertain times. A study conducted by the APA disclosed that 27 percent of parents reported feeling (at some point in time) overwhelmed by stressors. Some of the stressors identified were financial inflation, political changes, and racial injustice. Understanding how to affectively navigate these stressors becomes imperative in promoting a well-balanced and resilient approach to parenting.
Parents can employ a range of skills to cope with feelings of uncertainty. One fundamental aspect involves normalizing the feeling of uncertainty, which entails recognizing it as a natural and common emotion. By normalizing this emotion, individuals become better equipped to accept and understand their feelings, subsequently enabling them to seek valuable support from others. This collective approach to coping fosters a more resilient and adaptive response to the challenges posed by uncertainty in parenting and other facets of life.
According to Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer, “Focusing on accomplishing goals that are in our control can help prevent our minds from getting overwhelmed by the many uncertainties in life. How do we affectively handle the multitude of concerns surrounding us while simultaneously managing the uncertainties that come with parenting? Many individuals may feel the overwhelming burden of having all the answers to their children's problems and worries. Striving for perfectionism sets an impossibly high standard and can lead to unnecessary stress and feelings of shame. Additionally, the fear of making mistakes or seeking help can create the false belief that we are inadequate parents who should already possess all the knowledge.
Perhaps you are currently struggling with various challenges, such as establishing bedtime routine dealing with in-laws, lacking a positive support system, facing financial difficulties, maintaining intimacy with your partner while parenting, or even co-parenting with a non-cohabitating partner. Parenting is akin to starting a new job; it involves a learning process and inevitably entails occasional mistakes – regardless of whether it is your first or subsequent child. Parenting a second child is unique as both you and your child have evolved, with distinct needs at that moment.
Psychology today highlights the significance of acquiring coping skills that allow us to accept our imperfections. Acknowledging that we are not flawless individuals enables us to recognize that we will not be perfect parents either, and that is perfectly normal. In fact, the relentless pursuit of perfection can be detrimental. Instead, granting ourselves grace and space becomes essential. Moreover, learning to embrace uncertainty is crucial, as it is an inherent aspect of life that will likely persist, not only as individuals but also as parents. Being able to tolerate uncertainty helps reduce the stressors we encounter.
Now, how do we go about acquiring and honing these essential coping skills? The key lies in practicing them regularly, for it is through consistent practice that we make progress on our journey to becoming more adept parents."
Here are a few coping skills to practice to help you affectively navigate through uncertainty:
- Normalize the feeling: Acknowledge and accept that uncertainty is a common human experience and can foster a more resilient approach to dealing with it. Embrace the fact that it is a natural part of life enables you to cope with emotions in a healthier manner and seek support from others.
- Build a support network: Establish a strong support system to engage with trusted friends, family members, or professionals, such as pediatricians or parenting classes that can provide valuable insights and guidance.
- Implement coping strategies: Adopt various coping strategies to help manage uncertainty more effectively. Techniques like mindfulness, relaxation exercises, and deep breathing can reduce stress and promote a sense of calm.
- Prioritize self-care: Engage in self-care activities, such as exercise, hobbies, or time with loved ones. Try box breathing, spending time outdoors, using faith-based and cultural connections to rejuvenate and strengthen your resilience.
- Seek professional help: When uncertainty becomes overwhelming or persistent, seek assistance from mental health professionals. Therapeutic interventions can equip you with valuable tools to address and cope with uncertainty in a constructive manner.
By incorporating these coping skills, you can affectively navigate the uncertainties that come with the journey of parenthood and other aspects of life, fostering personal growth and overall well-being.
Parental uncertainty is an inherent and inevitable aspect of the journey that can impact almost every aspect of your life. That uncertainty is a shared experience among many individuals where actively seeking support from a positive network can significantly bolster your coping mechanisms. By embracing a diverse range of coping skills and prioritizing self-care, you can affectively navigate through the uncertainties that come with raising children.
It is important to acknowledge that seeking help when needed is crucial, and resources like Behavioral Health Partners (BHP) are readily available to assistance and support during challenging times. Parenthood is an ongoing process of learning, and it is perfectly acceptable not to have all the answers at once. What truly matters is the unwavering commitment to being present for both your child and yourself, fostering a nurturing and enriching environment for growth and development.
If you find yourself struggling with uncertainty or that you are experiencing stress, anxiety, or depression, call Behavioral Health Partners at (585) 276-6900 to schedule an appointment. BHP offers eligible individuals mental health support through Well-U, your employee wellness team.
American Psychological Association. (2022, October 20). More than a quarter of U.S. adults say they’re so stressed they can’t function. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2022/10/multiple-stressors-no-function
Goodwin Ph.D., C. (2022, September 30). How to feel less stressed as a parent. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/parenting-translator/202209/how-feel-less-stressed-parent
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