How to have more sleep and less stress raising young children

more sleep and less stress raising young children

The transition to parenthood is the ultimate work life balance test that some parents thrive in and many of us struggle. As with most things, success leaves clues and Australian research is confirming what many parents have found helps them to get more sleep and stress less…

Many years ago, before my initiation into the real world of parenting I would often ask parents whom I’d admired about the subject. The advice that stuck with me the most was from a mother of six children. She said, “The role of a parent is to teach your children so that they are able to live without you.” A recent Australian study confirmed that you can safely and effectively adopt this approach to your baby’s sleeping patterns.

A six year Australian study presented to the World Health Congress of Internal Medicine in March found that letting a baby cry itself to sleep (controlled crying) was a safe and effective way to reduce sleeping problems in babies. It was also helped to resolve sleeping problems and lower the rates of depression amongst mothers.

The study measured the sleep and well-being of 225 babies from infancy to school age. The study showed that controlled crying reduced babies’ sleeping problems by 30% within four months. It also cut depression rates in mothers by 40% by the time the children turned two.

To me as a parent, husband and health practitioner I have seen too many delightful mothers nearly burn themselves to the ground in their fulfilling their role as a mother. Often this mother burnout is due to Mum’s making themselves indispensable. In other words, they have been training their child to not be able to live without them. This makes it so hard for Mum’s to have time for themselves, their friends, their careers or their partners.

To me, motherhood shouldn’t be about what is good for the child at the expense of the mother. This study gives hope to mothers in that it provides a solution that is good for the baby AND is also good for the mother. It encourages mothers to feel okay about their child being upset. It is an example of mothers making easier rules for relaxation.

What do I mean by “easier rules for relaxation”?

If I ask you, “What has to happen in order for you to feel relaxed?” What would your answer be?

The answer would be your rules for relaxation. The easier you make the rules, the more likely it is that you will often experience this feeling of relaxation. But there are two common mistakes that we make when determining our rules that can result in us feeling continual stress and anxiety:

Firstly, we often make a long list of boxes that need to be ticked before we give ourselves permission to unwind. You may choose not to relax until all the washing is done, the ironing is put away, you’ve unpacked the dishwasher, you have dusted the house, vacuumed, mopped and done the shopping and have dinner all prepared in advance. Why not relax now as you begin doing some of these chores in a relaxed manner?

The second mistake that we make is that we base our rules of relaxation upon things that we have no control over: most commonly the mood and behaviour of your children. Your rule may be: If my children do as I say when I say it then I am happy and relaxed. (Now show me a child that does that every day.) What you are doing is effectively placing the responsibility for your emotional welfare in the hands of your children. Then you have the hide to blame your children for your stress levels. Remove your emotional baggage from the shoulders of others and place it firmly on your own.

Once you take complete responsibility for your own welfare you then have greater control over your day and your life and just like controlled crying whatever changes you make to make you as a parent feel better, chances are that it will also be better for your children.

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