Being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer, but at times, most parents will admit that it can be exhausting, overwhelming, and stressful.  When you find that you are feeling the stress more than you are feeling the joy, stop and think about what you could do differently to make your life as a parent easier.

Take care of yourself first.  On airplanes, passengers are told in case of an emergency, to put on their own oxygen mask before assisting others.  This makes sense; if your own oxygen supply runs out you can’t possibly be of any help to those around you.

This applies to parenting as well.  If you are tired, overwhelmed or irritable, it is hard for you to bring out the best in your children.  Take care of yourself by making sure you get enough sleep, fuel your body with healthy foods and get regular exercise.

Focus on quality time.  One factor that can make parenting stressful is a lack of time, or an unmanageable schedule.  Make quality time a priority in several different ways.  Be sure you have a good mixture of ‘me’ time to unwind and recharge, family time to have fun together, and one-on-one time with each of your children to build strong connections.

Pay attention to how many commitments you take on as an individual and as a family.  Learn to say ‘no’ when you already have too much on the go.

Be prepared.  Stress builds when you are feeling rushed or pressured.  If mornings are stressful in your household, do as many preparations as you can the night before.  Pack lunches, lay out clothes, and have any needed items for the following day ready to pick up on your way out the door.

Consistent routines and rituals can make life much less stressful for children.  Try to keep mealtime and bedtime the same from day to day.  Make a game out of tasks like putting away toys or getting dressed.  Sing a song, count pieces as toys are picked up, or issue a challenge to see how fast boots can be slipped on.

Share household chores.  Don’t try to do everything for everyone.  Sharing responsibilities with children not only helps keep the household running smoothly, but it teaches many skills and values.

As children learn to do various tasks on their own, they are preparing for the day that they will need to do these things without your help.  Sharing in the workload helps children develop an understanding and appreciation for the work that others do for them.  As children start to feel needed and responsible, their self-esteem grows as does their ability to see themselves as capable individuals in other areas.

Pick your battles.  When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with stress, stop and take a look at the situation you are facing.  Will this matter to you a month from now?  If the answer is ‘no’, then you shouldn’t be worrying so much about it today.  If you take a moment and take a few deep breaths to clear your mind, you can probably come up with a solution to handle the challenge in front of you.