Are you a stressed-out parent?
Most parents would declare a resounding, “YES“! Add to that the stress of parenting foster children that have suffered through neglect and other abuse. Haunted by their traumas, foster children can act out with behaviors difficult for us, as parents, to understand or manage. The resulting stress can be overwhelming sometimes.
Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) is defined as the “stress resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person.” STS is commonly referred to as Compassion Fatigue.
- Having empathy for foster children; and
- Not having enough recovery time.
As a foster parent, you might be suffering from STS if:
- Acting and/or feeling in ways that are not normal for you;
- Feelings of anger, sadness, depression, or anxiety that last longer than usual;
- Having nightmares similar to the type of trauma that your foster children have experienced;
- Avoiding places or people out of fear for your foster children.
The signs of stress can be physical, mental, or behavioral. These may include:
- Tight muscles
- Feeling anxious, forgetful, sad, confused, angry
- Lack of caring for others
- Mood swings
- Over or under eating
There are a number of ways that you can combat stress in your life.
- Exercise. Last year, I started the Couch Potato to 5K (c25k) program and now try to run/walk for at least 30 minutes 2-3 times a week. (I jog 2 minutes, then walk 1 minute and have gone as far as 8 miles using this method. I DON’T run 30 minutes straight.) I have completed a number of 5ks and am training for a half-marathon in November using the Galloway walk/run program. I can feel my self-esteem improving with every milestone. Do you have any exercise goals?
- Eat Properly. I do not eat as well as I should, but have been more self-conscious of the foods I eat. I have a chef salad for lunch most days and have added more olive oil to my diet. I begin the Weight Watchers Points Plus program in 2 weeks!
- Journaling. Having this website allows me the opportunity to write out my frustrations of being a foster parent. Do you blog or journal?
- Join a Support Group. The wonderful readers that comment here on foster2forever are my support group. Thank you!!! In the next few weeks, I will be adding a community to the website so that we can chat and support one another more. So excited! Do you have a support group?
- Ask for Respite Care. A few weeks ago, FosterDad and I took respite care and enjoyed our time away from the kids to reconnect and just relax and focus on the 2 of us. Sadly, we do not regularly schedule time together and I believe we need time away again! Scheduling weekly date nights is the next goal!
- Family Fun. When we do fun things with the kids that allow them to be kids, we ALL feel better. We need to schedule this more often! Last night, Stinkpot enjoyed playing baseball with FosterDad in the 102 heat. Maybe a trip to the beach this weekend?
- Massage. I get tension headaches when I’m stressed and can feel it in my shoulders and neck. When pain killers just aren’t doing the trick, I take a quick trip to the mall to the massage kiosk and pay the little Asian man $12 to massage my neck and shoulders. Works every time!
- Yoga and/or Meditation. I haven’t practiced yoga in a few years, but the stretching and meditation through counting helped me relax tremendously. Also, this incredible meditation audio CD by Susie Mantell is the BEST!!! She gets you so relaxed, then asks you to think about what’s bothering you. Each time, I’m so relaxed that I can’t think of anything! I’ve only been able to stay awake through the entire CD once.
- Music. Add music to your life. Nothing can change my mood quicker than music. My kids love music too. Singing to my kids also helps them during tense times.
- Acceptance. Learn to accept your children. Our Stinkpot is an extremely strong-willed child. As I was reading Setting Limits with your Strong-Willed Child, Dr. MacKenzie pointed out that it is the nature of the strong-willed child to test, test, test everything. Once I realized that it was Stinkpot’s job to test me, I was able to better accept it, anticipate it and cope with it.
Are you stressed? Take this test.