If siblings fight constantly, children constantly dawdle or do not want to go to sleep, the nerves of many parents are on edge. Rochelle Albers, a counselor at the parent emergency hotline, explains how irritable mothers and fathers can find more serenity.
Ms. Albers, many parents are irritable – they have the feeling that their children are annoying them. Why is that?
Rochelle Albers: Being annoyed is usually a sign of being overwhelmed. There are situations in life that are difficult for the whole family and in which children can be particularly stressful. There are many examples of this: a parent becomes unemployed, a child is bullied at school, a death takes a toll on the family, or a new sibling is born who initially needs a lot of attention. Being overwhelmed at times is completely normal.
Are parents allowed to let it be known that they feel annoyed by their children?
Parents are human too. You can let it be known, or even better say clearly, that you are currently irritable. Children don’t find parents who constantly walk around with a friendly mask credible anyway. However, irritated reactions towards children must not become permanent!
What happens to children who constantly find their parents irritable?
Children can get the feeling that it is their fault that the mother or father is always so annoyed. That triggers feelings of guilt. Some children then withdraw, others demand even more attention.
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How can parents find more serenity?
When parents find that they are reacting inappropriately to their children over an extended period of time, it makes sense to consciously take the time to think: “What is wrong with me?”, “What is wrong with my children?”, «What overwhelms me?» Parents often react to certain behaviors or characteristics in their children that they themselves have and don’t like about themselves. Children are sometimes mirrors of their own personality. But mostly it’s just everyday life. Work, children, shopping, cleaning, cooking: many parents have too little help to cope with the diverse challenges of everyday life.
Parents often have very high expectations of themselves.
Yes, they want to make everything perfect. Working perfectly at work, being perfect parents for their children and perfect hosts for their guests. Many imagined life with children to be easier. Expectations that are too high lead to disappointment – and guilt.
What can help overwhelmed parents ?
Anyone who feels overwhelmed by life can often only analyze their own situation poorly. It’s good to talk to someone who can see the situation from a distance. Parents who feel annoyed by their children often call the parent emergency number. It often helps them to find out that the children are not “to blame” for the irritated inner mood.
What long-term solutions are there?
Help is a question of time, money or relationships. It is often worth taking a close look at the division of labor in the family. How are the responsibilities divided between mother and father? Children can also take on smaller offices, which beneficially reduce their own workload. In addition, it makes sense to think about whether the expectations of oneself are realistic. It is important to scratch ideal images. In which areas can you just let «5» be? There is no perfect mother and father, only parents who are good enough for their child.
Such reflection may take some time. Is there a method that helps acutely not to let your own children annoy you?
Yes, you have to train yourself to notice early on that your nerves will soon be on edge again. Then you are still able to act. It is effective to leave the situation, for example to go to another room. However, the children must be prepared for this, they must not feel abandoned. Children should also have the right to withdraw, provided they come back later to resolve the conflict with their parents.
The right to withdraw can become part of family culture.
Yes, children understand well when you say: “I was working and then shopping, today I can’t take much anymore.” You will then know where the reasons for Mommy’s or Daddy’s irritability lie and don’t relate them to yourself.