As if the new nocturnal feedings weren’t enough to keep them out of REM state, new parents have a host of other concerns on their minds. A recent survey released by Little Grad, the Saving for College company, revealed how varying scary thoughts affect parents.
The survey asked parents to rank 10 factors in order of which one they worried the most about. The most worrisome, on a 1-10 scale was job security (3.48), followed by saving for retirement (3.75) and dying before their children grow up (4.30). The ability to afford their children’s educational needs (4.48) rounded out the top four. The issues parents worry about less than saving for college include crime (5.05), the environment (5.20), rising gas prices (6.73), the amount of time their kids spend watching TV or playing video games (6.84), the threat of terrorism (7.27), and lastly, traffic (7.64). In looking at this list, it was interesting to note that there are two categories of worry; those they have little control over and those that are mostly within their influence. By looking at the worries in these two categories, one can map out a plan for alleviating them, and finding more restful peace of mind.
Frightening, But ‘Out There’
Terrorism, crime, environment, gas prices, traffic, violent video games… while things undoubtedly affect our lives, and will impact our children’s futures, they are largely beyond any family’s ability to control, and therefore don’t have the ‘wake you up in a cold sweat’ factor. That being said, there are things that individuals and families can and should do to address these causes of stress.
- Discuss responsible citizenship. Schools encourage students to discuss issues like terrorism, environmental concerns, crime. Parents should actively consider and discuss these items as well, so that a family has a jointly developed sense of identity and values.
- Find ways to support ideals. If the family is stressed by high gas prices or traffic, this can be a call to make a change – whether that means buying a hybrid vehicle, finding carpool partners or changing jobs. Even if you don’t take any actions immediately, considering your options is good for mental health.
- Practice healthy escapism. A lot of worries come from the TV set or sitting in traffic. Finding family time in nature, or at someplace where you can connect and relax, can put the world back in perspective.
It Could Happen To Us
Parents keenly feel the new responsibility a child brings into their lives, and this drives job, financial, and health insecurity in a new and powerful way. It may take some time to develop new habits, but once done, the effects on a parents stress levels can be remarkable.
- Financial planning. Whether it is sitting down with the monthly bills and checking account, or visiting a financial planner, taking a level headed look at expenses, and comparing them with how they are aligned with your aspirations can help to keep nagging doubts at bay. This should be done at least once a year to keep pace with the changes of a growing family. Part of this exercise should include a discussion of wills and guardianship of children. Mortality is of concern to parents, and discussing it can take away its mental power over your dreams.
- Stepping up savings. When they look at their income and spending, most families would agree that they could and should be directing more money towards savings. This would help alleviate the stresses related to job security, retirement, and saving for college.
- Focus on family health. Eating and exercise, making time for checkups, scheduling ‘mental health time’ – all these things can remarkably lower stress, and set a great example of a healthy lifestyle that kids will adopt as their own.
Enjoy Your Sleep
A full night’s sleep is one of those things that you cannot fully appreciate until you have had it interrupted. To care for a new baby (or even a sick child) is tiring, but worth the exertion. Losing sleep over worries is perhaps unavoidable, but steps can be taken. To figure out why you are losing sleep, many experts recommend keeping a notebook and pen by your bed. This will help to find any issues that are hidden in the new parent haze, as well as helping you back to sleep once you’ve written the “must remember to do” item on it, that is assuming you can read your own handwriting in the morning.
About the Author:
Anh Vazquez, CEO of LittleGrad.com, earned a Master’s degree from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University. After spending over ten years working for leading companies such as Intel, Netscape, and Wal-Mart, Anh’s career interests shifted when she became the mother of two children. Anh drew on her experience as a senior executive at Wal-Mart’s fastest growing division (Walmart.com) when she decided to start LittleGrad.com, a free service that helps parents save for their children’s college education. LittleGrad.com has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, San Francisco Chronicle, and Money magazine.