Whether you are a parent or not, negative thoughts are just a part of life. For some of us, they come in waves — coming and going throughout different parts of our lives; whereas for others, they are more of a constant fixture. Some of us are just the glass-half-empty type — and that doesn’t change when you become a parent.
But many of us do experience a heightened amount of negative thoughts during times of stress, and as many of us know: parenting can be (hella) stressful! So many of us can find ourselves dealing with more negative thoughts than ever as parents, which can definitely result in some serious parental guilt.
Aka thoughts like, “I love my family so much, so shouldn’t I be happier/less worried/more in the moment?”
However, the truth is that negative thoughts are completely normal and they don’t reflect poorly on you at all as a parent. However, they definitely can be tiring and frustrating to deal with.
So, here are 5 ways to cope with negative thoughts as a parent.
1. Be kind to yourself
Negativity definitely gets a bad rap… I mean, we’ve all heard the saying, “Nobody likes a Debbie downer” — or something along those lines — before. So when we notice that we being negative, we often tend to minimise how we feel or even beat ourselves up about it. Or, to try to ‘fix’ this negativity, we will sometimes go the opposite direction and try to cheer ourselves up with some forced positivity.
However, it is important in times of negativity to be kind to yourself, recognise how you are feeling, and try to empathise with yourself. By no means do we suggest dwelling on these negative thoughts, but it can be helpful to recognise that you are having a bout of negativity, and to try to figure out why that may be.
Maybe you notice you tend to get negative thoughts as a symptom of pms or during times of stress or change, or maybe your thoughts just tend to sway to the negative side generally. Recognising that negative thoughts are just a part of life — and not something you need to stress over —takes the power away from them to impact how you are feeling, so you can just get on with your day.
2. Write them out
If you are noticing you’re having that same negative thought bouncing around your head all day, writing it out can be a great way to cope. This is a great strategy for everyone to learn as it can help you deal with negativity in general, whether it is negative feedback from work, negative people in your life — or just that completely unwanted and negative comment from your day that has stuck with you.
Writing it down can: a) get it out of your head and b) allow you to challenge or rationalise the thought. Often, writing it down already takes a bit of that mental load off; but if you are really struggling with a thought, writing it down can allow you to stop ruminating and gain some clarity about the reality of the situation.
Start by writing down the thought, then you can challenge it or help bring it back into perspective. This worksheet has some helpful questions you can ask while writing down negative thoughts, to gain a more neutral perspective.
3. Talk to someone about it
Sometimes, a good chat with a friend or family member can make a world of difference. Yep, we can all use a good vent or some help from time to time. If you’re dealing with negative thoughts as a parent, even if they are about your family, finding a non-judgemental person to hash it out with can really lighten the load.
Let them know if you’d like help in solving these thoughts, or whether you simply want some space to get it all out of your system.
Plus, if you notice that negative thoughts are interfering with your day-to-day life, or if you’d like to learn more in-depth ways to cope with them, seeking professional support can be a big help. Making an appointment with your general doctor is a great place to start getting connected to the support you need.
4. Take care of yourself
Often, our mental state actually has a lot to do with the whole body. So if you’re noticing an uptick in negativity, it may be a good time to check in with what you’re doing to take care of yourself.
Many people find eating well and exercising more often a healthy way to cope with negative thoughts. Making sure you are getting enough sleep can also have a big impact on your mental state. However, we know ticking off any of the above , especially getting enough sleep, is near impossible as a parent.
But if you can sneak in a 30-minute walk here and there and make sure your bag is packed with snacks not just for the kids, but also for you —it can make a big difference to your mood.
5. Do some de-stressing activities
Stress and being overwhelmed are two big causes of negative thoughts, so finding some de-stressing activities is one key way to cope. And while we would all love a nice long bath, facial, or relaxing getaway — it is definitely useful as a parent to find some more low-key, quick, and easy de-stressors that you can do in pockets of time you find throughout the day.
Try to find a mix of things — like scrolling socials, playing Wordle, or watching your favourite show, as well as things like getting some fresh air, taking some deep breaths, or doing mindfulness activities like colouring in or writing.
Negativity is just a part of life. And while it can be frustrating and difficult dealing with negative thoughts on top of everything else as a parent, try to remember that finding healthy ways to cope with them and modelling this behaviour for your kids is only going to make you a better, more connected parent in the long run.