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4 Tips for Managing Parenting Stress

Parenting stress, ethnicity, and developmental disabilities

Parents are often faced with managing a busy schedule including job related responsibilities, household duties, and raising their children. These demands occasionally result in parenting stress, which is stress associated with being a parent. Parenting stress is associated with both parenting behaviors and child adjustment. Numerous studies have shown that parents who report higher levels of parenting stress are more likely to be authoritarian, harsh, and negative in their interactions with their child (e.g., Deater-Deckard & Scarr, 1996). Furthermore, parenting stress decreases the quality of the parent-child relationship (Turner et al., 2010). Sources of parenting stress may include (Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010): permanency of the condition or diagnosis, disapproval for the child’s symptoms by society and/or family members, and inadequate professional support. Studies have also shown that ethnic minority parents report significantly higher levels of parenting stress due to structural disadvantages such as lower income, single parenthood, and assimilation/acculturation (Nomaguchi & House, 2012).

Parents of children who are diagnosed with a behavioral disorder or developmental disability are at increased risk of parenting stress. To date, numerous studies have demonstrated that parents of children with autism spectrum disorders or developmental disabilities report higher levels of parenting stress compared to parents of typically developed children (e.g., Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010; Estes et al., 2013). Below are some tips to help decrease parenting stress.

1. Seek professional help

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, seek professional help from a psychologist or licensed mental health professional. Psychologist can be helpful to provide strategies to help you cope with life’s challenges. Additionally, they may be able to provide you with resources to help improve your child’s functioning and decrease problem behaviors that may increase parenting stress.

2. Increase quality time with family

Find ways to do enjoyable activities with you and your family. By spending more quality time together, it improves the parent-child relationship. Furthermore, it is not helpful to overly focus on everything that is not going well in your child’s life. Even though it may be difficult to incorporate extracurricular activities into the family’s schedule, consider being creative by having a family game night or engage in other activities that your child enjoys.

3. Make time for yourself

Many parents of children with special needs or mental health conditions have a hard time taking a break. This may be partly due to the time required to care for your child. However, many also feel they need permission to have some alone time. It is okay to take a break for yourself. It’s actually healthy and more beneficial for you and your child to have some time apart.

4. Use your support systems

It is extremely important to make use of your support systems. Having social support is very helpful to decreasing parenting stress. For example, if extended family is available ask them to provide child care for a few hours during the week so you can engage in self-care. Support systems may also be helpful to provide an avenue for you to talk with others about how they cope with being a parent. It is always good to hear how others have addressed a problem or find that you are not alone.

Suggested support groups may be located on the following websites:

The Autism Society

American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Copyright 2013 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D

You can follow Dr. Turner on Twitter @DrEarlTurner for daily post on psychology, mental health, and parenting. Feel free to join his Facebook group, “Get Psych’d with Dr. T” to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.


Dabrowski, A., & Pisula, E. (2010). Parenting stress and coping styles in mothers and fathers of pre-school children with autism and Down syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 54, 3, 266-280.

Deater-Deckard, K., & Scarr, S. (1996). Parenting stress among dual-earner mothers and fathers: Are there gender difference? Journal of Family Psychology, 10, 45-59.

Estes, A., Olson, E., Sullivan, K., Greenson, J., Winter, J., Dawson, G., & Munson, J. (2013). Parenting-related stress and psychological distress in mothers of toddlers with autism spectrum disorders. Brain & Development, 35, 133-138.

Nomaguchi, K.M., & House, A. N. (2012) Racial and ethnic differences in mothers’ parenting stress: The role of structural conditions and parenting styles. Retrieved June 2013 from

Turner, E.A., Gibb, A., Perkins-Parks, S., & Rinderknecht, R. (August, 2010). Parental Distress and Child Behavior as Predictors of Parent-Child Interactions. Poster presentation at the American Psychological Association Convention, San Diego, CA.

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