Using Mindfulness to Ease Parenting Stress

Published On: October 3, 2022Categories: Blog

Using Mindfulness to Ease Parenting Stress
By Wendy Saunders

Psychologists define parenting stress as “the distress you experience when you feel you just can’t cope as a parent”.1  Parenting stress is different from many other stressors because it tends to be long-term and repetitive, and it is influenced by both the parent’s perceptions and resources and the child’s behaviors. Often, parents feel stressed because they feel the demands being placed on them as a parent are too high, compared with the resources they have available to meet these demands. And the parent’s perception of available support—from family and friends, for instance—also plays a key role in parenting stress levels. Naturally, unless your child doesn’t have any physical, emotional, or behavioral problems, or unless you have high levels of social support, as a parent, you’re likely to experience higher levels of parenting stress.

Of course, stress is a normal part of life—and of parenting. However, when stress becomes overwhelming, it can lead to chronic anxiety, debilitating depression, or other health issues that can get in the way of leading a happy and healthy life.2 At the Y, we recognize that we all have mental health, and mental health is an important part of our physical health as well as our social and emotional well-being. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your stress level, addressing your mental health with a therapist, doctor, or mental health professional is one of the best ways you can be supportive of your child—and of yourself.

Connecting and socializing with other parents—and asking for backup when you need it—is an excellent way to build your support network and help reduce parenting stress.  The Y is a great place to meet other parents in your community.

Another tool that can positively impact mental health and help ease parenting stress is mindfulness. Being mindful means paying attention—and keeping our attention—in the present moment, rather than allowing our attention to become distracted or carried away by thoughts and worries about the past or the future. We can press the pause button on these thoughts and rest our attention in the present, which can give us needed relief and boost our mental health and well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, “practicing mindfulness exercises can have many possible benefits, including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, lessening negative thinking and distraction, and improving mood”.3

Here are three simple mindfulness tips any parent can try to press the pause button, bring your attention to the present moment, and find greater ease:

  • Tip #1: Practice Mindfulness Meditation Around—or With—Your Kids: Taking care of your own well-being by making time to meditate while your kids are around can also help your children learn the value of self-care and managing their stress well. Many parents also meditate together with their children which provides their kids with tools to use to calm their own stress when they are at school or with their friends. Try a meditation app like Insight Timer or Calm and experience the benefits of mindfulness meditation in your household.
  • Tip #2: Embrace the “Mindful Moment”: A survey conducted by Cleveland Clinic and Parade Media found that 2/5 of parents said they would like to take mental health breaks but can’t find the time.4 How can you take a break when life is so busy? Even a minute or two of time for yourself can provide a needed reset. Give yourself permission to try some mindful breathing in the bedroom or even the bathroom. To do this, allow yourself to breathe naturally while focusing on the sensations you feel of your breath. If your mind wanders off, simply bring it back to your breath.
  • Tip #3: Hold Realistic Expectations of Yourself as a Parent: Become more mindful of the thoughts you hold about yourself. For many parents, it’s easy to become highly self-critical about your parenting skills and find yourself in an unhealthy spiral with thoughts like, “I’m not a good enough parent” or “I’m failing at parenting”. When you notice these thoughts starting to arise, it can be helpful to take a step back in that moment and shift to a broader view: every human being makes mistakes, but we also do many things right. Reflect on the ways you are also a great parent—and let go of any unrealistic expectations of being a “perfect parent”.

The YMCA of Greater Houston offers many ways to connect and socialize with other parents and learn more about mindfulness. Join a group class, like our weekly ZOOM Mindfulness Meditation on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm for YMCA facility members. Visit the YMCA of Greater Houston’s website for more information or to join the Y today.

Finally, if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, know that help is available. Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for a list of resources. For immediate help 24-hours a day, call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741.


  1. Parenting Science (2020). Parenting Stress: What Causes It, and How Does It Change Us?
  2. PsychCentral (2022). Here’s How to Navigate Parenting Stress.
  3. Mayo Clinic Health System (2020). Use Mindfulness to Improve Well-Being.
  4. Cleveland Clinic (2022). Survey Shows Why Mindful Moments Matter.


About the Author
Wendy Saunders is a Certified Teacher and Facilitator through Emory University in CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) and SEE Learning®, a K-12 educational program designed to build social, emotional, and ethical competencies through attention training, compassion cultivation, and trauma-informed resiliency skills.  Wendy is also a facilitator of the Community Resiliency Model (CRM) ®, a program of the Trauma Resource Institute, the Founder of Compassionate Leader, LLC, and has worked with thousands of people in business, non-profit, education, and healthcare organizations across the country and internationally to cultivate mindfulness, compassion, resilience, and leadership skills.