Health & Well-being

Parenting under pressure: Simple ways to ease the stress

Parenting under pressure

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are probably feeling the hangover of life post-pandemic, topped off with that unwelcome side-effect of rising living costs. The fourth annual State of the Nation Parenting Survey, conducted by nib New Zealand (nib), has just released its latest findings, highlighting the major concerns troubling New Zealand parents right now.

The report shows that whānau are struggling with overwhelming increases in societal and household pressures, compared to four years ago. It’s no surprise, considering mortgage rates are up to double what they were last year and inflation is at 7.2%. From pain at the pump and paying for groceries, to the stress of work and covering sick staff, all while dealing with the mental health impact of Covid (for us and our kids), it's fair to say there’s a lot to deal with at the moment. Living under a rock actually sounds quite appealing, come to think of it!

Six out of 10 parents say the rising cost of living has affected the way they raise their children.

Number crunching

The normal stressors of family life are more compounded at present, with a whopping 62% of New Zealand parents saying that the rising cost of living is significantly affecting their parenting. The State of the Nation Parenting Survey shows that managing the family and household is the greatest source of stress, with mounting financial or debt-related pressures significantly contributing to this burden. Six out of 10 parents say the rising cost of living has affected the way they raise their children, and one in 10 parents or caregivers are going without essentials like food or petrol to ensure their children have enough.

You're not alone

When you’re doing it tough, it can help to know that you’re not alone. Most people are feeling the pinch and juggling multiple life stressors.

It can also help to be reminded by the experts that you and your kids are resilient, and that you will be okay. Cast your mind back over the past few years and you will likely be amazed at what you have been through and how you got through it together. All those months of working from home, or not having a job at all; of schooling at home, or not schooling at home… It was tough. Yet here you are!

Get serious about self-care and support

At the risk of sounding all doom and gloom, the reality is that 2023 isn’t looking to provide the economic reassurance we need right now. So prioritising self-care, mental health and support is essential to maintaining our reserves and ensuring we can best care for our family through this tough time.

Nathan Wallis, nib’s resident parenting expert, says the difference year-on-year from the 2021 survey is marked. “The impacts of a post-Covid world, walking a tightrope balancing work and home life, and the rising cost of living, are colliding to create the perfect storm for parents,” Nathan says. “In these circumstances, a focus on well-being and finding ways to access support becomes really important.”

It can help to pull things right back and focus on the simple things, things that provide us with a low-key dopamine hit and help keep us centred and ordered.

Nathan says, “In times of high stress, it can help to pull things right back and focus on the simple things, things that provide us with a low-key dopamine hit and help keep us centred and ordered.”

Nathan suggests four ways to give yourself and your whānau a simple but strategic boost:

1. Harness predictability

Use ritual and routines to mark your day into predictable sections and create order when things feel a bit chaotic. This can be as simple as eating breakfast, lunch and tea together at set times at the table. Predictability in a child’s day really helps to keep their brain calm and happier.

2. Take a breather

It could be that when you're feeling overwhelmed and the kids are adding to the noise, you take a short walk outside to the letterbox for fresh air. Take a few deep breaths and enjoy the feel-good hormones to give you a bit of a lift for your return indoors.

3. Shake off the stress

Dance with the stereo up loud and show the kids your smooth dance moves. You get the feel-good factor just from moving – and your kids’ brains will be flooded with feel-good hormones as they roll on the floor laughing at just how totally “not smooth” your dance moves are!

4. Child-led play for young and old

Giving children periods of child-led play where the adult/caregiver has to follow the cues and instructions of the child helps to alleviate stress in both young and old. The key is letting the child lead and be in charge, which can be hard! In addition to creating some hilarious memories, playing together in this way strengthens the relationship bond and it is these connections and relationships with whānau and loved ones that really release the most feel-good hormones (like oxytocin and dopamine) into our systems. This in turn helps to mitigate the effects of the increased stress hormones parents are experiencing post Covid.

So, while it may seem insignificant to take a walk to the letterbox or spend some time playing “Daddy Robot” or “Grannies” (we see you Bandit Heeler, raising the bar so inspiringly high), the simple feel-good vibes that we experience as a result of fresh air, fun and whānau connection truly are our most powerful weapon in the quest against stress.

Holly Jean Brooker

Holly Jean Brooker

Holly Jean Brooker works as a PR Specialist, Writer and Presenter for Parenting Place. She is a mum of two, runs her own marketing consultancy business and has a background in high school education where she specialised in health and social sciences. Holly is co-founder of

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