Managing Parental Stress

While there is a lot of joy in parenting, all parents know that parenting can also be stressful. It is common for parents to feel overwhelmed, and it is easy to understand how that can happen. In the first years of life, without language, children cannot exactly tell you what they need – and they need a lot! Parenting is a full time commitment, and it can be hard to adjust to it. Also, parents want what’s best for their children, and it can be nerve-wracking to determine what that is, or how to provide it.

While stress is natural, too much of it can have an impact on the relationship between a parent and a child, as well as on the child’s development. When parents feel overwhelmed all the time, it can impair their judgement, leading to poor decisions. Stress can sneak up on individuals as well, and parents may not recognize how uncomfortable they are right away. We once had a family use Crisis Nursery after a trip to the Emergency Room; Dad hadn’t realized how overwhelmed he was feeling until he punched a wall and hurt himself!

Children feel stress too – and too much of it can hurt them. “Toxic stress” is a term defined by Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child to describe a child’s exposure to strong, frequent, or prolonged stressful experiences – such as having a caregiver with a mental illness or substance abuse problem, physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, or exposure to violence. When children grow up in environments with toxic stress, their ability to learn, grow, and develop healthily can be negatively impaired.

The most common reason families use Crisis Nursery is to relieve parental stress, and we really praise those families for asking for help. We know that when parents take the time to take care of themselves, they are better positioned to parent well and love well, and that benefits both the parent and the child. We are happy to partner with families to relieve that stress, so that a situation never has the chance to escalate to the point where a child could be hurt.

Using Crisis Nursery is easy, and it is a service available to all families in Champaign County with children ages 6 and under, completely free of charge. To use our services, families call our crisis line at 217-337-2730 and explain their situation to one of our Crisis Advocates. In the case of parental stress, it can be as easy as explaining that the parent is feeling overwhelmed, and would like a break so that she can be a better parent. The Crisis Advocate will then schedule time for the child to come play at the Nursery, which gives the parent the break she was looking for. Children can stay at the Nursery for up to three days at a time, but average stays are much shorter – around 8 hours.

Of course, calling Crisis Nursery is not the only tool available to families who are feeling overwhelmed. There are lots of strategies parents can try to help manage their stress. For example:

Join a support group, or call a friend. Sometimes it’s enough to hear you aren’t alone, and that others have felt the same.

Meditation or prayer can be helpful to some people, or try reflecting on what you value. Practicing gratitude can help relieve stress.

Exercise: movement can release endorphins, which can help you feel better. Take a walk, dance in your kitchen, or try something more aerobic – if it gets your heart rate up, it can help!

Try something relaxing: listen to music, do some deep breathing, or soak in a hot bath.

Make time for yourself so you can read a book or watch a favorite show. Sometimes, a brief break is all that’s needed to feel more in control.

It’s important to remember that some stress is natural, but that parents do not have to suffer alone. There is help available – often, all you have to do is ask for it! For more information about how Crisis Nursery can be of service, call 217-337-2730.

Crisis Nursery creates an “Island of Safety”

Crisis Nursery creates an “Island of Safety” dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect by providing 24-hour emergency care for children and supportive services to strengthen families in crisis. Crisis Nursery is the only emergency-based child care facility open 24 hours, 365 days a year for the entire Champaign County community to access with no fees or income eligibility. Besides providing safe shelter to children ages birth through age six, we also support families through specialized programming, parent education, and home visiting services designed to strengthen parenting skills and confidence. We believe that asking for help is a sign of strength.

Crisis Nursery provides families with a safe alternative when they face a situation that could put their child at risk of harm. To use our services, families call our 24/7 crisis line at 217-337-2730 and speak with a Crisis Advocate, who collects information on the situation the family is facing. The Crisis Advocate then schedules time for the child to come stay at the Nursery, giving the caregiver the time they need to address the situation that led them to call us. To be admitted, a child must be within our age range birth through six) and in good health, and they must be admitted by their legal guardian.

Children can stay at the Nursery for up to three days at a time, although average stay is around eight hours. Parents do not need to pack any items for their children to come to the Nursery – we can provide all food, clothing, diapers, and formula. When children stay with us, they are cared for by trained staff and volunteers, and we focus on providing a fun and enriching experience. We recognize that if children don’t have fun at Crisis Nursery, it’s harder for parents to call us for help – so we do our best to make sure that children enjoy their time with us!

Crisis Nursery is open for the entire community to access, and there are no fees or income eligibility requirements. Families use the Nursery for many different reasons. The vast majority of our admissions are for reasons related to parental stress, by parents who recognize if they could have some time to take care of themselves, they can be more attentive and engaged caregivers. Families may also use the Nursery to address other issues, such as medical emergencies, home crises such as power failures or homelessness, domestic violence, and to avoid missing school or work due to a child care emergency. We let families determine what “a crisis” is, which gives us flexibility in meeting their needs. There are no limits on how often a family can use the Nursery.

We also offer post-crisis services, ranging from home visiting, parent education classes, support groups, and playgroups. In addition, we can link families up with other needed resources, and in some cases, we may be able to provide needed goods such as diapers and formula.

In FY14, Crisis Nursery served 840 children from 546 families (unduplicated count) and provided 33,173 hours of crisis care. The Nursery also facilitated 65 parent support groups, 54 Parent-Child Interaction groups, and 1,001 home visits. Over the past five years, we have noticed an increasing demand for Crisis Nursery services, with number of children served rising approximately 37% and admission rates rising approximately 34%. When requests for services exceed our capacity, we prioritize care based on the family’s situation and needs.

All of Crisis Nursery’s services are provided free of charge, which we are only able to do through the support of our community. There are many ways people can get involved. We are always in need of volunteers to help us care for the children – especially during the summer time, when many of our student volunteers are away for the summer. For more information on volunteering, we invite individuals to visit our website (www.crisisnursery.net). We also appreciate in-kind donations from our wish list, and monetary donations to help us fund our services.

Families who desire more information about services are invited to call us at 217-337-2730.

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