Parenting Stress and its Impacts

Stress is part of everyday life, and our bodies can have mental and physical reactions to the stress we feel. When we encounter an event or situation that our body deems as challenging or stressful, our brain responds by perceiving a threat. This response, in turn, initiates several hormonal and physiological changes, such as increased heart rate, feelings of nausea, or sweating.

Stress can appear in routine challenges such as when you are running late for a doctor’s appointment or are worrying about missing a deadline at work. Our relationships with others can also be a source of stress, such as when you have a disagreement with a loved one or feel guarded when meeting a new manager. Experiencing small amounts of manageable stress can be beneficial for an individual. Coping with manageable stress can help us deal with situations in a positive way and can help us build resiliency. However, when we encounter situations or events that make us feel very stressed or we experience several stressful situations at once, our responses can become counterproductive. Some examples of the negative impact of the stress response can include increased anxiety, verbal and motor skill challenges, and extreme emotional reactivity (Avero & Calvo, 1999).

Being a parent is, perhaps, the most important role we encounter in life; however, it can also be one of the most stress-producing roles. Getting the family ready to start the day on time, mediating sibling arguments, caring for restless infants, and encountering many other daily events and challenges can lead to parental stress. The various types of parental stress you experience can have an impact on your behavior and can, in turn, influence your child’s behavior and well-being (Neece et al., 2012; Neece, 2014; Pinquart, 2018). In fact, when children, even infants, recognize stress in their parents, they often have a response that can lead to behavioral challenges (Neece et al., 2012).

High parental stress has been shown to lead to several undesirable family situations including the following (Neece et al., 2012):

  • Marriage challenges,
  • Decreased physical and mental health,
  • Increased parenting challenges, and
  • Increased behavior challenges in children.

Research consistently shows that parenting stress and poor behavior in children often occur in a cycle (Neece et al., 2012; Neece, 2014; Pinquart, 2018). In other words, when children act out, these actions can increase the parents’ levels of stress, the parents react to the stress, and their reactions, then, influence the child’s behavioral issues. For parents, their child’s behavior can be the source of their parenting stress. On the other hand, poor behavior can be the child’s stress reaction to a parent who is visibly stressed.

Developmental Delays and Parental Stress

Parents of children who have exceptional needs often face additional challenges and report higher levels of stress than other parents (Neece, 2014). In addition, children who have cognitive developmental challenges are more likely to exhibit poor behavior, which can lead to increased parental stress (Neece et al., 2012). All families with children who have exceptional needs can experience more problems at home and less parental satisfaction when compared to other families (Neece, 2014). Often, the stressors that come with raising children who experience developmental delays can increase at a faster rate and often reoccur more frequently (Neece, 2014). For example, as a child with developmental delays nears school age, their parents may have more and different decisions to consider, such needing to collaborate with school personnel to ensure the child’s needs are met and identify associated school-support staff. Other times, parents may experience stress when they compare their child’s development to other children of the same age.

How to Address Your Stress and Your Child’s Behavior at The Same Time

Because the stress of parenting impacts the behavior of children and vice versa, approaching both issues at once may be a good option. Several studies have shown that, when parents are able to reduce their levels of stress, their child’s behavior problems also decrease (Neece et al., 2012). Improving your relationship with your child is one way to tackle parenting stress and behavioral issues at the same time. Acts of charity and kindness are often associated with stress reduction and improved behavior so consider finding a volunteer opportunity that you and your child can participate in together. Let your child know how they are helping someone else and how this effort is positive. In another example, try talking to your child about stressful moments after they happen, so you and your child have a better understanding of the situation and you, as the parent, know that your child understands the situation. Research has shown that, for parents of children who have developmental delays, using mindfulness-based stress-reduction tools have a substantially positive impact on these families (Neece, 2014). Some examples of mindfulness-based stress-reduction tools that you can implement follow.

Ways to Alleviate Parenting Stress

  • Use meditation, practice yoga, or write in a journal.
  • Engage in social connections, especially through parenting groups.
  • Ensure you allot enough time to complete daily tasks. Research indicates that time pressure is one of the leading causes of parental stress.
  • Get adequate sleep. Rest is a critical part of stress management. Having children can hinder getting a good night’s rest; however, parents may want to be mindful of the amount of rest they get. For example, you may want to establish and maintain bedtime or limit caffeine use for 8 hours before bedtime.
  • Exercise. Establish exercise routines, if possible, to enhance your probability of continuing regular exercise. Get your heart rate up in ways you enjoy. Research shows that regular exercise increases your well-being and helps reduce your body’s reactions to stress.

Ways to Improve Behavior in Children

  • Enroll in parenting-education courses. Studies reveal that parenting courses offer stress-reduction discussions and trainings, which can help participants reduce parental stress and other negative feelings.
  • Do not tolerate or ignore poor behavior. Ignoring poor or unhealthy behavior can lead to you exhibiting a more severe reaction.
  • Help your children learn emotional regulation. Have intentional, in-depth discussions with your child about the times when they should try to remain calm and explain how they can manage their emotions when they become stressed.
  • Try to anticipate your child’s triggers. Identify what types of situations provoke your child and help them understand what is happening during these times and how to cope with these circumstances and their feelings.

Additional Resources

Thrive Universal Parent Education Programs

Thrive programs offer developmentally age-appropriate, universal, parent-education programs in a web-based format. These programs are designed to empower parents and caregivers as they nurture children from the prenatal period until 18 years of age. Each self-paced parent-education program delivers knowledge, skills, and strategies that intend to bolster positive parenting practices, enhance stress management, and promote child physical health and well-being. Thrive parent-education programs are available online to military and civilian parents and caregivers at no cost.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention- Positive Parenting Tips

This resource provides information based on your child’s developmental stage and age. The resource can help parents understand what is normal and what to expect at each stage and provides parenting tips that parents can use to enhance their child’s development.

GoNoodle – Flow and Steady

GoNoodle uses technology to engage young children and help them learn about themselves and the world around them in a positive way. “Flow and Steady,” offers several videos and activities your child can use to build their mindfulness skills and understand their emotions.

National Parent Helpline – State Resources

The national Parent Hotline offers parenting resources that are available in different states, and these resources can be sorted by state.

Child Mind Institute – Behavior Problems

The Child Mind Institute aims to provide parents with the most current, relevant, and correct information possible. Their page titled, “Behavior Problems” provides information to help parents understand different aspects of their child’s behavior and offers several strategies that parents can use to manage their child’s behavior.


Avero, P., & Calvo, M. (1999). Emotional reactivity to social-evaluative stress: Gender differences in response systems concordance. Personality and Individual Differences27(1), 155–170.

Neece, C. L. (2014). Mindfulness‐based stress reduction for parents of young children with developmental delays: Implications for parental mental health and child behavior problems. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities27(2), 174-186. https://doi/10.1111/jar.12064

Neece, C. L., Green, S. A., & Baker, B. L. (2012). Parenting stress and child behavior problems: A transactional relationship across time. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities117(1), 48.

Pinquart, M. (2018). Parenting stress in caregivers of children with chronic physical condition—A meta‐analysis. Stress and Health34(2), 197-207.

Finding Credible Information

Parents make multiple daily decisions that impact themselves and their family members. As a parent, you will likely want to use sound judgment and consider relevant and up-to-date information as you make positive and meaningful decisions for your family. However, the amount of information that is available through websites and digital media platforms – on any topic – can be overwhelming. Furthermore, identifying credible information using technology and on the internet can be challenging. Remember, the information available on the internet may not be accurate or used in the way that it may have been intended. There are two different types of incorrect information that will be presented and discussed in this blog post: misinformation and disinformation.

Misinformation is the unintentional sharing of false, inaccurate, or incomplete information (Heiss, 2020). This may include not fully listing all important facts, unintentionally excluding voices or different perspectives that may change the endpoint view, and/or not using information that is current. Memes and satire can fall under this category.

Example: Sharing a picture with a quote that does not belong to the person being quoted. A popular example of this is a picture of President Abraham Lincoln, who died in 1865, being quoted as saying that not everything on the internet is true.

Disinformation is the intentional spread of false in formation. This information is usually shared in ways that align with political or commercial motives (Heiss, 2020). The source may want to sell something or bolster a connection that is beneficial to them by purposely excluding facts and other voices and viewpoints and/or using outdated information (even if it has been proved as false in the past).

Example: Disinformation may come in the form of videos that use high-end technology to make it look and sound like a prominent figure is doing or saying something they did not say. Disinformation could include made up stories that intend to change public perception, or it may perpetuate conspiracy theories and/or rumors to sway the public to believe or buy something.

So, how do you find credible information that is accurate and current, so you can make sound decisions as you keep your family safe? Consider following the suggestions listed below.

Use Fact Checking Websites

One of the methods you can try to use is a fact-checking website. Examples of some fact-checking websites are listed below. Fact-checking websites compile information on popular topics that are being circulated, discussed, and/or reported and populate that information into articles. The articles state what is being said about a given topic – even when it needs to cover multiple perspectives – and fact check the information using relevant sources to produce a determination about the validity of the information (based on facts). Each article contains links to all of the identified sources, and users are encouraged to perform their own research. Website users are also invited to ask questions, electronically, about information they may have seen or heard.

Some credible fact checking websites to use are as follows: – This website is a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. They are working with to combat fake news and the spread of misinformation and disinformation in social media. – This is a website that is designed to fact check popular articles to show the validity of the information contained within the article. At the bottom of each article, a list of all of the resources that were used to fact check is presented. In addition, readers are encouraged to use additional resources to fact check (instead of just taking their word for it). – This website is hosted by a charity organization based in London, England, and is comprised of people from different political backgrounds who fact check the information and supply their findings to site users.

A few websites that should be avoided due to misinformation or disinformation are as follows:

Wikipedia – This website can be edited by anyone. No fact checking is done, and no resources are usually listed.

Satire Websites (e.g., Buzzfeed, The Onion) – These websites often post inflammatory and intentionally false articles to entertain readers; however, the information in the articles could be mistaken as factual by some readers.

Research the Topic Further

Another method for fact checking is to further research your topic of interest using a search engine like Google (McManus, 2020). In the search bar, type in the basic idea of the article, and see what other information or articles come up. Are major news articles reporting on it? If not, the information may not be valid. If major new articles are reporting on the issue, you may be able to examine additional information on the topic or find missing facts that can increase your knowledge and guide your decisions.

Watch for common red flags that may indicate the article is not factual or may be trying to gain a specific reaction (McManus, 2020):

  • Inflammatory language
  • Name calling
  • Broad generalizations
  • Exclamation points


An alternative fact-checking method is to use different tests, or questionnaires, to determine the accuracy of information. McManus (2020) offers the SMELL test, which was designed to help users critically look at information and sources. This test is outlined below, and the information is derived from the original chapter content in Detecting Bull: How to Identify Bias and Junk Journalism in Print, Broadcast and on the Wild Web (McManus, 2020).


  • Who or where is providing the information?
    • A traditional news outlet, a special interest group, a neighborhood blogger
  • Are they credible?
    • Education sites
    • Government information
    • Research institutes
  • Does the source have an agenda that would be furthered by sharing the information?
    • Who is funding the source?
    • Is the source receiving money for sharing this?


  • Why is this source sharing this information?
  • Does this information inform, entertain, or persuade you in a certain direction?
    • Entertainers are not bound by facts.
    • Persuasive wording can present information in a way that highlights topics that may direct your attention in a specific direction regardless of the facts.


  • Are there resources available?
  • Did the website add links to sites and cite other sources?
  • Do the sites offer information that supports their message?


  • Is the evidence logical?
  • Does this information agree with or support what you already know?
    • Information and research change; however, if the information is drastically different from what you know, you may want to do more investigating!

Left Out

  • Is there missing information?
    • Is it intentional?
  • Are there relevant facts or voices absent or marginalized?
Did you know!? Different URLs, or the ending of the website address, means the information was derived from different types of web sources (George, 2022).

  • .edu websites are considered educational resources and are largely considered trustworthy. These tend to be universities or educational institutions.
  • .gov websites are government-affiliated websites and are often considered credible and tend to have citations listed with information.
  • .org websites are used by advocacy or non-profit organizations. You may need to determine if the information from these sources is unbiased and cited.
  • .com websites contain some commercial aspect. They can be credible but be sure to check citations and for any potential bias.


Another test that could be used to determine the accuracy of information is the CRAAP test. California State University librarians developed this test to help determine if sources are credible since credibility is an important part of the information-literacy skill (George, 2022). The CRAAP Test, although created with academics in mind, can be used by anyone when they evaluate sources. By using the questions below, taken directly from the CRAAP test (California State University, 2010), you can evaluate resources and information to determine the validity of the information being shared.

Currency: the timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your questions?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advances for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: the source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Misinformation and disinformation can spread quickly through technology. Knowing how to evaluate and find accurate information, understanding the kinds of information you should be looking for, and realizing how you can validate that information are important skills that you can acquire and use to protect you and your family. Consider using one of the techniques, listed above, the next time you read an article about a topic that can affect your family. If you would like to learn more about finding information, misinformation, and/or fact checking, review the additional resources below.


California State University. (2010, September 17). Evaluating information: Applying the CRAAP test.

George, T. (2022, November 4). Applying the CRAAP test & evaluating sources. Scribbr.

George, T. (2022, December 7). What are credible sources & how to spot them. Scribbr.

Heiss, R. (2020). Fighting health infodemics: The role of citizen empowerment. Eurohealth.

McManus, J. (2017). Detecting bull: How to identify bias and junk journalism in print, broadcast and on the wild web (3rd ed.). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Nguyen, C. T. (2018). Escape the echo chamber.

World Health Organization. (2020). Infodemic management.

Thrive Educational Series: New Presentations for Military-Connected Professionals!

Session II: Fostering Families’ Internal and Interpersonal Well-being

We are pleased to announce the presenters for Session II of the Thrive Initiative’s Educational Series for Professionals! Join us, on dates scheduled this coming summer and fall, for three online presentations on the topics of parental mental health, trauma-informed care, and anger management. You can earn one hour of continuing education credit from the American Psychological Association for participating in each virtual event. The presentation dates and details are below.

Register today!

Promoting the Mental Health of Military Parents to Prevent Child Maltreatment

Date: July 11, 2023

Time: 12-1 pm EST

Presenter: Keith R. Aronson, Ph.D.

Adult and child hands holding encephalography brain paper cutout,autism, Stroke, Epilepsy and alzheimer awareness, seizure disorder, stroke, ADHD, world mental health day concept Adult and child hands holding encephalography brain paper cutout,autism, Stroke, Epilepsy and alzheimer awareness, seizure disorder, stroke, ADHD, world mental health day concept mental health stock pictures, royalty-free photos & imagesThe military has been described as a “greedy” institution because it demands so much from Service members and their families. Those connected to the military experience unique stressors like military deployments, frequent relocations, and injuries. They also encounter the same challenges as their civilian peers such as paying the bills, doing household chores, and taking care of children. Not surprisingly, some military parents experience mental health challenges. These can range from having a few minor psychological symptoms to diagnosable psychiatric conditions. Unfortunately, parents’ mental health problems are associated with suboptimal parenting and, in the extreme, child maltreatment and neglect. Thus, the mental health of military parents is critically important for individual and family functioning. There are a number of evidence-based programs and services designed to address psychological problems among military parents which ultimately contribute to improved parenting and prevention of child maltreatment.

Trauma-Informed Care for Helping Professionals

Date: October 17, 2023

Time: 12-1 pm EST

Presenter: Tara Saathoff-Wells, Ph.D., CFLE

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Trauma-informed care (TIC) is currently a bit of a buzz phrase across educational, allied health, and other helping profession fields today. Organizations and programs may include variations of the phrase in their marketing and outreach materials and may support their personnel in completing TIC-focused trainings. But what does (and can) this approach to service delivery mean for professionals and organizations who do not treat or focus on trauma? Join us as we discuss the six principles of TIC and how these principles can be integrated into practice, at the individual and organizational levels, to benefit a range of client populations and organizational personnel. 

Anger Management Techniques and Strategies

Date: November 14, 2023

Time: 12-1 pm EST

Presenter: Chelsea Spencer, Ph.D., LCMFT

A picture containing text Description automatically generatedExperiencing anger too frequently or too severely can have a host of negative consequences, including negative physical and mental health symptoms, interpersonal problems, and family conflict. This presentation will review a variety of cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness-based, and communication strategies that can help individuals manage their anger and reduce interpersonal conflict.