Find resources / Group parenting programme / Managing our stress Module 7

Supporting parents to meet the demands of parenting and develop ways of effectively managing their stress.

Parenting is a demanding role and all parents experience stress at times. Parents need to have ways of effectively managing this stress. They need to take care of themselves, to take care of their child.

Learning goals

  • Understand how stress and the brain are linked.
  • Identify stressors and their possible causes.
  • Develop strategies for keeping calm during parenting challenges.

Session plan

Begin the session with an appropriate settling in time – for example, karakia, gathering thoughts, waiata, simple hellos. This is an opportunity for people to share what’s going on for them if they wish.

Find waiata for your session

Introduce the session topic – today's focus will be on understanding what could be contributing to your heightened stress levels as a new parent and on developing effective ways of managing this.

Mix and match from the pūtea of related workshops below. Consider the following when selecting which ones will work best for your group:

  • the size of your group
  • how much time you have
  • the ages of the participants’ children
  • factors such as literacy levels and the particular needs of the individuals you are working with.

Background information

Our brain’s job is to keep us in balance – not just physically, but also emotionally. It helps us self-regulate, which is our ability to tolerate or control our stressors.

In a newborn, only the brain stem is fully wired. The brain stem only has two ‘zone of arousal’ levels – ‘overwhelmed’ or ‘content’. When parents respond quickly to baby’s distress and help calm them, they’re helping to start the process of learning to self-regulate.

Adult brains have a wider range of arousal states. We can be happy, sad, angry, glad, scared, excited, frustrated and upset. Most of us can self-regulate – our more developed brain systems can work through these states. We shouldn’t need to have a tantrum because we’re hungry, thirsty or tired. We have the skills and knowledge to meet our own needs, for example:

  • I’m hungry – I’ll eat something.
  • I’m worried – I’ll ring my sister and talk about my worries.
  • I’m uncomfortable – I’ll investigate the cause.

When things in the outside world cause us to become aroused, our brain perceives a threat or danger. This activates the survival functions in our brain stem. For our ancestors it may have been a charging sabre-tooth tiger. For us today it may be a very sick or unhappy, screaming baby.


Tākai resources

Staying calm with kids [PDF, 6.9 MB]

The world of under-fives [PDF, 9.8 MB]

Thinking about parenting [PDF, 11 MB]

Order free printed resources(external link)

Related articles

Tell me you love me

Sleeping like a baby

Managing stress

Managing stress during pregnancy

How Te Whare Tapa Whā supports wellbeing


Managing stress

Mirimiri – massage


Video: Early Days - when your baby cries | Tākai (YouTube)(external link)

Video: Self-regulation and Brain Development part 1 | Dr. Reggie Melrose (YouTube)(external link)

Video: Self-regulation and Brain Development part 2 | Dr. Reggie Melrose (YouTube)(external link)

Other resources link)

How to support a child or teenager with depression | Health Navigator(external link)

Mothers Matter(external link)

Looking after you | Whānau Āwhina Plunket(external link)

Well Child Tamariki Ora My Health Book | HealthEd(external link)

  • Looking after yourself (p. 172)
  • Partners are needed too (p. 178)