Need Help Managing Your Parental Emotions? There's an App for That

...or, at least, there should be soon.

Researchers at University of California San Diego have been developing an app that is designed to suggest helpful strategies for dealing with the frustrations of parenting when you need those strategies most -- in the moment.

Initially tested on parents who have children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the app is teamed up with a sensor that is worn on the wrist. If the sensor detects symptoms of stress in the parent, the parent is notified of suggested strategies ("Fill your lungs with air. Take three full, deep breaths" "You are your child's role model. What do you want to each?" ) via smartphone or tablet. The parents also received regular prompts encouraging them to be mindful of their overall parenting goals: for example, "Be consistent. Be predictable. Be prepared."

Parents who were involved in testing the app found the messages helpful. They particularly appreciated the "in the heat of the moment" parenting prompts. The researchers are now looking at ways to alert parents to early symptoms of stress (so that parents can take immediate action to deal with their rising emotion). They are also pursuing funding that will allow them to make the app more widely available.

So what can you do in the meantime, while you're waiting for technology to catch up with your needs as a parent?

You can develop your own game-plan for dealing with the stress that goes along with being a parent.

  • Identify your big-picture parenting goals, so that your parenting decisions are more conscious and deliberate.
  • Zero in on strategies that help you to deal with stress in the moment (for example, taking deep breaths or reminding yourself of your hopes and dreams for your child).
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to bring down your overall stress level. Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and make sure you're fuelling yourself with healthy food and regular servings of fun.