Top tips to deal with stressful pressures of insta-parenting
Social media images of perfect parents can make real mums and dads feel like failures. Lisa Salmon gets expert advice on how to rise above the modern problem
Research shows around six out of 10 parents feel pressure from social media to be the 'perfect parent' - even though the truth is there's no such thing.
The result of this social media pressure can often be stress and anxiety, with perfectly good parents believing they're failing because they're not matching the frequently unrealistic and unobtainable standards trumpeted by other parents on social media platforms.
But the charity Home-Start (www.home-start.org.uk), which provides a local network of trained volunteers and expert support throughout the UK to help families with young children through challenging times - including more than 1,500 families in Northern Ireland - is calling on parents to take another look at their social media use and be more honest about the realities of parenting.
The organisation's deputy chief executive Vivien Waterfield says: "Parenting has never been easy, but with the added pressures of social media, our bad days and difficult times can seem magnified compared with the seemingly perfect families we see online.
"Our research found 60% of parents feel pressure from social media to be a perfect parent, and we've named this trend 'insta-parenting'."
She adds: "We're calling on parents to be more honest with what they post on social media and we hope this will start a more open dialogue between parents and encourage them to help and support each other - parents supporting parents is something we know can be incredibly effective."
Here, Home-Start outlines the best ways to deal with insta-parenting:
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1. Remember there's no such thing as a 'perfect parent'
If you're struggling with feeling like you're 'not good enough', research proves you're not alone. The reality is that we all face challenges and it's only our happiest times that we share on social media. Remember that social media is a rose-tinted view of the best parts of lives and doesn't tell the whole story.
2. Follow accounts that make you feel positive
Instagram is a hub of beautiful images showcasing aspirational lifestyles. They're not always reflective of real-life or real parenting. If the accounts you follow make you feel bad about yourself as a parent, you can make the choice to stop following them. Think about cleansing your Instagram/Facebook and start following more supporting and uplifting voices. Once you find those positive influencers, you can curate your own positive space.
3. Try to limit your use of social media
We know that phones and social media are designed to keep our attention for as long as possible, and we're all guilty of falling into a YouTube hole of funny cat videos from time-to-time. If you do feel like social media might be getting you down, why not set a time limit for how much screen time you want each day? This can be done through your phone's own settings or downloading specific apps.
4. Think about what you're putting out there
Equally, think about what you're posting on social media. Are you sharing only the best moments or even creating moments to get likes and comments? Most of us are guilty of adding a filter or two but it's good to consider how making our own lives look perfect can make others feel.
5. Set up a closed Facebook group
Facebook and social media does have the potential to be a positive space, enabling like-minded people in similar circumstances to communicate easily and have honest conversations. Why not set up a private or closed Facebook group with a community of trusted parents? Be honest about your struggles and share tips and advice. Our volunteers often say they get as much out of it as the parents they're helping. Supporting another parent online could give you more than you think.
6. You're not alone
It can be hard to talk about the pressures of parenting, particularly if you feel like you're struggling with something that doesn't seem to bother other parents. Speaking to those around us about how we're feeling can be really daunting but you'll be surprised how much fellow parents will understand. Our research found that our most valued service is that we offer a listening ear. If you have someone close to you that can offer that, it'll be a huge weight off your shoulders.
7. Put moments above pictures
Every stage of our child's development is a time we'll never get back. Trying to hold on to these memories by taking photos and cataloguing everything on social media is really tempting but truly the best way to remember and enjoy these moments is by being present.
8. Ask for help if you need it
We found that on average parents can struggle for over seven months before reaching out for support. Remember, it's okay to ask for help and it can prevent a difficult situation turning into a risky one. The earlier you reach out, the sooner someone can help you to regain your confidence. Do you have friends or a relative you can speak to? Or you can talk to your health visitor or GP. They'll be able to suggest services in your area that could help, including a Home-Start if there's one in your area.