Being a strong parent, even when you’re stressed

Caring for a child who needs you can be one of the best experiences in the world—but it can also be stressful for you and your family. To support foster and adoptive parents and kinship caregivers, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) developed “Taking Care of Yourself,” a tool to help them:

  • Reflect on their experience as a resource parent
  • Identify their strengths and where they may need more support
  • Be aware of how traumatic experiences may affect the children in their care and how that might impact them as caregivers
  • Respond to the child in a supportive way even when their behavior is challenging.

The following is excerpted from the part of this tool about resource parent resilience.

Resource Parent Resilience

Resilience is the process of managing stress and functioning well even when things are difficult. Being resilient as a parent or caregiver means:

  • Taking care of and feeling good about yourself
  • Asking for help when you need it
  • Being hopeful and preparing for the future
  • Planning for what you will do in situations that are challenging for you or the child
  • Not allowing stress to get in the way of providing loving care for the child
  • Taking time to really enjoy the child and doing things you like to do together.
Reflect to Stay Strong

Take a moment to reflect on the following questions about your own resilience and how you can stay strong:

1. What helps you feel calm when things are stressful in your everyday life? Please list three small actions you can take to help yourself feel strong and calm. Can you make time to do these things on a regular basis?

2. What things really get under your skin as a parent? Make a plan for the things that you know have been stressful and might happen again. Think about the things this child might do differently from your other children and how you will respond.

3. Think back to other parenting or child care experiences you have had. What were some of the things you really enjoyed? Ask the child in your care about things they enjoy doing or would like to try. Building routines together around activities that you both enjoy is an important part of building a positive nurturing relationship.

If you have a caseworker, therapist, or close friend you rely on for support, consider discussing your answers to the questions above with that person so they can support you as you care for this child. You may also want to share your answers with other family members to help you all focus on what you can do to best support the child and each other.

Check Out the Full Tool

The “Taking Care of Yourself” tool is part of Strengthening Families, an effort built around five “protective factors.” Protective factors are strengths families rely on, especially when life gets difficult. The protective factors discussed in this tool are:

  • Parental resilience: Be strong, even when you’re stressed
  • Social connections: Get and give support
  • Knowledge of parenting and child development: Learn more so you can parent better
  • Concrete support in times of need: Get help when you need it
  • Children’s social-emotional competence: Help your child learn to care for themselves and others

You can find the full tool online at

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Trauma Tip

It is easier to feel resilient in a parenting role when you get positive feedback from the child that what you do matters and the child feels loved. It may be hard for this child to give you that feedback at first. Don’t get discouraged—it is understandable. They are likely scared and frightened. They may feel they are betraying their birth parent(s) if they let anyone else get close to them. It is very important for you to continue to provide loving care, even when the child can’t let you know they want it or appreciate it. Please remember to take care of yourself and remind yourself you are doing your best in a difficult situation. — Reprinted from CSSP, n.d.