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UK: Parents pinpoint 8am as most stressful time of day

8am has been identified as the most stressful time of the day in a poll of 2,000 UK parents.


The study, carried out by health insurer Aviva, pinpoints eight o’clock as the tension tipping point for families, as they juggle breakfasts and children with commuting and school runs. 7am is the second most taxing time as parents face the challenge of getting children out of bed, while stress levels peak for a third time at 6pm as the bath and bed marathon begins.

It’s perhaps no surprise to find that nine out of ten parents (91%) say their lives are sometimes stressful, while more than a quarter (28%) find their routines ‘very stressful’.

And while the combination of “get up, get dressed, get out the door” puts 8am as the most tense time of day, there are many other tasks which raise parents’ pressure levels:

Parents identified the most stressful tasks as:

  1. Running a household (61%)
  2. Going to work (58%)
  3. Family holidays (45%)
  4. Family outings (44%)
  5. Getting family up in the morning (40%)
  6. Family meals (36%)
  7. Preparing for the next day / going to bed (34%)
  8. Putting children to bed (30%)
  9. Taking children to and from school (30%)
  10. Children’s bath time (27%)

Mums and dads have a number of methods to cope with the stresses and strains of family life, with the most popular approach being simply to plan ahead (28%). Although 27% admit they just pretend to be calm while chaos surrounds them and one in seven (14%) rely on a glass of wine at the end of the day.

Dr Doug Wright, medical director at Aviva, UK Health says: “Every parent will know that with family life comes a bit of disorder and disarray, so it’s understandable if they feel frazzled from time to time! However it’s important that people deal with stress before it gets out of hand. Our parent poll found that a third don’t have enough hours to do everything, while a quarter can’t find time for themselves - so it’s crucial that they identify their pressure points and find ways to deal with it.”

Neil Shah, Director of the Stress Management Society, says: “Bringing up children is a full-time, round-the-clock, unpaid job. Life with children can be wonderful but can also become very stressful as parents’ and children’s agendas often clash. If you’re exhausted and stressed, the chances are you will be ill-equipped to cope with the demands of parenthood. However, there are some very simple but effective ways to help prevent stress building up in the family home.”

The Stress Management’s Society’s top five tips for stressed parents:

1. Make sure you take care of yourself

Children’s needs rightly come first, but your ‘battery’ will run flat if you don’t find a good balance between their needs and taking care of yourself.

2. There is always a solution - your job is to find it

When you’re stressed out or facing a new challenge, always assume that you’ll be able to find a way forward so that both you and your children feel happier. Detach from the problem – pretend that it’s happened to your friend and they’re asking you for advice.

3. Use positive reinforcement

Our tendency is to focus on bad behaviour, but it’s also important to pay attention to the many things that children do well each day. Praising even little improvements in your child’s behaviour can help stimulate a more harmonious household.

4. Be consistent

Rules are important, but make sure they’re not just for the sake of it, or you have too many. Tell your children what you expect on those that are important to you and be consistent.

5. When your child is throwing a tantrum...

Be patient. Acting on any anger or embarrassment you feel will just make things worse. When your child has calmed down, help them to explore why they felt angry and offer ways for them to manage this differently in the future.

Aviva’s MyStressKit iphone app is available to all members of the public and is free to download on to iPhone and android devices. The app provides a stress diary timeline graph to enable users to track their moods and identify their own trigger points, alongside practical tips and advice from clinical experts.

- Ends -

Notes to editors:

The research was conducted in September 2013 by OnePoll Research. 2,000 parents across the UK were interviewed in an online poll.

Aviva provides insurance, savings and investment products to 34 million customers worldwide.

We are the UK’s largest insurer with over 14 million customers and one of Europe’s leading providers of life and general insurance. We combine strong life insurance, general insurance and asset management businesses under one powerful brand. We are committed to serving our customers well in order to build a stronger, sustainable business, which makes a positive contribution to society, and for which our people are proud to work.

Aviva Plc is in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In 2012 we invested £5.7m into our UK communities. One in three of our employees were involved in community investment activities which included giving nearly 30,000 hours.

Aviva is working in partnership with Railway Children through the Aviva Street to School programme to get children living or working on UK streets back into everyday life, especially education. Find out more at

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