Parental Stress? There’s an app for that!

A computer scientist at the University of California, San Diego developed an app that measures parental stress and offers strategies to cope with the stress. The original test group consisted of parents of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The app, called ParentGuardian, is based on Parenting Behavioral Therapy, which has been “shown to improve self-control and self-awareness in children and reduce parental stress.”

In the study, the parent wears a wrist sensor, which has been calibrated to detect stress with up to 78 percent effectiveness. When stress has been detected, the sensor will notify the servers and a notification will appear on the parent’s phone or tablet with a message. The message contains a strategy to help parents manage their stress. The prompts consisted of relaxation strategies and suggestive ways to positively interact with their children.

The participants reported that even hearing the ding on the phone would cause them to pause and change the course of action being taken with their child(ren), without even having to look at the message being sent. This helped them to parent with greater self-awareness in the heat of the moment.

Historically I have been a traditionalist and prefer a hands-on approach to parenting, which typically means avoiding electronics. In this case, I think the use of the app to help reduce stress and help teach parents to be more mindful of their own reactive impulses is positive. We can’t avoid technology. It is everywhere and it can very easily consume us. While it can offer some obstacles, this digital age can bring some conveniences to daily living.

I feel this app offers parents an opportunity to manage their own stress level, which in turn can be passed along to their children. Parents can learn to be less reactive and more responsive to their children. This teaches self-control and creates a more relaxed interaction between parent and child. When the tensions are down, the lessons we are trying to offer have a better chance of being communicated.

When a child is acting out either impulsively or due to a stressful experience, the parental response can either help or hurt the situation. Unfortunately, very well-meaning parents exacerbate the situation with their own frustration. Learning to be self-aware can help you regulate and control your own feelings and tone down the reaction that might otherwise make matters worse.

Maybe one day an app like this can be standard on every parent’s phone, making the home a less stressful place for the whole family.

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About Dr. Raquel Anderson, Bundoo Behavioral Health Specialist

Raquel Anderson has 14 years of experience as a mental health provider in institutional and private practice. Aside from her private practice, she is an advisory board member for the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County’s Be Merge Initiative and is a contributing author to Raising Boys with ADHD.


  1. I think I need to look into this app. I like how there is a ding when the stress level rises. Sometimes in the heat of the moment I don’t realize just how upset I get and regret how loud I raised my voice. I am interested to see some of the relaxation strategies as I know I can use them in my life!

  2. So interesting! I can see how this would be helpful.


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