On an airplane you are told that in case of an emergency, put on your oxygen mask and then help your child put on their mask. You don’t need an emergency though to learn that taking care of your needs means being better able to take care of your child’s needs. Not only will you be helping yourself, but practicing self-care will also help you be a better parent and model for your child that you are important as well.
The Importance of Self-Care
When you model self-care, you are teaching your child that we all need to listen to ourselves and take care of our own needs, as well as caring for each other.
When you neglect your needs, and become overly tired, distracted or burnt out, it’s hard to be creative and consistent in addressing the different kinds of needs your child has.
- Are you too tired to be able to chase your child around the kitchen?
- Are you able to consider what might be going on for your child emotionally instead of having an impatient reaction to challenging behavior?
- Can you find new and interesting ways to occupy and entertain your child rather than relying on giving them unplanned screen time?
What is self-care?
Having trouble thinking about what kinds of things you need to do for “self-care?” Think about what you do for your child – make sure they eat right, sleep enough, play, and express their emotions and creativity. Then do the same for yourself.
Do at least a little self-care every day:
- Think about what you might do for yourself and when – even just 10 or 15 minutes in the morning and evening can make a difference in your ability to cope.
- Check in with yourself during the day – getting particularly impatient with your child? Do you need a break? Does your child need a break?
- Stay Strong and Healthy – Physical Needs
- You wouldn’t consider having your child skip a meal because you were too busy, so don’t skip a meal for yourself either! Remember basics:
- Eat regularly and healthily. Don’t skip meals.
- Stock up or pre-prepare easy to grab healthy snacks, such as veggie sticks, nuts, cheese or crackers.
- Exercise. You don’t need the gym. Dance around the house. Walk around the block.
- Physical Affection. Cuddle up with your spouse or partner and make time for intimacy. Get hugs from friends.
- Take a hot bath or shower to relax.
Alone Time, Together Time
As parents, we need to make sure to re-fuel emotionally and socially so we don’t burn out:
- Work as a team with your spouse or partner, so that you each get time alone and time together. Single parent? Employ friends or neighbors to give you a break — take a walk by yourself or hang out with friends.
- Try a weekly date night. It needn’t be fancy – burritos in the park can be a great way to be with your spouse or partner and be outside too.
- Find time for friends. If you’re a stay at home parent, make sure you have time for adult conversation.
- Take care of emotions. Give yourself permission to have a “good cry.” Watch your favorite comic for a good laugh.
- Anxious or just off balance? Try learning a few yoga poses or easy breathing exercises, which you can incorporate when needed.
Feed Your Spirit, Feed Your Mind
Remember when you spent hours painting, hiking in the Gorge, or being a volunteer? You may not have as much time or energy as you had before you were a parent, but you will benefit enormously if you find time to feed your spirit and mind.
- Be in nature. There are a lot of great Lane County spots – walk to Delta Ponds and look for herons and turtles.
- Find a space for quiet and reflection. Learn to meditate.
- Ten minutes of writing or drawing in a journal about your thoughts and feelings can be replenishing.
- Watch a documentary on a subject of interest. Don’t have two hours to watch it? Try 15 minutes at a time.
You may not be able to volunteer as much as you used to, but sometimes even donating clothes your child has grown out of can give you the satisfaction of “making a difference” – and make you realize how quickly your child is growing!
There’s Just No Time
We can all feel overwhelmed and forget to fit in time for self-care. Not taking care of yourself, however, can have serious consequences for you and negatively affect your child.
- Not taking care of your basic needs can add stress to your body and can impact your health. Your immune system can start to suffer and you may find yourself getting sick more often and unable to attend to daily needs. Prolonged stress can raise your risk of health issues like high blood pressure or depression.
- If you are “burned out,” it’s harder to be an effective parent. You may lose your temper or be impatient more frequently, or not have energy to take care of your child. When your child sees you are not taking care of yourself, they might think self-care is not important. Showing your child how to take care of themselves is an important part of parenting. Be a good self-care role model.
Get Some Oxygen
When you take care of your physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs, you are helping yourself become a better parent. Remember the flight attendant’s wise words — you need oxygen to be able to provide it for your child! Make it a priority every day to at least spend a little time on you – you’re worth it! You’ll feel better and your relationship to your child (and others) will improve too.
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This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors, Tova Stabin, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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