Being a parent, while joyful and satisfying, can also bring stresses and demands. You can easily put all your energy into your children and forget about yourself.
So I’m sharing some tips in this article, on How To Be a Better Parent & Look After Yourself for The Kids Sake.
Look After Yourself For the Kids Sake
Not only can parenting be stressful and demanding but we often feel guilt when we take time for ourselves. Here are some thoughts I have on this and some advice for how to look after yourself, it’ll make you a better parent if you do!
Stress and Demands
Though becoming a parent brings many joys and satisfactions, it is inherently stressful and demanding and can take its toll on your mental health. We can easily put all our energies into caring for and attending to our children, and sacrifice our own personal needs and self-care.
When juggling all the many demands placed on us, it’s too easy for parents to cut off from sources of rest or recreation or even from your natural supports. Over time you become burnt out, stressed, depleted.
This is especially true if you are dealing extra challenges such as a child with special needs, stressful work, and/or family losses or crises.
Dealing with Guilt
Many parents nowadays suffer from constant guilt – guilt that they are not parenting right or not doing enough, that definitely adds to the pressure.
For some parents, becoming a parent is not how they anticipated and instead of having joyful feelings of love for their child, they can experience a sense of loss for their former life and experience their child as a burden.
Though part and parcel of being a parent, negative feelings can lead to extra guilt and can become repressed, leading to further stress or depression – such feelings are often the basis of post natal depression.
Prioritise Your Own Welfare
By sacrificing and not attending to your own needs and mental health for the sake of your children, ironically in the long term this does not serve your children’s needs. If you become stressed, burnt out, or depressed as a parent then you can no longer be there for your children.
When your mental health suffers you can become negative,inconsistent and resentful or neglectful in your parenting.
As a result, it is important for parents to prioritise their own welfare and mental health, as well as caring for their children. This is a crucial balance to achieve as much for your children’s sake as your own.
Children need cared-for parents as much as they need parents to care for them.
Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On
It is a bit like the safety notice on planes which says that though your inclination is the reverse, you should first put your own oxygen mask on before helping your child with his. This is why when making crucial parenting decisions you should take into account your own mental health needs as a parent as well as those of your children.
For example, when deciding how to approach a baby not sleeping through the night, some parents opt for letting the child co-sleep with them in their bed for a period and others work hard at getting the child to settle in his room. The decision should be as much about what is least disruptive and most restful for the parent as what works for the child.
Or with a toddler you might feel under pressure to start toilet training with your child, but because you are going through a difficult period in work, it might be a better idea to defer the training until you have more time.
Or with older children, you might become stressed, ferrying them to all their extra-curricular activities when you it would be better for your own mental health to reduce these activities drastically or make other arrangements for your children travelling there.
Here are Some Suggested Strategies
In my own clinical practice, many parents come looking for strategies to deal with their children’s behavioural problems.
However, frequently they are so stressed or overwhelmed by the problems that they are not even in a position to reflect about how they are reacting let alone implement a behaviour management plan.
#1. Take a Step Back and Make a Plan
The first step is to take a step back and to build plans around your self-care and support. You need to work towards feeling more secure and centred as a parent.
Frequently, my advice to parents is to redirect some of the time and energy that they have being putting into caring for their children towards caring for themselves.
Taking this step back and shifting perspective can make a big difference.
#2. Separate Your Needs
Once a parent feels more relaxed and secure, they can begin to understand their own reactions and to separate their own needs from those of their children. From that position, you can begin to make choices in how you parent and tackle any problems that arise.
Though parenting is about relationships with your children, good parenting starts with your relationship with yourself. The more you can understand the sources of your own reactions and attend to your own needs, the more you will be able to understand and respond to your children’s individual needs.
No one ever said parenting was easy! With that in mind, here are 15 positive parenting techniques every parent should know:
#3. Prioritise Your Mental Health
Learn to prioritise your own mental health as well supporting your children’s well being.
In the long term, practising self-care as a parent has benefits for your children as well as yourself. Not only will you feel more secure, content and fulfilled as a person, but your children will have access to more available, attentive and consistent parents.
#4. Practice Daily Self Care
Try and have a daily relaxation time for yourself that you keep sacrosanct. This could be
- a short daily walk
- doing yoga
- 15 minutes reading before bed
- or simply having a cup of tea listening to the radio
- calling your best friend for a chat
Find something that works for you.
#5. Have a Weekly Review Time
Have a weekly review time, when you take time to review the important priorities in your life. Are you getting the right balance between your work and personal life? Is the balance between parenting your children and attending to your needs as a individual there?
Take time to understand your own needs and wishes as person as well as all the demands that are put on you as parent, worker, spouse etc.
#6. Take Action if You Feel You are Getting Over Stressed
Notice the early warning signals of your stress levels rising such as tiredness, irritation or even physical sickness. Take early action to address things. You might seek support, or look at changing routines, or say no to less important demmands.
While this might be extra work in the short-term (e.g. setting up a more relaxing routine or arranging day care), this will benefit you in the long term.