Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Parenting Tips: Finding Balance

One of the best things parents can do for their children is to make time for themselves. So many well-intentioned parents focus all of their time and energy on their children. It is extremely important to be attentive to children and meet not only their need for physical care and safety but attend to their social and emotional needs as well; about that there is no doubt. What can happen, though, is sometimes parents forget about tending to their own needs. They truly believe that the best thing they can do is focus on doing everything for everyone else all the time. While this sounds like a very good, unselfish deed, it can, in fact, be detrimental to the parents, children, and their relationships.

In order for parents to be fully emotionally and physically available to their children, they need to take care of themselves. When parents are overwhelmed by the needs of others, feelings of frustration, anger, guilt, resentment, disappointment in oneself, inadequacy, etc. can build and fester. These feelings affect not only parents' sense of themselves but may then play out, even in subtle,  non-intentional ways, in their interactions with their children and their relationships with their spouses and partners. Parents who are not able to take time for themselves may find themselves short tempered, easily distracted, distancing, or cut off from others. These feelings can have a negative impact on parenting and on relationships, which is the exact opposite of what parents, who are all-giving, are trying to do.

To be a good parent, it is important to create a space to focus on one's own emotional and physical health and well being. Having time to oneself helps parents rejuvenate,which strengthens their identity, builds self worth, and gives them the energy and desire to be closer to their children and families. Further, it models, for children, the importance of being aware of one's needs and self care.

Taking time for oneself does not have to be anything elaborate. It can be simple and occasional, like:
  • Reading a chapter of a book while the children are at school or are napping one day (and saving some chores or tasks that could be done in this time for a little later)
  • Calling a friend just to check in, even while you are dusting, since you have not been in touch for awhile
  • Working out, watching a movie, or taking a bath after the children are alseep
  • Squeezing in time for a manicure/pedicure, massage, yoga class, sporting event, theater show, or lunch with friends or family
  • Grabbing a cup of coffee or tea in the middle of errands just to treat yourself
  • Sitting in total silence simply because you can
  • Going on a date with your spouse or partner
The opportunities are endless and can range from small treats to big getaways. The "what" does not matter as much as the act of "doing" something for oneself. Taking care of oneself gives parents what they need to be better caretakers to their children and be the good parents they strive to be.