Parents give so much. We give to our kids, to our families, and to our communities, all in the hope that we can make a better life for our children. But bear in mind that while giving is good, it is also good to give to yourself. The more you thrive as a parent, the better your children will do. Parents are people too, and it is very important that you remember that there are a variety of ways to be a good parent while also taking care of your Self. Here is some advice to help you take care of yourself while you take care of everyone else!
1. Keep in mind the reality. Parenting is a complex and sometimes difficult occupation (yes, a JOB!). You will not always know exactly what to do, but you can build a resource base of information and intuition to help you sort through situations and problems as you go along. Take time to think about how to respond to the complicated (and simple) situations that arise, and you will find you have a knowledge base of ideas to help you cope effectively, and help the children to grown in the way you want them too.
2. Set limits. Limits are not only okay, but are necessary. Make it a practice to maintain boundaries re what the kids can and can’t do, and have operating “rules” for your children. If you are partnered, agree on these with your mate. If you are single parenting, do this with yourself. (You can also consult with other parents to see how they do it.) It is very important for children to have predictability. When the entire household knows how things work, there is less wondering, and less stress for everyone as a result.
3. Keep your expectations realistic. No parent is perfect, and no parent ever does a perfect job. When you have that reality firmly implanted in your belief system, you will be better prepared to handle the high emotional times that happen in your relationships with your kids, and the kids-acting-out behaviorally times that make you “crazy” with thinking it is your fault. It isn’t. This is one of those realities you can expect. Kids will pull things. And you will feel like pulling your hair out! This is where consistent parental messages about expectations and consequences can help everyone sort through the messes and lower the stresses.
4. Apply consequences! Rearing children will be easier for you and for them when kids know this formula for making choices about their behavior: Circumstances lead to choices, and choices bring consequences. This is not to scare them, but rather to help them learn how to cope with life. And consequences are not necessarily negative. Choices can lead to desired consequences. If you keep this in mind re your parenting choices, and teach it to the kids too, your parenting days have better chance at harmony, which does not mean perfection. Keep that in mind too.
5. Use your parent intuition. This was once called “women’s intuition”, but we all have intuition, the inner knowing sense of what is best, devoid of your own negative feelings and thoughts, such as wanting to act out yourself to give an object lesson. Practice finding your own intuitive guidance to make your best choices. You can do this by using relaxation methods, meditation skills, or just your own personal way of quieting your mind.
6. Have some fun. Play with the kids and have fun with other adults. Parenting is exhausting business, especially if you are doing it single. Fun can come in many different styles. Get to know yours. But, be on the alert for the fact that fun and “partying” are not always the same, so stay aware of your own choices. If the “fun” slips over into a different dimension that appears to reduce stress, but may really cause problems, you might want to consider different choices.
7. Create support systems and alliances. Parenting can sometimes feel isolating, especially if you are also working and/or single parenting. Support groups, either formal or informal, can go a long way to easing that sense of aloneness, and reducing stress. Research shows that the support derived from positive relationships reduces stress and increases a feeling of well being. So form alliances, friendships and connections. Oh, and bear in mind that as you do so, you are modeling for your children the ways to be a good friend and have healthy relationships.
8. Model, model, model. Everything you do shows your kids something about how to be in life. The more you are calm, the calmer they will be. The more healthy your responses in your personal interactions, the better able the kids will be to have successful friendships and relationships. They are always looking and listening, which makes modeling perhaps your best tool for being the best Self you can be as a parent–and as a person.
Happy parenting and enjoy being people too. Let me know how it goes.