Parents need to look after themselves before they can look after others effectively, says coach Debbie Channing.
In order to be an effective parent is vital that we look after ourselves first. To some that may appear selfish, but it’s actually about being self aware. Aware that your needs are equally as important as everyone else’s. Remember, when a plane gets into difficulty, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping anyone else, including your children. So taking some ‘me’ time is crucial for successful parenting. However, sometimes it feels as if life is one endless round of juggling – work, kids, household, finances, partner, other family, healthy lifestyle etc. So how can we fit another task into an already jam packed schedule?
Let’s look at what happens if you don’t resource yourself – you may become cranky or frustrated, have reduced patience & energy and everything seems a million times more difficult. Then we spend an eternity trying to amend any mistakes we make, e.g. undermining ourselves by reducing a punishment that may have been a little harsh; trying to apologise for words that were said in the heat of the moment; backtracking on decisions that have lead to making the situation worse. So what would be a better way to approach this?
Firstly, be kind to yourself, consider how much you do as a parent, during my parenting groups we look at the myriad of roles that being a parent involves and most parents are flabbergasted when we list all the jobs that you do on a daily or weekly basis. Remember this and understand that although some days may feel worse than others, hold onto the knowledge that each day brings a fresh start, an opportunity to do things differently and achieve success.
Whenever a situation occurs – e.g. your angry child is shouting at you; a room that you have spend ages cleaning has been trashed by your little darlings; a payment hasn’t been credited to your account etc – and you feel the anger, frustration, disappointment and so on mounting up – STOP !! We often find ourselves reacting instinctively and the words have left our mouth before we have given ourselves time to process them. So press the ‘pause button’, take a few deep breaths and bite your tongue momentarily. Calm down a notch or two and then speak – that way we are much more likely to say something more effective in a respectful way which expresses our feelings and needs whilst acknowledging the other person’s feeling and needs; the other person feels heard & understood and they are more likely to cooperate, without being defensive.
So back to ‘me’ time, what do I mean by that? Having a day out with the girls at the spa, going to the football with the lads, getting our hair done etc. Yes, if you get the occasional opportunity to do to treat yourself, then take it. Without guilt, just self awareness that when I nurture myself I am more likely to appreciate family life when I get back and be a much nicer person.
However, I live in the ‘real’ world and it may be really challenging to find many chances to chill out. So we need to top up our reserves with little things. Here are some examples:
– Instead of rushing about during your lunch time, go and sit in the park with your lunch, read a book or listen to some music and then return to work feeling refreshed
– Give yourself permission to have a cuppa, in peace
– Let the children know that ‘Mum’ / ‘Dad’ time is important too – be clear that 15 minutes ‘me’ time is essential for you, e.g. catching up with the news, watching TV, listening to music, reading a magazine etc. Others are unlikely to value you unless you value yourself
– When the 15 minutes are up, do something fun with the children, they will soon understand that if they give you a little peace they will be rewarded with your time
– If you are parenting in a partnership, agree that each of you will have one of the weekend days to lie in
– Take time to exercise – physical activity releases endorphins (naturally produced feel–good chemicals)
– Use hand cream to give yourself a luxury hand massage
Now you have a few useful ideas to get you started on the path to being the best parent that you can. In my next article, I will consider hints and tips for going back to school. I know the children have only just broken up, but the school holiday will whizz past.