Our children challenge us beyond belief on a regular basis. Add in this new world of social distancing and all the things you struggled with before have essentially exploded. Things like behavioral struggles, emotional dysregulating, temper tantrums; the list goes on.
And while it might feel natural during this time to put your own needs at the end of a long list of daily duties, it’s more important than ever to be taking care of your emotional wellbeing, too. Don’t forget: we are a sounding board for our kids. If they see us struggle, stress, yell or explode, then we create an example for them to follow.
And then there is the want to give them all we have. “Doing it all for our children” is a natural feeling, sure. But are we lighting up their lives only to be the ones who burn out? Things like fatigue, stress, resentment and anger are all surefire signs that our reserves are on empty.
There is a balance when it comes to parenting, and often times we struggle to draw the line with self-care. In most cases, it feels like the least important thing to take care of. I hear many parents say they feel selfish to be taking care of themselves. I understand. In a way, it is selfish to do something for yourself when not doing for someone else.
But where is the line? Are you really helping your kids when you are burnt out and frustrated? Does yelling at them instead of working them through a situation help anyone? Is it helpful for them to see you work so hard that you are unhappy and unable to find joy in spending time with them? These are rhetorical in nature. Of course, the answer is no.
I have this conversation with parents on a daily basis. The strategies and suggestions I give (which I know will change their family dynamic for the better) are often very difficult to implement when you are “treading water” as it is. If you are barely getting through getting meals on the table and “teaching” your kids, you are not going to be able to stay calm while they are screaming at you that they want to play, see their friends, eat something different or stay up late.
To have them regulated, you need to be regulated. This does not mean you need to meet your child’s needs perfectly 100% of the time, but you can’t meet their needs when you are stressed out either. You need to take care of yourself. Period.
For me, I felt that getting into bed 10 minutes earlier to read a book really helped me sleep better. In turn, my mornings started going soother because I wasn’t waking up as tired. It then snowballed to making my coffee and enjoying some time to snuggle with my kids before making breakfast. Now I am able to get to my yoga class three mornings a week, and I feel like a whole new mommy when I come into the day.
For you, it may look like an evening “turn down” routine, drinking your coffee with the newspaper, listening to your favorite podcast, discovering a personal meditation or breathing exercise, committing to a normal fitness routine, or simply implementing aromatherapy into your life.
The brain health rainbow we teach works for everyone, not just children. Problem solve your sleep, diet, exercise and meditation. Find where you feel you are lacking and start there. Take it one step at a time – you will feel rested, more motivated and refreshed to take on the day.
For myself, I do feel it makes me a calmer mom so I am able to respond to my children less emotionally. My favorite part, however, is how I see them modeling my choices. My son told me he wanted to take some quiet time in his room before dinner so he could draw. When he came downstairs, he told me he was feeling tired and needed to hit his “reset” button. He was learning self-regulation and self-care through seeing me take my time and reset as well. The power we hold as parents to serve as a model for our children is often outstanding.
If you want to start somewhere, tuning into practical advice, I recommend Simple Families to all of the parents I work with. Denaye has a great “Mental Unload” course to work through, which can really help set boundaries with how to take care of yourself. I think often it is really connecting with what you are feeling and being able to find time to help.
Gratitude practice, yoga, mediation, exercise are all great for you, and I highly recommend you try them. But maybe for you, that tired burnt out parent, its being able to drink a cup of HOT tea or coffee once a day, or even week. Or, taking a relaxing shower (or bath) without interruption. Connect with what you need and you will be amazed at how much it changes you and helps your family.