Self Care Matters for Parents, Too.
Self care: the over-used, often misunderstood term is one you must get to know in 2020, if you haven’t already. Sadly, there is no way for our kids to come out of this pandemic OK, if we are not doing our best to be OK.
In fact, the mental health of parents is the ground-floor, bedrock level of a family’s wellness. Nothing could be more important, and never more so than now. The mental health of parents and the relative stability of the family environment has significant impact on children’s future. This article from Mental Health America outlines some of the risk and preventive factors for children growing up in homes with emotional instability. It states:
As parents, our first duty is to provide the consistent, loving, secure base which children need in order to grow and develop in healthy ways.
No Perfect People
But guess what, being OK does NOT mean being perfect.
In fact, please DON’T go for perfection.
Depending on the age, a certain amount of vulnerability is absolutely acceptable. Kids need to see that parents are humans too! If the news happens to be on and it makes you angry or sad, you can state your feelings in a calm manner, “Wow, this is so sad.”
Interestingly, it will invite your child to do the same.
Be humble. Show grace to yourself.
We Are Not Robots
We are not going to be able to look at the news with people dying and politicians lying to cover it up, and act like everything is roses. This is how past generations have really screwed up their kids (more on this concept— societal and familial patterns of denial— another time).
What If I Mess Up?
If you mess up, get angry and have an adult temper tantrum, it’s OK. Apologize to your kids. Own your feelings and behaviors. Tell them, “I’m sorry I freaked out like that. I got angry and I didn’t really handle it well this time, I’ll try better. You deserve better than that.”
Model healthy human emotions and behavior. Kids are missing out on socializing with their peers in person, so they will be looking to us and learning from us more than ever. Use your failures, faults, and weak spots to show them that we ALL have room to grow.
Life is meant to teach us how to be better humans, after all.
Self Care For Parents
So, what does self care look like for parents?
- Prioritize your down time.
Firstly, put work aside and relax, at least a few hours per day.
2. Have a habit of daily exercise.
Everyone knows exercise is self care, but still we put it off.
Yet, even a simple walking the dog for 15 minutes is a brain break, fresh air, and a reprieve from being stuck inside the home environment for many hours, or even days, at a time. One of my favorite ways to exercise is yoga. It’s a full-body AND mind workout. You can find great videos on YouTube or subscribe to virtual classes through companies like Alo Yoga, Manduka, and more.
3. Reach out for support.
Call a friend! They probably need to hear a friendly voice, too.
Engage in an online community of likeminded individuals. Start one if it’s needed in your area. I am active in several Facebook groups related to specific aspects of my personal and professional life, such as a chronic illness support group, parenting gifted kids, and social workers.
Have a FaceTime call with a relative. Self care works even better when it’s shared. Trust me, you will feel better after seeing a smiling familiar face!
4. Find something that truly brings you joy and do it!
For example, take a soothing hot bath, learn how to properly wash your face (yes, there are proper techniques according to Korean skincare and a client Stan of mine), paint your nails a new fun color each week, play an instrument, watch birds flying from tree to tree and try to identify them by song.
Anything that brings you joy is your self care, even if it sounds silly to someone else!
The pandemic provides a great opportunity to learn a new hobby. Even if you’ve never done it before, why not give something new a try? Maybe, like me, you have an old sewing machine (or some other formerly discarded hobby device) stashed away in a closet. Pull it out, watch some YouTube videos, and start sewing cute easy crafts for the holidays.
Long-term projects such as crafts, woodworking, sewing, painting, home redecorating, building something… these all provide an opportunity to set and reach goals, increase motivation, and feel accomplished when finished!
Important: Do not apologize for having “ME” time, this self care is not selfish, actually, it’s absolutely vital.
5. Nourish your body with good nutrition habits.
Like the doctor always said. Eat healthy, drink enough water, and be moderate and mindful of your consumption of substances and junk food. Like our children, we all feel better when our bodies are functioning optimally. Nourishing our bodies with nutritious foods is one of the simplest acts of self care we can do each day, often with just a little bit of planning.
It’s really OK to not be OK. But, it’s also important to not let that “Not OK” pattern become the norm. For one thing, the kids will notice, and then, they will begin to let their own self care slide, as well. Let’s set good examples, for the sake of all our mental health.
When You’re Not OK
If you find that, despite adding self care, you are struggling with prioritizing your needs, now is a great time to seek professional guidance. Really, it’s OK to not be OK. It’s really OK to ask for help. Your family will thank you, not to mention, your children. Years from now, they will remember when Mom or Dad turned things around, and made home feel happy and safe again. After all, we have not lost hope. If you find that hard to believe, reach out for:
- Professional Support
- Anxiety Symptom Relief
- Stress Management Tips
- Trauma Recovery
- Relationship Guidance
- Personal Life Coaching
Trust me, you CAN overcome those personal, internal blocks that say you are not worthy of alone time, or that only yogis and crunchy granola types are the ones who do “self care.” We all need it, and our kids need us to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of them.
Put on your own oxygen mask, and then you can put on your child’s. That is self care, truly.
Not sure where to go for help?
Reach out to a friend, get a recommendation for a therapist, or contact me and I will help you find the right professional who can give you the quality advice you deserve, quickly.