In many instances, parenting can be very rewarding. However, along with the rewards often comes significant stress and frustration. You will be the best parent possible if you take care of yourself. Here are a few suggestions to do that:
1) Set aside a period of time each week where you do something fun or enjoyable for yourself: This may mean getting a massage, going for a long run, playing a round of golf, or meeting a friend for coffee. If you don’t have a spouse who is able to watch your children during this time, hire a babysitter, try to arrange play dates for your children, or find an activity for them that provides you with time for a break.
2) If you are married or in a relationship, set aside time each week to spend with your significant other without the children present. Perhaps you can go on an early morning walk on a weekend day, go out on Saturday nights for date night, watch a movie together after the children go to sleep, or engage in another activity of interest.
3) Take care of yourself physically. Figure out a time several days a week to workout at the gym, go running, or even for a walk. It may mean getting up early or taking a long lunch break, but taking care of yourself is very important in order to be able to take care of others.
4) Take care of yourself emotionally. If you feel that you are really struggling with parenting and managing stress, seek professional assistance with a therapist. A therapist can assist you by providing parent training and strategies to help you better manage your stress. If you are not taking care of yourself emotionally, it is very hard to take care of your children effectively. Think about when you fly and the flight attendant goes over the safety instructions and informs you that if oxygen masks ever drop you need to put yours on first before helping anyone else. The same principle applies here in taking care of yourself first in order to be able to care effectively for your children.
5)Seek professional services for your child/children. If your child is frequently misbehaving, having emotional outbursts, struggling in school, or having other difficulties, consider bringing them to a psychologist or other mental health professional to get assistance. In most cases, therapy can greatly reduce your child’s behavioral/emotional difficulties. In addition, many therapists will also work with you to provide you with strategies to more effectively parent based on your child’s individual needs. Having a psychologist or other professional create a behavior plan for you to use with your child can also be very beneficial in curbing negative behaviors.
I hope these suggestions are helpful. Obviously if you ever feel completely out of control and have any concerns about your safety or the safety of your children, please seek emergency assistance so that everyone can remain safe. Three final things to keep in mind: take action to take care of yourself, seek services for your child or adolescent if needed, and obtain services for yourself as well if warranted. It may seem daunting to seek services for your child or yourself, but if you are struggling, services are available and can greatly help you and your child/adolescent.
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*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*