Just like children, adults have needs too. Sometimes taking time out from the everyday stressors of life, work, financial responsibilities, and even our children is very necessary. While some caregivers feel as though prioritizing self-care is selfish, it makes you a better parent. If your needs aren’t met, you may be more prone to get angry, have explosive outbursts and may be more likely to criticize your child or lose control. If your needs are met, it is much easier to be present, calm, and patient with your children.
Many parents wonder if their child will feel neglected if they take time away. Absolutely not. When quality time is spent with your children and they are given plenty of positive attention, time away will not harm them. It can even be beneficial to their growth and development. Taking care of yourself as a parent is vital not only to your mental and physical health but the health of your family, as well.
Some helpful suggestions on how you can take care of yourself as a parent or caregiver:
Recognize When You Are Stressed. The warning signs of stress include: tense or stiff muscles, headaches, irritability or anger, disturbed sleep, tiredness, problems concentrating, skin reactions such as rashes or pimples and repeated infections or viruses.
Consider Some Lifestyle Changes. Stress can be a sign that you are doing too much. If possible, share responsibility of chores and caring for the children with other caregivers. If too many requests or tasks are being asked of you, politely say no. A balanced diet and regular exercise can help prevent mood swings and increase energy levels.
Learn to Relax. Relaxing your mind and body helps reduce physical tension and stops the stress cycle. Find a relaxation technique that works for you and practice it every day for at least 2 weeks. There are many ways to relax, such as taking a warm bath, exercise, measured breathing, meditation, focused muscle relaxation, or listening to relaxing music.
Catch Unhelpful Thoughts and Develop Some Coping Statements. Unhelpful thoughts may cross your mind when you’re feeling stressed. Thoughts such as, “I can’t do this” may seem believable in the moment but they are often untrue, unrealistic and exaggerated. Try to catch the thoughts that make you feel more stressed or upset and replace them with coping statements. Coping statements tell you that you can cope with the situation you are in and with how you feel. Statements such as, “I can do this,” “It’s okay to make mistakes” or “Just breathe deeply and relax” can make it easier to cope with stressful situations.
If you are looking for more tips around positive parenting, Nationwide Children’s Hospital offers free Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) support on a wide variety of topics for parents of young children. For more information, click here, email TripleP@NationwideChildrens.org or call (614) 355-8099.
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