The car ride home from the hospital after having my first child I cried the whole way. Not out of joy, but out of fear. I honestly couldn’t believe that they let me leave. What did I know about caring for a baby. I had never cared for a baby. Maybe you didn’t cry on the way home, but I know I am not alone in having felt overwhelmed when first becoming a new parent. There is so much that is new. I just wanted to be a good mom. Things that seem simple such as eating and sleeping can become real stressful events for parents. If you are anything like me, chances are that you talked to someone, read a book about babies or at least googled a few things in those early months of having a baby. As parents, we work really hard to provide the best care for our babies and kids.
Parents want the best for their children. They recognize the importance of ensuring that they are healthy and most just want them to be happy kids. Parents work really hard to make certain that their child’s needs are being met. When a baby or toddler is upset, often parents first go to the “basics”- is the baby tired, hungry, need a diaper change or just need some cuddle time. Doing this, we start to establish habits and structure for our kids. Something happens over time though because these great habits that we have started for our kids slip away, part due to parents not enforcing them, part do to just life and part due to kids not taking ownership and doing the habits themselves as they age. By adulthood, many adults have lost some, if not all these amazing habits that our own parents worked hard to give us as infants. Many of these same habits are ones that can make our life a lot better today. Here are 10 habits we establish for our kids that we need to do for ourselves.
1.Sleep routine. Many parents have developed a routine for bedtime as it has shown to help with transitioning babies and kids to bed. Maybe this routine begins with a bath, feeding if they are an infant, a book, prayers or cuddle time. Young children do well when they are put down at the same time each night. This all promotes better sleep.
This same idea applies to adults too. This isn’t just for those struggling with sleeping issues such as insomnia. Having a routine can help promote better sleep. Going to bed at the same time each night is great for sleep. Other suggestions include turning electronics off at least an hour before bed, and then do your normal routine (brush teeth etc). Maybe try something relaxing such as some stretching, a meditation, gratitude list or deep breathing.
2. Healthy foods. When parents begin to feed their infants baby food, these are always healthy foods such as squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas and avocados. When kids get a bit older, maybe not all their foods are healthy, but most parents still try to get their kids to eat healthy foods and worry that they are getting their vegetables. But do you worry about yours? Do you get all your own needed vegetables and other healthy foods? Eating sugary and fried foods all day will leave you feeling sluggish, possibly irritable and may affect your overall mood. We know this, that is why we feed young kids healthy foods. Why change this for yourself?
3.Physical activity. We want our kids to play. Getting out all that energy is a must! Tickle fests? Yes! Dance parties? Yes! Tag? Yes! Adults need that too and depending on how active you are, you may need more than what your are doing with your kids. Making time for your own physical activity keeps parents healthy too. It is okay to take time away from your kids to go running or go to the gym. If you are not able to arrange childcare, bring kids along on a walk or try to get some physical activity done while they are playing or watching a show. They will learn that this is mommy/daddy workout time.
4. Medical care. Our medical system is set up to provide preventive care for our kids. They have routine visits frequently during the first year and then yearly. Although it isn’t easy, parents often can make arrangements when a child is sick to stay home or take them to the doctors, often having to miss work. But what about you? Are you the type of person who has to be very sick before you go to the doctors or call in? Have you ever put off your own medical care, tried wait it out because you didn’t have time? When is the last time you had a physical? Taking care of your own medical care is really important.
5. Being Polite. Parents work hard to teach their kids manners. Saying thank you or saying please is something that parents are mindful of to model and teach children. I know I work hard to teach my kids to be polite. But did you ever notice, that us adults are not always so kind? I am not talking about just to strangers, but what about people in your own home? Do you express gratitude to them for things they have done? Say things like thank you or request something in a kind voice? Being kind can go along way.
6. Positive self-talk and encouragement: Teaching kids to be kind to their self is important. Encouraging them to try again, that mistakes are okay and that they are worthy is part of our jobs as parents. But what about you? Do you struggle with negative self-talk? Do you think negatively about your parenting? Say negative comments to yourself about your weight, compare yourself to others or get down on yourself about something you did? What if instead, you encouraged yourself and lifted yourself up, like you do for your kids? Say kind things to yourself. Being kind to our own self is important for overall wellness, self-worth and self-esteem. Everyone is important.
7. Slow down. After a long day at a party and everyone holding the new baby can be overwhelming for that little guy. That infant needs cuddle time with mom or dad. After a busy weekend of errands and play dates, kids need a night of relaxing and connecting with parents before Monday rolls around. This is no different for parents. Families in particular have moved toward a trend of jam packing time with various activities. Although there is a variety of reasons why this is, the reality is that slowing down can be beneficial for everyone. Taking time to just hang out as a family and truly connect can do wonders for families and for self.
8. Reading/writing. We know that reading to infants and toddlers is important and is essential as kids grow. Kids are encouraged to write at school and sometimes at home. Writing is a way for kids to express themselves and be creative. This does not change as we get older. Reading for pleasure is a great form of self-care. Reading to learn about something new is exciting. Even for adults, writing continues to allow us to express ourselves, process feelings and heal. Even if it is a one sentence for something you are grateful for or writing for 5 minutes to just express feelings, any form of writing can be healthy.
9. Less screen time. Parents know that less is best when it comes to screen time. This means a lot more today then when I was a kid. Today it is a combination of television, computers and tablets. Screen time takes away time to connect with family and friends. It provides less time to be outside enjoying nature and sunshine, some of the best things for us. This is no different for adults. It keeps us from connecting with our loved ones and enjoying the natural beauty of the world.
10. Making time for friendships. If children are not in daycare, parents can worry about socialization for their kids. This can mean stepping out of their comfort zone and joining a moms group, talking to a mom at the playground or being brave and asking a mom to meet up for a play date. Parents are willing to do this for their kids. Even though moms and dads benefit from play dates because they can connect with another parent, having relationships outside of your children is important. People can put off meeting up with friends because of new responsibilities, just being tired or overwhelmed. Although at times it can seem like a lot to go out with friends, remember that it is healthy to connect with others. Connect over your kids, but connect over other interests as well. This also applies to your significant others as well!
What do you do on this list and what do you not do? Taking time for these can really help with overall stress. Remember, you are setting this great habits up for your kids because they are what is best for them. You deserve the same. You are worth it and need it too. Interested in more ideas for self-care? Read my post on self-care in 5 minutes or less.
This information is for educational and informational purposes only. If you are in need of therapy, please contact a local therapist.