Usually when August is winding down, parents are looking forward to having all of the kids return to school and re-establishing the routines that come with each new school year (and a huge thank you to the teachers for educating and caring for their kids). However, with the dawn of this school year fast-approaching, parents are faced with a new set of decisions to make for the family including: “will I allow my children to go to school for face-to-face instruction”, “do I let my child with special needs go to school”, “how do I balance supporting my children online while I work”, “how do I schedule time for the meetings with the school and work”. One question that falls to the bottom of the list, if it makes it to the list at all, is “How do I take care of me as a parent?”
Too often the last question/priority on a parent’s ever-growing “To-Do” list is – what have I done to take care of myself today. Oftentimes parents consider it a luxury or selfish to think about caring for themselves when there are so many questions, pressures and stressors to be dealt with every day for others.
Here is the Pass all Parents need to hear today: Self-care is not a luxury. Caring for yourself is a necessity so you can be available to tackle the other jobs you have to do. The importance of taking care of yourself so you can assist and care for others is reflected in the instructions you hear when preparing to take a flight: “Please place the oxygen mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others”. This is key because if you do not have enough oxygen or “gas in your tank” you will not be able to support and help the ones you love.
Three Steps to Start Your Self-Care Routine (be kind to yourself and you do not have to be perfect):
1) Include Time for YOU on the schedule:
The key to including you on the To-Do list is to make sure you honor and hold the “You” time on the schedule, and to know that while the block of time may be brief, this time is for you alone. This can include time in the bath or shower listening to music you choose, walking around the block alone, or taking time to read or sit quietly after the kids have gone to sleep.
2) Start by making one small healthy choice for You:
Given the daily stressors and task demands you wake up to each day, it is tempting to take a “short cut” and grab something pre-packaged or to give up the time you had to walk outside for “one more phone call” or a meeting. Instead, create a time in the day when you and the kids might become the “chefs of the day” and make snacks together as a fun activity or schedule a “recess” break when you and the kids can go outside or play inside (unplug or mute the phone) and be present in that moment.
3) Identify/Get Back in Touch with what You enjoy:
Did you “used to” to have hobbies you loved or Have a desire to try out a new idea or skill but you got too busy? Take this time to reconnect to those activities that brought you joy or to try on a new activity you said I will do later. As you are reconnecting to these activities or learning a new skill, you can also integrate the kids in the activity with you. For example, if you wanted to try a dancing class or you used to create art or wanted to try a new recipe, these are all activities you can do at home. There are dancing classes you can watch online and your kids can join you. If you have smaller ones, then the models at this time might be created using large building blocks or Legs. If you are trying out a new recipe, each of the kids can have a role in adding a piece to the recipe so everyone can take pride in the snack when you share it together
REMEMBER – Prioritizing yourself and refilling your physical, mental and emotional “gas tank” means you will be in a better place personally and more available to support and care for others
–Dr. Nani Koonce