It IS possible to reduce the stress in our lives so we can slow down and find more joy in parenting on a daily basis. I know, it's hard to be joyful when you can't remember the last time you finished a sentence without being interrupted. But when we find ourselves resenting our kids, it's usually a sign that we aren't taking care of ourselves.
And whose responsibility is that? Every one of us can get pushed to the limit and go over the edge. Since we're the grown-ups, it's our job to stay away from the edge. And that ability to self-regulate is impossible if we don't notice our own needs and emotions.
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We aren't doing our children any favors if we don't care for ourselves at the same time that we're caring for our kids. What if your child is in crisis? All the more reason to put on your own oxygen mask first, so you can think straight. I'm not talking about running off to Tahiti by yourself. I'm suggesting that taking care of your own needs will allow you to feel so much better about life, and about your child, that whatever challenge you're facing will be much easier to solve.
You're not being selfish to meet your own needs. In fact, you owe it to your child. Her ability to regulate her emotions will depend on how well you regulate yours when you interact with her, especially when she's upset. If you can stay centered, you'll be more emotionally generous. Your child will respond with more cooperation.
Want more motivation? You owe it to yourself. Life is too short to spend it feeling stressed and resentful. We never know how long we have. Unless you're very lucky, you've probably known someone who died without warning at a relatively young age. Don't postpone joy. Ultimately, every one of us is responsible for our own peace of mind and how we spend the life we've been given. The secret work of adulthood is that we are all still growing up, and parenting forces us to learn to parent ourselves as well as our child.
That work begins with learning to love and nurture ourselves. So how can you nurture yourself, when all the hours in the day are already accounted for? There are two keys. Change what you do. Don't assume you need a huge change. Instead, nurture yourself in small ways throughout your day, including while you nurture your child.
- Nine Steps to More Effective Parenting (for Parents) - KidsHealth.
- Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids;
- MeeMaws Hope Chest.
- MORE IN LIFE;
And if you do need a big change, you'll see what to do more clearly from that nurtured place, instead of just being angry. Just get in the habit of asking yourself every half hour "What do I need right now?
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If you're not emotionally generous to yourself, you can't be emotionally generous to your child. Change your attitude. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful. And we don't have to be perfect to be more than enough. Stop beating up on yourself or holding a grudge against life. Instead, nurture yourself.
And cultivate gratitude for the good in every single day. You'll feel more supported -- and find more support. I wish I could be your fairy godmother and wave a magic wand to help you find that inner peace and balance.
1. It's actually easier than you think
The bad news is, every magic wand we can access takes work. But that work -- bringing compassion to our own imperfect selves, slowing down to just feel this moment in our life, to be more present and find more meaning -- is what transforms us. This work isn't only for our children. It's for us. But if you're a parent, a more compelling question may be: "What can I do to make sure my kids succeed in life? Instead, they aspire to be musicians, athletes, or video game designers, even though these kinds of jobs only comprise 1 percent of American occupations.
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In reality, jobs in health care or in construction trades will be golden in future decades. Why not steer them into well-paying professions in which there will be a huge shortage of workers? According to a nonprofit organization operating out of Harvard University, kids who eat with their families roughly five days a week exhibit lower levels of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, obesity, and depression.
They also have higher grade-point averages, better vocabularies, and more self-esteem. Researchers have found that the brains of little kids can be permanently altered when they spend too much time using tablets and smartphones. Specifically, the development of certain abilities is impeded, including focus and attention, vocabulary, and social skills.
2. Eat dinner as a family.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics AAP says children younger than 18 months should have no screen time at all, other than video-chatting. For kids ages two to five, it recommends limiting screen time to one hour a day. For older kids, it's a matter of making sure media doesn't take the place of adequate sleep, exercise, and social interaction. The AAP also says parents should make the dinner table, the car, and bedrooms media-free zones. There are certainly familial benefits to having a stay-at-home mother, but researchers at Harvard Business School have found that when moms work outside the home, their daughters are more likely to be employed themselves, hold supervisory roles, and make more money than peers whose mothers did not have careers.
The classic Marshmallow Experiment of involved placing a marshmallow in front of a young child, with the promise of a second marshmallow if he or she could refrain from eating the squishy blob while a researcher stepped out of the room for 15 minutes. Follow-up studies over the next 40 years found that the children who were able to resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow grew up to be people with better social skills, higher test scores, and a lower incidence of substance abuse.
They also turned out to be less obese and better able to deal with stress. To help kids build this skill, train them to have habits that must be accomplished every day--even when they don't feel like doing them.