If you’re a parent, I don’t need to tell you that having kids can be a stressful 24-hour-a-day job. From the day that they’re born until as far into the future as you can imagine, parents often feel responsible for their child’s happiness, safety and well-being. Needless to say, shouldering this type of responsibility can lead to a great deal of stress, which is why it’s important that you know as a parent that stress reduction is a major tool you need to use to your advantage.
Everyone Needs a Reset Button
Regardless of your child’s age, we’ve all had those days – and you know the days I’m talking about.
You can’t get your 2-year-old daughter’s shoes on because she’s trying to kick you; you gave your toddler son the “wrong” cup and now he’s refusing to drink; you won’t let your 4-year-old play with the knives in the dishwasher and now there’s a knock-down-drag-out tantrum in the middle of the kitchen floor.
Or maybe they’re 15. He’s refusing to go to bed even though you know he has a test tomorrow morning. None of his chores have been done. He’s still angry from last weekend when you wouldn’t let him ride in a car driven by his 16-year-old friend who just learned how to drive.
You’re stressed. They’re stressed. Everyone could use a break. When you take a night (or a weekend, if you can) away, either by yourself or with your significant other, it serves as a reset button. You need to be able to take yourself out of that stressful day-to-day grind, even if only for a few hours, so you can return with a fresh mind and some space between you and whatever issues it is that you’re facing.
You Don’t Have to Do Something Big
Reducing stress doesn’t have to be something big. While it would be nice, you don’t have to fly to Hawaii every other week to bring that stress level down. In fact, reducing stress can be as simple as taking 20-30 minutes each day to do something that you enjoy without interruption. Exercising, yoga, drawing, listening to music, painting – even sitting somewhere quiet and meditating or mentally shutting down – if it’s something you enjoy doing, spend a little time each day with it. A night out with your wife, husband or friends can work wonders for a stress-ridden parent.
If you have trouble finding time to de-stress, wait until the kids are asleep or your significant other is at home. Do it when they’re at school. Or make them play quietly in their rooms for 20 minutes. Me-time can help them as well. Household chores or errands can wait – take care of you first.
Taking Care of Yourself Is Another Form of Taking Care of Your Kids
Your children learn by watching you. This means that if you maintain a high-stress level by constantly cooking, working, cleaning and looking after everyone but yourself, your children will likely internalize those habits. It becomes normal for them to see authority figures in the household working under a high stress level day in and day out, and as they get older, they are less likely to take time to de-stress themselves. Taking time to relax and step away isn’t selfish. It helps you come back to any situation as a more whole, refreshed and calm person, which are all benefits your children will reap, while you’re demonstrating to your children that they need to take time for themselves to maintain their mental health. Ultimately, isn’t that what you’re most concerned about anyway?
Dr. Melanie Williams is a pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Pasadena Clinic. Her clinical interests include developmental disorders and delays, blood disorders and normal development of babies and toddlers.