The Parent Sacrifice: Why Self-Care is Important
Parenting is one of life’s greatest joys. But it comes with some sacrifices. Are you the movie lover who can’t remember the last movie you saw in the theater? The exercise buff who let your gym membership expire because you hadn’t been there in months? Perhaps you’ve become accustomed to being referred to as “Jane’s Mom” or “Brian’s Dad”? It may feel as though you lost some of your personal identity after becoming a parent. The years pass quickly. All of a sudden you have a teenager at home, and the person you used to be seems like a thing of the past. It’s time to commit to self-care. Remind yourself of the person you were before you became Mom or Dad. Build a new you, yet again.
Parenting a Teen: You’re the Role Model
As the parent of a teenager, self-care is important, especially because your child is watching. He takes cues on how to act from you. She learns how to manage problems and to cope with stress by watching you deal with adversity. He learns about healthy relationships by seeing how you interact with your spouses, partners, friends and relatives.
If we want to ensure our teens have healthy role models to measure themselves against, we must make time to invest in ourselves.
For most parents with competing demands, the first thing to go is often related to self-fulfillment or self-care. It makes sense. Becoming parents, you live for your children. You learn they are worth sacrificing for. But there must be balance if we want to be the kind of role models our children can look to for learning how to navigate challenging situations and for knowing how to live a healthy, satisfying life. Remember, we are parenting for the future … preparing our children to become healthy 30, 40 and 50-year-olds. Model for them what that looks like.
Invest in Yourself
Self-care is part of being a good parent. Consider these suggestions:
- Take care of your body. Get enough sleep (recommended 7-9 hours per night). Eat healthy foods including a combination of whole grains, lean meats and fishes, fruits and vegetables. Get moving. If the gym isn’t your thing, take a walk. (Or go out dancing!)
- Enjoy yourself. Commit to doing at least one thing you enjoy each week. Spend time on a hobby. Maintain your interests. You may be surprised to hear it, but some teens would prefer that their parents do something for themselves that they enjoy — even if it changes the family routine. Knowing it may reduce parental stress or fatigue is a comfort to teens. Teens actually enjoy seeing us have a good time and spending time with our friends!
- Feeling stressed? Find ways to relax. Take a bath. Listen to calming music. Read a book. Practice mindfulness.
- Nurture the important relationships in your life. Find time to return messages, emails, and calls even if it is just a quick “thinking of you” text to a friend. Show your spouse or partner you care with a thoughtful note or small gesture.
- Invest in others. Helping others is gratifying and brings a sense of meaning and purpose to our lives. So get out and volunteer, join a community service organization, or engage in small acts of kindness. It’s easy helping an elderly neighbor unpack groceries, or picking up a busy friend’s child from school.
Easy Self-Care Tips
There are many rewarding ways to invest in yourself as a parent. Opportunities range from activities you can do alone or with others. The goal is to choose what makes you feel good. Click through for strategies and suggestions.
Getting your body moving has plenty of upsides. Exercise improves concentration and helps manage stress.
Pursue a Hobby
Do an activity simply because it’s fun. Hobbies help reduce tension and boost happiness.
Break down big problems into smaller, more manageable parts. Face them head on -- just one at a time.
Give Back to Your Community
Volunteering boosts well-being. It enables you to put aside your troubles and gain needed perspective.
A Strategic Act of Good Parenting
It’s unlikely that your kids will stop needing you when they’re teenagers. So be transparent. Your teens may surprise you and be more than understanding of your needs. Caring for yourself is not selfish at all, it’s a strategic act of good parenting. We can’t expect to give kids our all, if our tank is empty. The well-being of our teens relies on our health, resilience, and the strength of our relationships. Keep your tank full so you have the energy to offer your teenagers the best of you.