By Susan Stone Belton
Parenting is the toughest job in the world, but also the most rewarding. The journey is long, and how we approach each day makes a huge difference in how we feel. Remaining calm is good for our own mental health but also a wonderful lesson to our children. Children often act the way their parents act.
So take a deep breath, remember that this stage will soon be over, and demonstrate a sense of calm and control. The calmer you are, the calmer your children will be.
1. Take care of yourself.
It’s hard to take care of your children, your partner, and your home when you haven’t first taken care of yourself. In order to be the best parent you can be, you need to make sure that you are feeling as good as you can. So exercise, eat right, say “no” when you want to, and don’t feel guilty. Your children deserve a happy and healthy parent.
2. Stop trying to be perfect.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so stop aiming for that. Just be the best parent you can be; allow yourself to make mistakes and show your children that striving to do your best is always the goal.
3. Sleep in one weekend morning.
When I was a young parent, Sunday was the morning I could sleep in. This meant I did not have to be the first adult out of bed at the first sound of a kid’s voice. Having an extra 20 minutes in bed alone was a weekly luxury that helped me start my Sunday in a calm mood, and actually made the whole week better because I knew my morning was coming.
4. Give yourself a 10 minute time-out.
When you arrive home from work, your children are excited to see you and have a lot of things to share. Give each one a quick hug, then go into your room alone for 10 minutes. Change your clothes, breathe deeply, and transition from “employee” to “parent”. This short break will rejuvenate you for the rest of your busy evening. Your kids won’t like it, but you will, and they will learn to accept it.
5. Stick to a schedule.
Having a regular time to wake up, leave for school, get home from work, eat dinner, and put the kids to bed makes the day go much more smoothly. Being consistent with your schedule eliminates a lot of decision making, and contributes to a calmer household.
6. Have date nights.
You chose your partner for a reason, but it’s sometimes difficult to remember why during the chaos of raising kids. One day the kids will be grown and you two will be alone again. Keep your relationship fresh with a weekly or monthly date night. Just a simple movie and dinner with adult conversation is a wonderful treat.
7. Stay connected to your friends.
You spend a lot of time setting up play dates for your kids. Well, set some up for yourself. You deserve to have fun too.
8. Be yourself.
Of course you are a parent, but you are still you, complete with emotions, hopes, and ideas. Parent the way you want, not how your mother-in-law expects. Allow your children to see your true feelings and your silly side. Don’t let the title of “Parent” make you into a new person, just a more special one.
Not everything is an emergency. And some things can wait. So just take a deep breath and enjoy this roller coast ride of parenting. Enjoy the highs but don’t get too low with the lows. Things will always get better.
10. Don’t yell. Just talk.
When our kids yell at us, we feel tense. When we yell at out kids, we feel worse. It is much easier for people, including your children, to listen to a firm but calm voice than to a yelling voice. You want your kids to listen to your words rather than to focus on your anger.
Susan Stone Belton, family coach and motivational speaker, is a certified special education teacher with over 40 years experience working with families. She has presented hundreds of talks to Bay Area groups and works with individual families to help solve their parenting concerns. Susan is the author of Real Parents, Real Kids, Real Talk, a book for parents with children of every age.