What is ‘good’ parenting?
Sometimes love is not enough
Good parenting is about more than setting rules, routines, and responsibilities. It goes deeper than loving our kids unconditionally, respecting them, praising them and spending positive time with them. That is all needed but to be our best at parenting we need to be operating from a healthy body, soul, and mind.
All we need is love, for ourselves
You need energy!
We need lots of energy, patience, and surplus “reserves” to parent! Our kids are clever ‘small scientists’, always looking to get their way. And they will go on till they get what they want (or out of what they don’t want), until we have run out of energy and patience. And they are just doing their job as kids. But we can only do OUR job properly when we are in a good place. There is a reason why we put the oxygen mask on before our kids in case of an emergency!
And it is much easier to parent when we have a foundation of overall well being.
But I get it, as parents we are always on the go – physically and mentally. Multi-tasking, ruminating on worries, analysing what went wrong and why, how we can fix things, what’s for dinner, did I remember to do the laundry? Sound familiar?
And this is not good for us. Our minds and bodies need regular breaks to re-energise and help us cope better with whatever life throws our way.
Self-care is not navel-gazing or laziness, nor self-indulgence. It is grounding and important for our health when we listen to ourselves and our needs: ‘What do I need right now to calm down and re-energise?’ Is it a quiet cup of tea in the garden? A bath with a book or a walk to clear my head? Healthy food, meditation or a good friend?
Ask yourself daily what you need to feel better. When we meet our needs and listen to them we feel calmer and more emotionally balanced, and automatically react differently to life’s demands.
Ways to care for yourself
Little things matter!
- Little things: it doesn’t need to be a pamper day or a weekend away, it can be small things like a bath, a book, your favourite music, a walk, a chat with a friend, a nice smoothie, some deep breaths etc.
- Digital detox daily: screens are a huge distraction from connecting to our bodies and life around us. Digital NO NOs: when with your kids, mealtimes, late at night, first thing in the morning, in bed! Try to give yourself a daily tech break to clear your head and create stillness and silence. You can plan social media or work time, the rest is for living life.
- Outdoor exercise: try a 10-minute mindful walk where you leave worries behind and focus on what is around you: birds, cars, trees, houses etc. Being in nature grounds us and makes us instantly feel uplifted. Don’t lock yourself up indoors.
- Look after your body: We all know that unhealthy food and too much alcohol makes us feel tired and sluggish. So be kind to your body and feed it what it NEEDS, not what it WANTS. Out of sight = out of mind: try to avoid having ‘tempting’ food in the house. Stock up with fruit, veg and nuts so it’s easy to grab a healthy snack. Over time you will have more energy, feel happier and more capable of dealing with family challenges when they come. Plus you become a positive role model for your kids.
- Say NO: we are often quick to say YES. Maybe we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings or we don’t want the confrontation of a NO. But try to say NO to others and YES to yourself more often. ‘I’m sorry I’m not going to drive you today; I’m tired’, ‘I can’t look after your dog today; I need some time to rest’ etc. A loving no is better than a fake yes.
- Delegate: Ask for help. Talk to your family about how you can fit in looking after yourself, you need the family behind you. Agree to share jobs, to healthy meal planning, to time when you can focus on just you, to family time and one2one time with each child.
- Plan it: if you find it hard to fit in self-care, plan it. Work out EVERY day when you can fit in time for you and WHAT you will do to support yourself. What will you eat, or not? Who are healthy friends to be around and who can you avoid if they drain you.
Why care for yourself?
Do it for your kids!
People who practice more self-compassion are generally happier, better company, and better parents. They are less reactive to issues in their life and have more energy and time for others.
You will start responding instead of reacting. Become more measured instead of impulsive. Assertive, not aggressive. You will be a better listener when your children say things that you don’t like or agree with. This will mean that you become safe company to be with and your family is more likely to want to cooperate with you to create a harmonious home.
Plus you become a great role model for self-care and self-worth. We are worth being looked after and understood – this is not a luxury, nor is it selfish to practise self-compassion, it’s essential. And the better we look after ourselves the better we can look after others.
Self-care is the best care!