The importance of self-care and how parent mental health affects a child’s wellbeing.

Parenting, even on the best of days, can be stressful and overwhelming. Through the celebration of meeting milestones, laughs, and snuggles, there is also exhaustion that occurs from school needs, extracurricular activities, disciplining, and everything else that happens outside of the life of your children. With so much happening while raising children, it can seem impossible to find a minute for yourself. Taking care of you, as the caregiver, can easily be pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Even if self-care is attempted, there are often overwhelming feelings of guilt and selfishness that counteract what is trying to be accomplished. However, putting your needs at the top of the priority list is far from a selfish act. In fact, not implementing a good self-care routine can have a negative impact on you, your child, and your family as an entire unit.

When you do not allow time for self-care, the stress and exhaustion builds up in the body and in the mind. This can lead to not only mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and burnout, but also physical symptoms, such as lowering your immune system and high blood pressure. These issues can hinder your parenting abilities by creating a low frustration tolerance making even age appropriate behaviors difficult to manage. Built up stress can result in a stressful environment within the home, difficulties within marital relationships, and disconnections between you and your child.

However, when you prioritize your self-care, there can be significant positive effects on you and your child’s well-being. Because you, as an overall individual, will feel more positive, and have more space to handle stress, you will be able to handle situations with more compassion, empathy, and patience. Having a higher stress tolerance will allow you to parent from a positive perspective and utilize challenges that are presented as moments of growth for your child. Your brain will be able to process situations better, which will allow you to appropriately use your problem solving skills and increase your perspective taking abilities. When you are able to interact with your child in an energized and revitalized way, you are able to model helpful responses to situations. You are also able to model the importance of self-care, which will lead to them becoming equipped with the tools to manage stress of their own as adults.

So what is self-care and how do you do it? Self-care is a practice or actions taken to re-energize and protect your mental health. This can be as simple as staying hydrated throughout the day or brushing your teeth in the morning. Other suggestions include:

- Getting any type of exercise whether it is a five minute walk or an hour at the gym.

- Stay in touch with people outside of your immediate family.

- Read a book.

- Say no to those extra responsibilities!

- Take a bubble bath.

- Find ways to laugh.

These actions may need to be scheduled, planned in advance, or put on the calendar to ensure that they are completed. There are many other options for self-care that could be included in the list above, but the most important aspect is doing whatever it is that revitalizes you. It is also important to remember that what is listed above can be done with your children and family in a way that could be re-energizing and a form of self-care. Self-care can be spending time with your family where there is laughter and play. Lastly, if those feelings of guilt start to creep in during your self-care routine remember this old airplane quote, “You cannot help others if you fail to put your oxygen mask on first.” When you take care of yourself first, you are better able to help your children and enjoy not just the big things in life, but also all the small moments you miss when stress takes over the mind and body.

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