Well, it was bound to come up at some point, so why not go there now? I talk to nearly every one of the parents that I work with about self- care. I tell them how important it is for their child to see them taking care of themselves and how important self- care is in approaching situations with their children in a productive, calm manner. I give a pretty good talk, actually. It’s convincing. And, I’m somewhat full of crap when I give it. Don’t get me wrong, I believe these things to be true wholeheartedly- I just really suck at practicing them myself. I’ve even been guilty of telling my child that I have to go about my day even though I should be taking care of myself when sick, because who else will do the laundry (or whatever other chore needs to be done)? Wow- let’s think about the messages I’m conveying to my child when I haven’t been centered enough to be deliberate in my interactions with my child.
I can’t stop to take care of myself because who else will take care of all this stuff, if not me?
Here’s the messages:
– No one else in my home is able to do what I do. That’s not true or kind. My husband and my son are both able to switch a load of laundry for me, and it’s not nice to imply that they’re not capable human beings.
– The laundry is more important than taking care of myself. Is that how I want my son to feel about life? That the chores are more important than our own well- being? Nope. It’s not.
I want my child to take care of himself with confidence when he’s older, no guilt. Even now, I would love it if he’d say “I’m feeling sleepy, so I think I’ll go lie down early.” (Wouldn’t that be amazing?) How could I expect that he would take that initiative if he’s never seen me do it?
The first step is getting yourself, and your child, to be able to identify your needs. It may be a bit easier to start with times that you’re feeling ill- we all know we need rest, hydration, nourishment, etc. Practice there, and then move on to other times; when you’re feeling cranky, or not very patient. Tell your child- “I’m feeling crabby and need to take a few minutes of quiet time.” And then go do what you need to do to center yourself again. The benefit here is twofold:
- Your child will see you taking care of yourself and will gain these skills through their powerful ability to observe and apply.
- When you come back from a break, you’ll feel more centered and able to deal with parenting purposefully.
Then, to help your child apply this to their own lives- try offering them supportive suggestions when there’s something you think they need, rather than insisting on it. They’ll feel empowered to actively seek out what they need on their own, and that’s an awesome thing.
We all want to teach our children to live life to the fullest, but we can’t do that if our children never see us enjoying and caring for our own lives. I’m going to make it a point to work on practicing these skills more consistently- then maybe someday we can move on to asking for help when we need it. Who’s with me?