Taking Care of Yourself
by Kelly Curtis, M.S. from Pass the Torch
It seems like every spring – as our long Wisconsin winter finally draws to a close – our family gets cranky. We celebrate December, play in January and February, hold our breath through March and then pray for warm weather. So the “almost spring” months are often less than blissful.
When I read the books Parenting Preschoolers with a Purpose and Parenting Preteens with a Purpose (giveaways here and here) I discovered all sorts of valuable tips for raising kids. Each book lists dozens of proactive and doable strategies for addressing common issues in children. But perhaps the most important lessons I learned were those related to taking care of myself as a parent.
Research shows that the more Developmental Assets children have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future. A parent demonstrating how to take care of himself or herself, and manage stress and a chaotic family life in a healthy way, can work toward building several assets, particularly Adult Role Models.
Often, in our noble efforts to parent well, we forget to “feed the machine” and that can inevitably lead to breakdown. Authors for both books – Jolene Roehlkepartain and Kate Thomsen – write at length about the importance of caring for yourself as a parent, before caring for your child.
Thomsen writes, “Putting children’s needs first usually makes parents feel good. But when you stop feeling good and start feeling burdened or resentful, there’s a problem. Minimizing care for yourself is not always good for kids.”
Here are a few suggestions:
• Focus on your health – what you consume, how you exercise
• Find sources of support – your spouse, friends, family, counselors, or clergy
• Address what stresses you – communicate and make a plan for change
• Have fun – take breaks, go out for dinner, laugh, or discover joy in a new interest
While you might intuitively know that these practices are healthy, you may not be giving yourself permission to focus your attention inward. But children learn the most by watching you, so if they watch you take care of yourself, they’ll learn how to take care of themselves as well.
Perhaps it’s time we give ourselves that gift. We’ll all be better parents for it. What will you do for yourself today?
Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.
Kelly Curtis is a Wisconsin school counselor and author of Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things. To read more about Kelly, please visit her Weblog, Pass the Torch.