10 Steps to Care for Yourself - While You Care for Your Kids
Caring for your children at home can be hard. However, a lot of parents feel guilty that they are not ‘Super-mum/dad’
Trying to be a ‘super parent’ is an unrealistic expectation. You need to take care of yourself. That’s why, on an airplane, they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping your child.
You can’t keep giving if you’re running on empty. If your car is running low on petrol you top up the fuel.
Well, it’s the same for you. It’s vital that you look after yourself, to make sure that everyone at home is happy.
So, how do you do that during enforced isolation?
1. Exercise, good food and sleep
Try to make sure you do what works for you to help keep your batteries charged. Are you getting 30 minutes exercise a day, 8-hours sleep a night, 8-glasses of water a day and plenty of vegetables, salads, lean protein and whole foods?
2. Quiet time
Try to ensure everyone in the family has a chunk of time devoted to quiet time -to recharge- each day. A good time is after lunch. During that time, you can read a book or magazine, listen to an audio book, or just close your eyes for half an hour.
What feeds your soul? Do you enjoy meditation, yoga, deep breathing, praying, watching inspirational YouTube videos? Gazing at the sky? Beautiful music? Find out what works for you and build it into your day.
For a wonderful, energising start to your day, read: The Miracle Morning: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8 AM by Hal Elrod
Could you watch comedies, share silly memes on WhatsApp or play hilarious games with your child? Could you call a friend with a sense of humour, find funny YouTube videos, talk in silly accents or play Wii games. Try to do something that makes you giggle. If you can’t think of anything that will make you laugh, just smile. Put a big smile on your face for 30 seconds and it will lift your mood.
5. Me time
We all have little pick-me-ups. Things we do that help make us feel better. When you’re isolated at home, it’s good to find small things you can build into each day that help you feel happy or pampered. It could be …
A face mask (the beauty kind!)
Put on make-up, if it helps you feel good when you walk past a mirror.
Dance to upbeat music
A lovely cup of tea or coffee
A candle-lit bubble bath
A long, hot shower
Your favourite TV programme
A new movie
Plan an itinerary for your ideal holiday
The sun on your face
Go for a walk
Colour or paint (perhaps an adult colouring book or painting by numbers)
A crochet, knitting, embroidery or sewing project
Read a magazine, good read or inspirational book for 20 minutes
Listen to an audio-book
A foot soak
Create a vision board
Learn a new skill, like origami or
Play an instrument
A scented candle
Watch birds feeding at a bird feeder
Ask your child or partner to give you a neck massage
Whatever treat or pastime that helps you feel indulged or happy
6. An attitude of gratitude
Researchers have found that if you can write down three things you are grateful for, every day for a month, your mood will improve. With all the things that aren’t good at the moment, now is a great time to think, what are you grateful for? From the water coming out of the tap, the sunshine, flowers or even just sinking into your cosy bed at night.
7. Get everyone helping around the house
Do not try to do all the chores yourself. Children over the age of 3 can help with housework. If you’re a family, you have a ‘team.’ Teach your child to do a good job using the teach and train method:
Get your child to watch you doing the job. Talk through how to do it well.
Do the job together, with them doing some parts and you doing others. Then swap what you do.
Ask your child to do the job while you watch. Get them to explain how they are making sure they do a good job.
Set up a regular time and day for them to do that task.
It would be good to set aside a morning when you all do the chores – cleaning the kitchen, bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting, etc. Get everyone to start with one job, and no-one finishes doing housework until all the jobs are done. Then you can all relax, have a drink and a snack, and then get on with having some fun family time.
8. Take responsibility for your own happiness and mental health
During the Coronavirus pandemic, when you’re isolated from friends and your support network, you may feel miserable, anxious or depressed. Although you can’t help feeling down sometimes, it’s important to build things into your day that keep your mental health strong, and give you pleasure or joy.
Spend some time outdoors
Plan a time to exercise once a day
Connect with old friends by video or phone
Have a date night with your partner – virtually if necessary
Limit watching the news to once a day (or stop altogether)
Limit social media, unless it’s funny memes to make you smile
Focus on the positive aspects of social isolation -time to be creative, relax, pause and reflect
Read good news stories and look for the heroes!
Volunteer to help others
Spend some time each day doing something worthwhile, fulfilling, or inspiring
If, to take care of yourself, you need a child behaviour expert to support and help you to get you through this time, contact me here.
9. Try to be realistic about what you can achieve in a day
You will have good days and bad. Recognise there will be some days when it will be better to stop doing the chores and trying to get your child to do schoolwork, and just focus on your child’s needs for love and attention.
It may also help to consciously focus on being light-hearted and use a bit of humour. Go easy on yourself, and if there are things to be done, start again tomorrow.
10. Give yourself unconditional love
Do you beat yourself up for getting things wrong or not doing something perfectly? Some parents didn’t experience unconditional love growing up. The voice in their head is self-critical, negative, and insulting. Sadly, they also tend to be more critical of their children and the cycle is repeated.
Before giving your child unconditional love, Unconditional love begins with yourself. It is accepting yourself with all your faults. When your inner critic jumps in, thank it, but explain you’re going to think more accepting, positive thoughts.
No one should have the right to speak to you the way your inner critic does. If you catch yourself being self-critical, stop yourself, and think of how you could be more kind, accepting, non-judgemental towards yourself.
Interestingly, accepting yourself, faults and all, will stop you being so critical. That will help you to give your child the unconditional love you didn’t’ get growing up. It will also help change the ‘critical’ voice in your child’s head and break that cycle of negativity. A win / win!
Author, Elizabeth O'Shea, parenting coach