Are you a new mom or dad? How's your baby doing, and how's your family doing after the new baby's birth? We're guessing you've noticed, first, that life doesn't stop when the baby comes: It starts speeding up. But once the child comes home, is that overwhelming sense of full-scale parenting just gone? Sometimes, it does happen that parenting goes well, even smoothly. But for the families that feel frazzled and frantic most of the time, we want to encourage you to think about the opportunities you have to change how you approach this season of parenthood.
The good news is you can keep your stress at bay, and your child can grow up to feel like a perfectly normal, resilient kid who can handle life on their own. But here are a few simple ideas for getting back on your feet when you're worried, exhausted, and overwhelmed.
• Make your kids a priority
Set an example. You want them to remember that you're concerned about their safety, but that's not always possible. Don't stress out when your children come home in tears over an encounter with a mean student. Instead, be gentle, validate their feelings and assure them that you'll help them be happy and safe. If they feel reassured and empowered, you've accomplished your goal.
Turn off the electronics. For a moment, block the Internet and radio. Back away from the computer. Have a conversation with your kids. Talk with them. Don't hang on to them constantly, but allow them to find their own way to find you.
• Reassess your schedules.
When parenting is overwhelming, you don't want to miss a play date or a bedtime. You don't want to cancel your appointments or the gym because you have to take care of something else. Take a step back and try to recalibrate. For many new parents, taking care of themselves is as important as taking care of their family. If you're a parent of a newborn, or a parent of multiple young children, some of your older children may be taking on most of your parenting responsibilities. You may not have as much time to exercise, cook healthy meals, or get organized. Make time for those things for your own sanity and to make it possible for you to stay involved in your child's life. If you don't have a whole day to do your errands, aim to go in and out of stores without stopping in the middle. Go back and forth through the store as fast as you can. There will be plenty of time later when you're more confident in your abilities.
• Take care of your own health.
Understand your limits. Start with healthy eating and exercise. Follow a fitness plan to get healthy, strong, and fit. Don't let the stress of parenting keep you from keeping your body healthy. You want to be able to keep up with your child's energetic personality for many years to come. A healthy body, mind, and spirit is a great way to start taking care of your family and getting back on your feet.
• Take care of your relationships.
Too often parents are too busy to stop and care for their relationships. Spend time with your spouse or family. Go to a movie or the beach or the museum or the zoo. Don't go out on a date until you've put in a full day of caring for your family. You might get a babysitter, but if you don't have much time, keep up your relationship with your husband or wife. Be patient, kind, and helpful.
• Stay motivated. Help others.
Parents who are overwhelmed often want to give up. Don't give up on yourself and your family. Start with making a donation to a nonprofit in your area, like a school, a shelter for abused and homeless children, or a battered woman's shelter. Help kids in your community who need extra help. Get involved with a parent support group for your local schools. Volunteer for a program at your church. If you're struggling with feelings of hopelessness, reach out to a professional who can help you find ways to make life more manageable.
• Stay strong.
Our world is very challenging. You can make it easier for yourself and your family by being strong. Try to stay focused on the positive. Remember that you're stronger than you think. You can handle things better than you feel. Remember that your child's safety is more important than any feeling you might have. Remember that you're not alone. Feel empowered to make changes.
• Enjoy the good moments.
You may not have the time to make a tradition of spending a morning reading a book with your child or taking a picnic lunch on a nice afternoon. But take the time to create an important family tradition or enjoy the good moments when they occur. Pick a single moment, and savour it. Share it with your children. Look around at the world you're creating with them. You're creating their future memories.
• Help your child get involved in something.
If your child is losing interest in things like gymnastics or soccer, start getting him involved in something else. Your child might enjoy watching movies with you and his siblings. Your older kids may be ready to help out in the yard, mowing and cleaning the garage, and helping you cook for your younger children. When you help get your child involved in new activities, he can build confidence and have fun. You can encourage your children to try new things. Get your child involved in clubs and sports so they can be in a caring community.
• Stay hopeful.
It's okay to feel frustrated sometimes. Feelings of hopelessness or guilt may come. You're working hard, but you feel like you're being overwhelmed. Remember that every one of us is overwhelmed in some way. Remember what matters most: Your children. The future you're creating together. The love and support that you're giving your family. When you're feeling discouraged, take a breath, ask for help, and try to find something positive in your day. Your child needs you to be strong. There will be moments when your child will need you to reassure them, or to cheer them up. Remember that you are a great parent.
Make sure that your family is as close as possible. Try to find ways to make your life more joyful, and to be the best parents you can be.
Dedicate time to taking care of yourself. Give yourself permission to take a break. Don't push yourself. Your children need you healthy and happy. Take time to rest and relax. If you have a vacation to look forward to, you can better cope with the work you do each day.
Stay committed to being a great parent. Show your children that you're committed to helping them be successful. Remember that being a good parent doesn't just happen overnight. It takes effort and commitment. Do your best. Don't give up. Don't give up on your family. Keep working hard. You can make it.