Parents, how are you doing, really?
March 18th, 2022
Over the last few months during conversations with parents, community partners and associates, when asking how someone is, the response has been “I’m doing fine” or “I’m hanging in there” or “we’re making it.” And, in a manner of speaking those answers are pretty accurate. Think about it, no one wants to say out loud (even if it’s true) “oh, you know, white knuckling it through the day, just hoping I make it through.”
There is a special and certain kind of sacrifice parents make in life, at times being completely terrified, distraught, enraged, confused or just plain exhausted, and not feeling as though they can show it. The fear of how these emotional expressions may impact their children often has parents shoulder these burdens silently. The past two years have been filled with unprecedented events for this generation. Covid-19, economic impacts associated with loss or changes in jobs, inflation, intense political discourse, and a war raging in Europe are just some of the issues reported by media outlets and on social media 24 hours a day. For parents, all of this is amplified by the stress of figuring out how to have the dreaded “how do I talk to my kids about this?” conversation.
there is a reason airline safety rules instruct adults to put their oxygen mask on first before helping a child: if you can’t breathe, you can’t help.
Over the last couple of years, Children’s Cove is one of many organizations which has offered ways parents can help navigate these discussions. There is a lot of incredible information, conversational prompts, supports and resources for children of all ages. However, there is a reason airline safety rules instruct adults to put the oxygen mask on first before helping a child: if you can’t breathe, you can’t help. If you aren’t caring for yourself, you aren’t able to care as well for your child. Let’s take a minute to talk about some ways you can take care of yourself. So, let’s start again with a different question.
Parents, how are you taking care of yourself?
Are you being compassionate and patient with yourself (and others)?
There is only so much energy a person has to give every day where you can be truly present. Accepting this is healthy – know it’s okay to have limits, that you don’t have to do everything all at once.
It’s okay if you are not able to fold that last batch of laundry.
It’s okay that dinner is going to be takeout, or microwaved, or leftovers some nights.
It’s okay that the bedtime story you read to your kids is a short one so you can quickly get it over.
Remind yourself you are human, and not perfect. Be kind and compassion to make choices to take care of yourself. Be patient with others if they need to make some of those choices too.
Are you “going down the rabbit hole?”
With access to excessive information, it can be tempting or even sometimes too easy, to “go down the rabbit hole” on a social media site, binge YouTube videos, or consume online articles about the latest issue or catastrophe. While this may be informative, interesting or a great escape, is it serving your immediate needs? Remember, you have a limited amount of time each day and where you direct your energy matters.
Have you done something just for yourself?
Practical self-care is something you do, not something you take. While the kale smoothies and health food (or carton of ice cream) can give a nice boost, true self-care is an activity you enjoy. Going for a walk, reading a book, starting a puzzle, getting out an old sketch book: something just for you. As a parent the feeling of loss of “self” is common. Over an extended period of reacting and adapting, it may be a more common feeling than you think. Rediscover something you enjoy and start again.
Are you letting your partner, spouse, or non-work friends know how you’re really doing?
Talk. Talk about how you are feeling. Be honest and have candid conversations. The more you fill up, the more likely these feelings will overwhelm you and spill out in ways you do no want them to. Schedule a call with a friend, find time to talk with your partner or spouse away from the kids or a professional who can listen supportively.
Are you sleeping enough?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Who has time to sleep? While your “alone” or even “together” time is important, sleep is also important to regenerate your body, mind, and energy. A lack of sleep can lead to additional challenges, such as irritability, susceptibility to illness, forgetfulness, and challenges with mental health.
These are just a handful of suggestions to start thinking about better self-care. If you aren’t caring for yourself, you aren’t able to care as well for your child. Remember, children watch and absorb everything you do, even the stubborn teenage ones. By making time to practice self-care, you are giving yourself a better version of you and role modeling a healthy lifestyle for your children.
If you need some support as a parent, there are local resources available
- The Samaritans of Cape Cod & The Islands: 800.893.9900
- Cape Cod Family Resource Center: 508.815.5100
- Bay Cove Human Services: 833.229.2683
- Nantucket Emergency Mental Health Services: 877.784.6273
- Nantucket Family Resource Center: 508.815.5115
- Cape Cod Children’s Place: 508.240.3310
- Martha’s Vineyard Family Resource Center: 508.693.7900
- Martha’s Vineyard Mental Health crisis: 508.693.0032