We’ve all heard “Put your oxygen mask on first, before putting on your child’s”. This isn’t just a safety warning you hear on airplanes, it is also an important way to encourage the cultivation of our well-being, and the well-being of our family and loved ones.
As parents we strive to protect our kids from harm and to set them up for success. We want the absolute best for our children, but through our unconditional love, we can forget to prioritize our own needs. Taking time for ourselves helps fight against mental health challenges and leads us to be more resilient and present with our kids. When we make our needs a priority, we are ultimately benefiting our children and those that depend on us.
Why is self-care important?
Let’s face it – parenting can be absolutely exhausting. According to a Pew Research report, parents find time with their kids more rewarding than paid work but also find parenting more exhausting. When we feel exhausted, we get stressed more easily; when we’re stressed, we are more likely to experience mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression or other related mental health disorders. So, before we get to that point, we need to have self-care strategies in place to help prevent mental health challenges from occurring.
Self care is essential to making sure you maintain a healthy body, mind and spirit. And it’s important to remind yourself that taking time for you and your needs will make sure that you will be there for your kids (physically and mentally) in the long run.
Here are some helpful hints for maintaining self care:
- Take time doing what you love. Go to that yoga class, or that bike ride, or read that book you’ve been wanting to read. Whatever helps relax your mind and distances you from your stress.
- Focus on the positive. Create affirmations for when you are feeling overwhelmed or down and think about what you are grateful for in your life to help change your perspective.
- Take time to socialize with your friends. It can be hard to make time for people outside of your immediate family, but it’s so important to maintain social relationships to remind you that although you’re a parent, you are also a friend and an individual with a life of your own!
- Find time for mindful moments throughout your day. This can be a meditation practice or a silent moment, or it can even be a single thought to center yourself and bring you back to the present.
Self-care and self-love go hand in hand.
Another equally important reason to put your oxygen mask on first is truly understanding that you deserve to make yourself a priority. This doesn’t make you a bad parent – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. When you are able to prioritize your needs and give yourself the love that you give so readily to your kids, this will make you a stronger, more resilient parent.
As parents, we can easily question ourselves often as to whether we are being the best parent we can be. Are we present with our kids? Do we teach our kids the right values and beliefs? Do we show up enough for our kids? And through our worry and self-doubt we can make ourselves feel like we are not good enough parents; therefore, are we not good enough in general?
How can we combat this negative self-talk? Firstly, treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you do with others; we call this the reverse golden rule. Most of the time we judge ourselves as parents and as individuals much harder than we do others. Remember, you are most likely your biggest critic and to overcome this, you must teach yourself to love every part of yourself – this means both your strengths and weaknesses.
So, when you start spiralling down the negative rabbit hole, catch yourself and fight against it by thinking positively about your strengths, what you deserve and what you are worth. To help encourage positive thinking, you can create a little mantra or saying that you can repeat to yourself to help dig yourself out of the negative headspace.
Be a model for your child.
Through prioritizing your self-care and setting boundaries with others and yourself, you are modeling for your child how to prioritize themselves first and foremost as they grow older. When you lead a chaotic life and take on too much and leave no energy for yourself, your children will observe and learn from this and normalize this type of behaviour as what it means to be an adult. Let your kids know that it is okay to say no when they receive pressure from others and help them bring self-care strategies into their mental wellness toolbox. Through this, you’re building your child’s resilience.
Self-care gives you the opportunity to check in with yourself and prevent mental health issues from creeping in. Putting your oxygen mask on first isn’t a selfish parenting move; it creates a more present and authentic relationship with your children.