When my boys were two and four, their energy level was through the roof.  I was overworked, exhausted, and stressed out.  To make matters worse, I lacked good self-care skills and suffered much.

See if you can relate.  During those early years, I lived with the constant hum of anxiety brewing in the background.  Things like sibling rivalry, meal planning, doctor visits, nap time, and bedtime battles were just a few of the things I faced each day.

My lack of self-care

I worked insane hours to help run my home; my downtime was non-existent; I was always plugged in and “on;” we struggled financially to make ends meet; my kids were misbehaving, and THEY were running our home!  Deep down I worried about ruining them and raising them to hate me!

As time passed, I became so reactive to the daily pressures; I lost sight of what was important:  relating well to my kids.

As a result, I started to rely on formulas and quick fixes to solve behavioral problems.  I remember barking orders like a military drill sergeant.  I started responding to my boys in ways that were reflexive and automatic rather than warm, nurturing, and intentional.

As I hit my bottom, I learned an alarming truth.  As long as I gave my busy, external world permission to define what was important, my feelings of inadequacy and helplessness as a parent only increased.  And then everyone suffered:  my wife, my kids… everyone!

The big question

How do we reduce the stress and anxiety that goes with parenthood?  How do we handle the daily ups and downs without getting caught up and ensnared by our emotions and reactions to all that stress?

As a practicing psychotherapist, I understood that I needed to make my health and wellbeing a priority.  However, I was caring for my children at the expense of my own needs.  I was desperate and needed to make some radical changes!  Here’s what I learned.

Since parenting is stressful, self-care matters

First, let’s define self-care.

Healthy self-care requires an active and conscious choice to engage in activities that nourish you and help you maintain an optimal level of overall health.  As a loving parent, self-care requires a healthy lifestyle choice and making sure you get and keep your batteries charged, every day! That way, you implement stress management strategies that work for you and your family in any situation, not just some cases.

Self-care is not something new

It’s no secret that you need to eat well, exercise, get a good night of sleep.  To thrive as a parent, you need to eliminate the bad stuff like smoking and drinking.

What’s new, however, is the idea of self-care ventures beyond your physical wellbeing.  Healthy self-care should focus on your biological, psychological, and social health.  This holistic approach helps you not only calm the chaos, but it helps you raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture a family that thrives!

The benefits of self-care

Numerous studies suggest that self-care tends to improve your immune systems, increase optimism, and decrease things like parental stress, anxiety, or depression.  Self-care is one of the best ways I know to help avoid emotionally reactive moments when kids act out. Even more, self-care enables you to become and remain a warm and responsive parent, even in the midst of a stressful day.

Taking time out of your busy day to read a good book, sip on a cup of tea, take a nap, take a bubble bath, write a list, play a computer game, or go out with friends is just what you need.  Ironically, practicing self-care reminds you, and more specifically, it tells others that your needs are important, too.  When you practice self-care, it makes you a better caretaker and here’s why.

  • Parents who neglect their own needs and forget to nurture themselves, are far less attentive to the needs of their children.
  • Parents who practice healthy self-care and remember to nurture themselves, are far more attentive to the needs of their children.

The reason?  If you lack self-care, you will struggle with nurturing others.  One of my cliché sayings is: “You can‘t give away what you don’t have.”

Self-care helps you regulate intense emotion

Your ability to emotionally self-regulate starts by tuning into your personal needs.  For example.  Are you feeling hungry?  Get your eyes off your kids and eat something.  Otherwise, you are likely to become a military drill sergeant.  Are you feeling tired?  Take a nap.  Are you feeling lonely?  Call a friend so you can connect.  In my parenting seminars, I help busy parents, just like you, identify and understand how to get (and keep) their batteries charged.  We talk about recognizing what you need to slow down and live a more balanced life.  Doing so will help you emotionally self-regulate which generates better self-control and kids who are well behaved.

For your convenience, here are some self-care action-steps that help you emotionally self-regulate better:

  1. Go to bed earlier, so you’re more rested.
  2. Carve out some down-time AWAY from your children.
  3. Actively engage in hobbies.
  4. Connect with your partner more.
  5. Eat healthier and feed your brain for success.
  6. Transform the voice of your inner-critic into a more encouraging one.

Each of these action-steps will lower your stress and help keep your brain out of fight or flight mode.

A Point To Ponder

When I made self-care a daily habit, everyone won.  My wife, my kids… everyone!

If you want to learn how to raise your kids without raising your voice, then check out my latest parenting toolkit called, “How To Tame Tantrums Without Raising Your Voice.”  Parents love this practical toolkit!


Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more effective. He is the founder of inTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today’s parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive.         read more about Steve Cuffari here…


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