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Self-Care for parents: how and why it’s worth finding the time

By 24th April 2020October 20th, 2020No Comments

Have you ever heard the term, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’? I am sure, more than ever you are feeling the full meaning of that statement right now! I know I am!

In my work supporting parents I try and give them strategies they can use to help their young people stay calm, especially when they are displaying challenging behaviour. More often than not, parents tell me they’ve heard about all the strategies under the sun but they are just not feeling calm and collected enough to put them into place. I.e. How can we as parents be expected to remain calm in the face of challenging behaviour when we are feeling highly anxious and stressed ourselves? My next question is always ‘What are you doing for yourself?’ to which the reply is usually ‘not much, ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I feel guilty taking time for myself’.

So here we find ourselves trapped in our homes pretty much 24/7 with our children and are expected to work from home, home school and keep up the housework. For others who are key workers you may be working long shifts in challenging conditions and coming home exhausted. Where does this leave time for self-care? But despite the mum/dad guilt that comes with the territory for us all as parents, it’s really important to remember that a little time ‘out’ can make your time ‘in’ so much more calm, meaningful, enjoyable and most importantly empathic.

For me staying as active as possible the most important thing I can do for myself right now. Exercise boosts endorphins, the happy hormone, leaving you feeling calmer, clearer, and more energised. In our house PE with Joe Wicks is one of the small ways we as parents help ourselves feel more positive It’s half an hour, we all enjoy and a great way to start the day. To be honest the littlest member of the family rarely does much of it but she understands how much it means to us to start the day in a positive way!

Getting out for a daily walk as a family is another great way to get some exercise together and lift everyone’s spirits. Let’s not underestimate the how amazing a little change of scenery can be right now! Also, fun games like tag and chase are a great way to trick your young people into being active and are fun for everyone!

Scheduling your day as a family can be a great way to make sure those moments happen. Just don’t forget to be kind to yourself and not worry when the schedule goes out of the window, as it inevitably will some days!

As well as family moments it’s really important that we as parents get some time for ourselves and use it in ways that help us feel happier and calmer. If possible, it might be worth scheduling in some protected time during the day where you can have some uninterrupted headspace but this may not always be possible and this time might be when the younger members of the family are asleep.

I’ve found that it’s often HOW I used the time I get that makes the difference, not necessarily WHEN I get it. For example, if I spend the evening on social media, reading or watching the news or just even watching TV I don’t always feel the benefit. However, if I speak to friends, read a book or take a bath I feel much more refreshed!

Below are the five ways to wellbeing, a great basis from which to find self-care that works for you.

Facetime/skype with friends and family, family dinners without the TV

PE with Joe, fun family games, and if you have time then find some active time just for you, I have a cross trainer but there’s loads of workouts online with no equipment needed

Read a book about something that you’re interested in. I’m learning about Henry VIII and his 6 wives!

Are there small ways you can help others at this time? We painted pebbles, wrote positive messages, and hid them on a walk

Mindfulness, grounding, and meditation, plenty of examples on YouTube

Having said all of this, there will be days when self-care practices go out of the window! When just getting through the day will be a victory! (Or is that just me?) On those days I like to take little mini moments of self-care, almost like setting a reset button. Step outside and count to ten or listen to the birds for one minute, Hold your tea of coffee in your hands and enjoy the warmth and the steam, hug something fluffy as you sit and work/play with  the children, Just take a deep breath! And don’t forget that each day is a new day and tomorrow can always be different.

Once you work self-care into your schedule it becomes part of everyone’s routine and a part of everyday life. Not only will you feel calmer in general to deal with those challenging moments, but your children/young people will see the impact of self-care and maybe practice it more themselves. The old empty cup adage is truer than ever in this situation we find ourselves in. We are not all in the same boat, the challenges we face are unique to each of us. However, we are in this together! We got this! You got this!

If you find yourself really struggling with your child’s behaviour during this time Action for Children are running a webchat and telephone advice service, which you can find here


–  Blog written by Terrie

Emotional Resilience for Parents & Carers

Cornwall Council Advice Page


Headstart Kernow SPACE

(Supporting Parents and Children Emotionally)

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