I’m going to be a little more focused today because recent conversations with my adult children have brought to mind the importance of soothing yourself as a parent. It doesn’t matter, especially, whether you have a newborn or a teen, you need to be able to soothe yourself because kids are hard work!
Not only are you juggling the emotional and mental needs of the child, you’re trying to keep your own state of mind from causing some sort of injury to your offspring. It’s enough, at times, to make you feel like you need a professional license to be successful as a parent.
The best news is, you don’t. You do need to be able to pull your emotions down, though, for your own benefit as much as for your child. The first self-soothing tip is to remember a bit of feedback I was given by a woman who taught a parenting class I went to. (I lucked into a free course being offered by a daycare I used and decided to attend just to see what I’d learn. Loads of good info and very helpful!)
You don’t have to be a perfect parent, only good enough.
The instructor for the class I took picked up on my desire to be a “perfect” mother. She also pointed out several ways I was actively robbing myself of the joy of raising my children because I was so wound up in the idea that I had to meet some vague, constantly shifting target of being a great mom.
A good enough mom, however, was something I could reach. My children were fed, clothed and housed. They were loved. I spent time with them. I enforced healthy boundaries. I encouraged their development in age-appropriate ways. (Not expecting a child to speak too soon, but expecting them to be able to tie their shoes by the start of kindergarden, for example).
It took some effort, but learning I could be “good enough” was very soothing to me as a parent and freed me to enjoy my children.
Parents need a time out sometimes, too.
It will never matter how much you love your child, the day will come when they will hit every button and dance excitedly across your absolute last shred of patience. It’s most likely to happen when life is already feeling like it was too much in the first hour of the day.
Take a time out. It’s alright. Your child won’t hate you for it.
When you have a small child, place them in a playpen or their crib – somewhere they’re safe. Older children can be told, “I am going to take a time out.” Set a timer and tell them you’ll be back when it runs out.
Step away for 5 minutes. Take some deep breaths. Remember what you want to do as a parent. Then go back and handle the situation.
I did this often when my children were growing up. By the time they were pre-teens, they knew that Mom’s Time Out was usually 5 minutes and that they needed to separate and chill for the time I took as a step back for myself.
Modeling that level of self-control was a novel idea in my family, and I was often clumsy at it. My children now use it with their kids and are much better at knowing when to take space than I was. It’s a growth process and good parenting skills are taught, not inherited genetically.
There are so many ways we neglect ourselves and pile stress on top of the already challenging task of raising healthy people. Aim to be a “good enough” parent, take care of yourself and maintain your mental and emotional stability with some soothing. You’ll find a whole new level of joy in raising your children, and you’ll find yourself having more energy for things that aren’t about the kids, too.