Being a parent is a big job which takes a lot of time and energy. Creating a calm home life and finding time to take care of their own needs can seem like an impossible task for parents, especially if they also work outside the home.
On behalf of Parenting SA, Jodie Benveniste, Adelaide psychologist, parenting author and Director of Intuitive Parenting, provides parents with tips that reduce personal, family and household stress so that parenting is more enjoyable and parents can be at their best.
The Parenting SA website also has a broad range of parent easy guides for parents of children aged 0 to 18 years.
Hello, I am Jodie Benveniste, psychologist and parenting author and I help parents get to the true heart of parenting. In this video we are going to talk about what really helps you be your best as a parent.
As parents we face many challenging times, but we also experience many magic moments. You may have had a time when your child behaved in a certain way but you stayed calm, you were reasonable and you dealt with the situation really well. But then on another occasion, your child behaved in exactly the same way but you did not stay calm, you weren’t very reasonable and you did not deal with the situation very well at all. In fact you probably made it worse.
We really do learn on the job as parents, we learn as we go. But there is some knowledge that can really help us with our parenting. In the video on “Where do you get your parenting ideas from?” we talked about how knowing about your child’s development, their developmental stages, and also understanding your family values, can really help your parenting. But there are some other things that really can help you be at your best. It’s about understanding your child’s temperament, their own individual character and personality. It’s about having some rituals, routines in your family that help to create safety and structure for your children. It’s about having strong adult relationships that help to support you and your children. And it’s also about being able to look after yourself.
Our children are individuals. They have their own character, their own personality, their own temperament. Your child may be pretty easy going and calm, or they might be really energetic and intense. Your child might be sociable and love new situations and new people, or they might be more hesitant and shy, and even a little bit anxious about meeting new situations and new people. They could be really good at managing their emotions and keeping things in control, or they could be the one who “just loses it” at any moment, and really fly of the handle. When we understand our child’s temperament it can help us to understand their behaviour. It also means we can adapt our parenting to really help our children learn good behaviour and be their best.
If you have a shy child you could help them to be more adventurous, and if you have an adventurous child you can set up some more boundaries and structures to keep them safe, but also allow them to learn and be themselves.
Rituals and routines in our home can really help us to create a family structure that can help us be at our best and also help our children be at their best. Even if you like spontaneity it can really help to have some rituals and routines at home. They help your children know what is coming up next and they create a more calm and harmonious and less chaotic home life.
An example of a morning routine might be getting up and getting breakfast first, then getting dressed, then getting your bags ready for the day. In an after-school routine you might sit down and have a snack together when you first get home, then have some time for homework, then have some time to tidy up and get organised. In the evening you might sit down and have some dinner together, without the TV on, without any screens, because we know from the research, that really helps families to connect and build those stronger relationships. Then after dinner time it might be bath or shower time, and then some reading in bed before going to sleep. It also helps to be flexible with routines and rituals because as children become older you can give them more responsibilities, you can allow them more choices and to have more say in the family. You can also encourage them to do more for themselves.
Relationships are really important in parenting and helping you be at your best. It really does take a village to raise children and we all need support as parents. It is also important to have good communication with your partner, or your co-parent, so that you can support each other and create a much more harmonious home life. If you are separate from your children’s other parent, it still helps to be civil and respectful so that your children can really adapt to living between two homes.
Family and friends can provide emotional support as well as practical support. They can provide help with “pick-ups and drop-offs”, and baby sitting and play dates. Children also really benefit from having relationships with other safe adults. It helps to broaden their horizon and give them other perspectives, to learn new things. It also gives them other sources of support.
To be at our best we really do need to look after ourselves as well. Our own wellbeing has such a large impact on children’s wellbeing, in fact on the whole family’s wellbeing. Even though we do know it is important to look after ourselves, it often comes bottom of our list. But the reality is if we do not look after ourselves we actually can’t look after our children very well at all.
It might be helpful to think about how you can change your situation, to feel less stressed or pressured. Can you come up with a new ritual or routine? Can you use some time management strategies, or can you ask others to help out? Sometimes we actually need to change our thinking to make a situation better. We might be thinking too negatively. Instead we need to find a new ‘positive’ in the situation, or think of from a different perspective. Sometimes we just need to accept, and that actually helps us to struggle less and deal with the situation better. It can also help to build in some time for relaxation, for leisure. Sometimes we may need to go to bed early. You may need to go out and do some exercise, go out with some friends or have dinner with your partner.
When we look after ourselves we are also being a good role model. We are showing our children, they really need to look after themselves so they are setting themselves up to thrive. And sometimes it is also very helpful to seek professional help. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help, in fact it is the smart thing to do for you and your family.
It isn’t always easy to be our best as parents. We face many challenges and many stressors. When we understand our child’s temperament, when we have an understanding of the kind of person they are, that means we can understand their behaviour better and we can also adapt our parenting. Rituals and routines can also really be helpful because they help set up that sense of safety and structure for our kids and they also make family life less chaotic. When we have good strong relationships with other safe adults in our lives it really helps support us but also helps our children because they can learn and grow from others too.
Most importantly we really do need to find ways to look after ourselves. To go to bed when we need to, to get some exercise, to have some fun so that we can bring our best to our children. We can be a good role model for our children and really help our children be their best.