How Self-Care Can Make You a Better Parent
Think of the last time you were getting in the car with your child. You helped your little one climb into the car seat and then carefully buckled them in—that is unless your child has hit the “I can do it myself” phase. If that’s the case, then you just checked to make sure they were buckled in and probably had to pretend you were doing something else when you fixed their seatbelt. You wanted to make sure that the seatbelt was firmly fastened, keeping your child safe from anything that might happen as you drive.
When you stop to think about it, you’re like that seatbelt in a lot of situations: you’re always there to keep your child safe. Think of all of the things you do to protect your child. You hold hands in the parking lot, you try to prevent scraped knees, you watch for risk factors that could lead to sexual abuse.
Sometimes it might feel overwhelming to keep your kid safe. Being a parent is hard work. You might have moments when you wonder how you’re going to help with everything you need to. The reality is that you’re probably doing a great job, and with all of the effort you make to take care of your child, it’s important for you to take care of yourself, too. Think of self-care as an opportunity to recharge your own batteries so that you can be there for your child. Here are some things you can do to make sure you watch out for yourself.
Pick and choose what you commit to.
Time fills up fast. There are lots of potentially worthwhile ways both you and your child could spend your time, and there’s not time for everything. You should feel comfortable saying yes to the things that you want to, but you have to make some decisions. Decide what you want to say yes and no to. If piano lessons are a top priority for you and your child, that’s great! But it might mean there’s not time for guitar, swimming, basketball, karate, and orchestra, too.
Give yourself a place to reflect.
You spend a lot of time every day helping your child feel safe and secure, and you need that peace, too. Make sure that there’s somewhere you can be alone even for just a few minutes every day to self-reflect and process your thoughts and emotions. Maybe you do this on a morning jog, maybe you do it while you’re in the shower. It can be anywhere you don’t have to be in parent mode.
Acknowledge your needs.
It’s easy to feel like the needs of those around you are more important than your own. In fact, sometimes it might even feel selfish or unkind to say no to someone else so that you make time for yourself. Of course you want to express your love for the people you care about, especially your children, by devoting time to them. But your needs are important. Make sure you acknowledge that you have legitimate needs that deserve your attention.
Joelle Casteix, an expert on preventing child sexual abuse, says, “Being a parent is hard. Being a good parent is a difficult and evolving process. Being a perfect parent is impossible. No one expects you to be perfect.” Give yourself credit for all of the amazing things you do every day to keep your child safe, and don’t be afraid to watch out for yourself, too.
 Casteix, J. (2015). The well-armored child: A parent’s guide to preventing sexual abuse. Austin, TX: River Grove Books, p. 37.