How do you de-stress as a parent to young children?
Take a moment. Stop reading this (but please do come back!) and take thirty seconds, a minute or as long as you need to think about your mind and all that it does for you. Our minds are precious. Do you look after yours in the same way that you would your physical health? If not, consider why not?
We’re joined by guest experts Rebecca Elsom, Alliance (Early Years Development Officer), and Gary Croxon, (Alliance business manager) from Early Years Alliance to help you figure out how you can de-stress as a parent, sharing tips and ideas that you can establish in your daily routine.
In the past, there has tended to be a stigma around discussing mental health but perhaps one positive outcome of the global events within the recent years is that our collective awareness of mental health, and the need to discuss it, has increased. It feels slightly easier now to talk about mental health, both our own and that of others, including children.
Lots of things change when you become a parent/carer, and quite often your own wellbeing becomes neglected, as other things take priority. However, if we are going to be good role models for our children, it is vital that we show them how important taking care of our own mental health really is.
Struggles That You May Face As A Parent / Carer
You may find it difficult to take care of your own physical health – perhaps you exercise less than you did before, don’t feel you get a chance to eat a healthy and balanced diet, or that you are not getting enough sleep. All of these things can impact how you feel physically but also mentally and emotionally.
It might be that you experience repeated feelings of guilt or worry – this might be not feeling ‘good enough’ or that you are worried you haven’t got enough time to get all of those other things done, perhaps around chores around the house or doing the shopping. Finding a balance here is important – prioritising your time between looking after yourself, spending time with the children and feeling in control of everything else. Sometimes this can become quite overwhelming and begin to impact on your own mental health.
It may be difficult to establish a new routine. As we already said, lots of things change when you become a parent/carer, and it can sometimes be tricky to work out this ‘new way of life’ and how your day-to-day life is now different. Perhaps you find it difficult to get out and about or struggle to make it to appointments on time.
Being a parent/carer can sometimes feel quite lonely, especially if you are finding it difficult to get out and about. It can help to be around others who are in a similar situation, perhaps by making friends at local early years stay and play groups or attending public spaces that are designed to attract families with younger children. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people, those that understand the struggles of being a parent/carer, can be a comfort and support.
So How Can We De-Stress As A Parent / Carer And Promote Positive Mental Health And Wellbeing?
First and foremost, acknowledging that it is important to take care of your own mental health and wellbeing is the most important step. After all, we aren’t going to be ‘firing on all cylinders’ and be the best parent/carer we want to be for our children if we aren’t looking after ourselves. What’s that saying used at the start of a flight? Make sure your own oxygen mask is on before you help others.
What is good support for one person may not be for another, and some of the below points you might find more helpful than others. Creating your own ‘wellbeing list’ with what supports your mental health will help you to reflect and give you ideas of steps that will best support you and your mental wellbeing.
Here are some of our ideas:
- Get outside for a walk or jog, and use all of your senses to immerse yourself in what is around you. Depending on the weather or time of day, you will have a different experience each time.
- Exercise to the level you can manage, building up to a goal. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which produces a positive feeling in the body.
- Relax – read a book, take a bath or do something else you enjoy (or combine all three!)
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Sleep helps the mind to process and ‘file’ our memories, emotions and thoughts about the day.
- Talk about how you are feeling. If someone asks if you are okay, does your reply of “I’m fine” have any truth? Find a good time to talk to a friend and/or family or a colleague. Walking and talking is often a better way to get your thoughts and feelings heard, rather than just sitting down with a cuppa.
We know it might not always be easy to find the time within your busy life as a parent/carer to de-stress, but your first step could be just one minute of breathing and relaxing – it’s a starting point and just take it from there!
Early Years Alliance
For more FREE information, advice and tips on supporting your child’s early learning and development, visit the Early Years Alliance’s Family corner website. Family Corner is the family arm of the Early Years Alliance, offering expert articles, activity ideas and online learning sessions on key areas of child development such as learning through play, communication, behaviour, health, nutrition and wellbeing.
Want To Get Out And About, Have Fun With Your Baby Or Toddler, And Meet Other Parents?
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