Written by: Jenny Smith
Making time for yourselves
With the combined pressures of homework, extra-curricular classes and play dates to fit in alongside your own work, relaxation time for parents can easily slip to a low priority in family life.
Hearing a parent say that they don’t have time to stop and unwind would ring warning bells in the ears of anyone working in the field of stress management, and it‚Äôs widely believed that if parents don’t consciously set some regular rest and recuperation time aside for themselves, the long term effects can be detrimental not only to them, but potentially to the whole family.Free periods for parents is so important and brings a relief to the stress of running around after the children,thus giving you the much needed time out!
One of the main blocks to recharging your batteries as a parent is the assumption that you need either a big chunk of time to do so, or, that you have to travel somewhere away from home to really switch off. While these scenarios do lend themselves to increased options and are important to plan in, the day to day reality is that parents need to be creative within the time and space that their current lifestyles allow.
Little blocks of time matter too!
Many mums and dads these days are making use of the odd half hour here and there to do something that brings their focus back to themselves in a positive sense, rather than using spare moments to worry about GCSE coursework or the sleeping patterns of their two year old.
Little blocks of time are often available as part of something you are doing with or for your child: Sitting in the car whilst they do their activity is a perfect time to either read, solve a Sudoku or just sit quietly using a simple relaxation technique like counting breaths to quieten the mind.
Walking is great for stress
Alternatively, using these breaks as a chance to go to a cafe on your own and savour a favourite drink or snack is also a simple way to de-stress and give yourself a quick treat. Walking somewhere to pick the kids up is also a time that can double up as time away from pressure. Simply walking is a great for stress relief and if you add in focusing your attention on anything that you find calming – be it positive thoughts or a scenic view – the benefits will increase.
Once kids are in bed it can be tempting to give your whole evening over to doing all the odd jobs that have been sidelined: Whilst a tidy house and a ticked off to-do list can lead to a feeling of increased control, consciously choosing to do something for fun or relaxation like a film or a candle lit bath will refresh you at a much deeper level and help you to view the ongoing demands of family life through a gentler lens.
The messages that you give yourself during your time out will also contribute to how beneficial it is for you: If you feel guilty during your breaks this will reduce the positive effects. Be strict with your inner voice and give yourself the same encouragement that you would if a close friend was telling you about their family pressures.
Do whatever it takes to plan something in regularly that fits within your particular set-up. If you parent alone, see if you can arrange childcare, be it a favour or an exchange that will allow you to have an evening out every couple of weeks. If you have a partner, make an agreement to support each other to take regular time out. Only you will know the most restorative way of spending your free time: For some it will be a fun night at the pub singing some karaoke or dressing up, whilst for others it might be an art class or watching a play. There are no right and wrongs: The main thing is to switch out of your role as a parent and employee and connect back into the part of you that simply enjoys having fun.
In the long term, see if you can book a big chunk of time out – a weekend a year if possible. Having this to look forward to will give you a lift and forty-eight hours away from family life will end up feeling like a two year break.
Is it possible for you to list five ways in which you can enjoy half an hour? It’s surprising how hard this can be for many parents. Share them with your kids and let them know de-stress time is good for all the family. Kids fundamentally want their parents to be happy and if they see you taking regular care of yourselves it gives them a positive message about self worth and self care to build into their own lives as they get older.