Karen’s Parenting Mini-Course Part 8 – Know Yourself

I’m Karen. Welcome to my Parenting Mini-Course. This Simple Solution is to Know Yourself and look after you so you can look after your children.

How can Knowing Myself help my children?
Understanding and looking after our children is important. But we’re the other half of the parent-child relationship. And when we go down, the whole system implodes. So understanding and looking after ourselves is paramount! The happier and healthier we are, the better able we’ll be to look after them.

How do I get the balance right between looking after them and looking after me?
There is no one right or wrong answer how to get the balance right because we’re all different. We all need different amounts of alone time, socialising, exercise and mental and spiritual stimulation to function well and be fulfilled. Lots of parents find it’s no trouble at all putting their wishes to the side and focussing on their families. There’s no point telling them they need to make more time for themselves or they won’t be any good for their children.
They’re probably more stressed when they take time away from their children to “relax”.
Others find they need more time and space to themselves or that they like the challenge and stimulation of going to work. Not to mention there are plenty of parents out there who have to go to work to keep the bills paid. And they shouldn’t be made to feel bad for not spending more time with their families.

The place we all want to avoid is staying at home and feeling resentful and depressed because we aren’t stimulated, or going to work and feeling resentful and depressed because we can’t be with our children as much as we’d like. Whether we stay at home, work or work from home, most of us find we’re chronically short of time and that getting the balance right isn’t easy.

How can I find the time to look after myself?
One of my hot tips is to double up whenever possible. I’ve always needed to exercise as much – if not more – for my peace of mind than for fitness. And the thing I missed most about my children being born was having a social life. So I double up my exercise with seeing friends. I have set times each week when I meet friends to power walk the park, and the dogs. Even when I have a cup of tea, I like to Skype so I can chat to a friend at the same time. When we find we want to squeeze in time to go on Facebook or go out with friends, one way around it is to limit the time in advance so we don’t accidentally get sucked in for hours or stay out so late it takes three days to recover. Extra points if you’re able to organise doing your own thing around the times when your children are asleep or at school.

Knowing Ourselves and what winds us up is also really useful – so we can try to prevent feeling overwhelmed and recognise what’s behind our responses.

It’s very difficult to Stop, Think and then decide what to do, for instance, if we’re completely overwhelmed by the mess in the house or consumed with anger at our neighbour, our employer or our children. It helps so much if we try to be kind to ourselves, in whatever form we need to, to keep the stresses of life under control so we feel we’re swimming instead of floundering or sinking. Our first best option may be to ask others for help.

Keeping things in perspective is also hugely helpful. Our children are bound to annoy us and worry us. But if we remember that this is normal – that it’s a parent’s prerogative! – we can keep from panicking and overreacting.

These Simple Solutions sound great. But it feels a lot to take on board.
We all have moments when we wonder how we can possibly keep going. If trying my Simple Solutions feels like too much to take on, the place to start is to Know Yourself so you can free up the brain space to do it! When we’re balanced and everything is under control, we’re in a better frame of mind to be inspired and try something new. Then we can start anywhere:

  • If we Stop and Think, we can prevent ourselves from spiralling out of control and think of what to do instead.
  • If we Listen, we can understand our children and prevent a lot of arguments.
  • If we Appreciate, it motivates our children to do the right thing.
  • If we Cooperate, we can teach our children life skills, like how to communicate better.
  • If we Discipline, our children will understand the effects of their behaviour.
  • If we Love and Look After, our children will know we care for them.
  • If we Organise, we’ll have more and better quality time to spend with our children.
  • And if we Know Ourselves, we will be in a better place to be inspired and have a go.

All of my Simple Solutions will improve your relationship with your children and help them to behave better and be more confident. Try any or all of them – the more you can manage, the better. Don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up for not doing enough. The point isn’t to try to be perfect, it’s to keep trying. Knowing Yourself isn’t the end. This is the beginning.

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