Recently, a parent expressed to me feelings of guilt following an attempt to complete a workout at the gym. The workout was derailed by the innocent request of a 5 year old who wanted to snuggle.
I like to think we have all been there. We have all been in that position as a parent where we sacrifice our own wants or needs for our children. That is what a good parent does. We sacrifice our sleep to provide comfort to our children. We sacrifice our eating habits for the convenience of goldfish crackers. We sacrifice our choice of entertainment for G-rated animated films.
And we would do it all over again, but we don’t have to. We don’t need to continue giving up everything that contributes to our individuality to be a great parent. It’s possible to both have self-care and be a quality parent.
By engaging in more comprehensive, self-care activities, you are better able to support your children’s own well being. By engaging in self-care activities, you are modeling a healthy lifestyle for them and making the connection between growth, connection, and stability.
We teach our children to eat healthy. We enroll them in physical activities and encourage the recommended 60 minutes of play daily. But taking care of your own body is one of the most important aspects of self-care.
The focus is not on getting into the best shape of your life but to develop a consistent routine of physical self-care that maintains good health and helps achieve balance.
If you choose to work out alone, there is no need to feel guilty. Explain to your children the value self-care has for you as an individual. If you have the time, patience and resources, make the workout fun and invite your children. It is important to know that as parents, we don't always have to give up the things we enjoy.
If you have a hobby, interest or want to have fun, try to involve your children. Sometimes the best way to de-stress from life is to be distracted from your to-do list and just laugh. Research has shown that laughter can reduce stress levels. Having fun with your child allows for you both to connect with each other.
When you involve your child in the activities, it allows you to engage in something you enjoy while helping your child discover their own areas of interest that they may enjoy. Instead of postponing the gardening, invite your child to participate and have fun in the dirt together. The next time you plan to complete a craft, encourage your child to join.
Sometimes I will enroll in an activity outside the normal routine or volunteer for a local event. My children will then often ask 100 questions regarding where I am going, why I am leaving, what I will be doing and when I plan to return. Research has shown that it feels good to do good and doing good has long-term health benefits.
Now that my children are older, they can start to learn the value of kindness by giving back to others. When or if you choose to volunteer, get your kids involved. Even if they cannot go with you, they can still help out by donating their own toys, helping you prepare care items or assisting in cleanup.
The bottom line is that as a parent you don’t need to feel guilty for spending time doing good for the community or taking some time from the weekend with your children to help someone else out.
I think we all can benefit from learning self-care. There is a benefit to achieving physical, emotional and mental balance in all things. Children learn from observation. What we say is who we want to be, and what we do is who we truly are.
Implementing self-care is modeling to your children the value and importance of taking care of themselves. You matter. How you feel about you is important. Your health is important. The way you treat others matters. Your perspective on community outreach matters.
Choosing to perform self-care activities with your children is a simple way to model a healthy lifestyle.
Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 2, Suite C, 282 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. Her office can be reached at 419-668-0311. For more information on Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.