While still being true to yourself
It's easy to lose myself in the process of parenting. I have to be mindful of that fact and constantly remind myself that I am a person who has needs, just like my child does. This article is about how you can build a strong parent-child relationship while still maintaining your individuality as a person.
Avoid the trap of trying to be the perfect parent.
The first step to avoiding the trap of trying to be the perfect parent is to recognize that it's impossible. Letting go of perfectionism is an important step in becoming a more effective and less stressed parent. Your children don’t need you to be perfect. They need you to be the best parent you can be at that moment.
When you give in to the pressure of being that “perfect parent”, you’re modeling to your child that anything less than perfect is unacceptable. This can inadvertently lead to their development of perfectionism, anxiety, and depression later in life.
It’s ok for your child to see you as a person with strengths AND weaknesses. Your children are human, and as things go with humans, they’re going to make mistakes. When you embrace your flaws and weaknesses instead of trying to cover them up or ignore them, it's easier for your children to accept those aspects of themselves too.
Mistakes can be learning opportunities. When you make a mistake, think about what went wrong and what could be done differently the next time. Try not to blame yourself or others for making mistakes.
Change your mindset and embrace your vulnerabilities.
To build a strong parent-child relationship, you need to change your mindset and embrace your vulnerabilities. You can't expect yourself to have everything under control all the time. Instead, focus on learning from your mistakes and making sure that you are doing what is best for your children in any given situation.
Accept that, in parenting, there will be good days and bad days. Understand that some aspects of parenting may come naturally while others don't. Also, understand that you’ll hate some aspects of parenting, and that’s ok! There's no need for guilt over this. Parenting isn’t meant to be enjoyable ALL the time.
If a parenting approach isn't working out well for you, try different approaches until you find one that works better. In parenting there will be a lot of trial and error. Things won’t always work out perfectly from day one. Stay flexible.
Most importantly, don’t do this alone. Ask for help from other parents, family members, friends or professionals. Parenting is hard and it truly does take a village.
Practice self-compassion. You’re human and mistakes are OK.
We all make them, but it's how we handle them that matters most. Mistakes can be learning opportunities. When you make a mistake, think about what went wrong and what could be done differently the next time. Try not to blame yourself or others for making mistakes. This doesn’t come easily for most of us. Like with any new skill, it’s something you’ll have to work at constantly. So commit to getting better at forgiving yourself. The more you practice self-compassion, the easier it becomes.
It may help to remind yourself that dwelling on what you should’ve done doesn't change the outcome. Going down the shoulda, woulda, coulda spiral only keeps you stuck. Instead, learn from the mistake, forgive yourself, then let go.
Finding yourself making mistakes more often? Something more serious may be going on that’s clouding your judgment. In this case, you may want to seek the help of a professional to help you get clarity.
Set boundaries and enforce them consistently.
Setting boundaries and enforcing them consistently is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. By doing this, you're providing predictability and routine in your child’s life. When your child knows what to expect, they’re able to feel safe and secure. This lays the groundwork for building and strengthening trust.
When you're setting boundaries, be reasonable and flexible. Think about what's best for your child, not just what's easy or convenient for you. For example, if your child wants to stay up late on school nights but has a hard time getting up in the morning, don't give in just because it means avoiding a possible back and forth with your child. The boundary was set, enforce it.
You are entitled to be more than just a parent. You are a person first and foremost, not just a parent or caregiver. You deserve to be more than just someone who takes care of others.
Be prepared to explain why things need to happen.
When you set boundaries, you can expect to do some explaining. Your children will want to know why there are limits being placed. Embrace this. This is your child engaging their reasoning skills, a skill they’ll find very useful as they get older. When you do, explain in a way that is age appropriate and not condescending. Also, be prepared for questions and answers, as well as the unexpected.
Your child may not always understand or agree with your explanations, but they will learn to trust your judgment. If they don't like something, let them know that it's okay to tell you how they feel. You can discuss why they might feel this way and help them learn more about the situation and how it affects others.
Do what you said you were going to do.
Do your best to follow through on every promise you make with your children. It will be a huge help in building trust. Your children will learn that they can rely on your word and that the consequences for breaking your promises are real.
When you make a promise to your child, they need to know and believe that you mean it. If you say that you will do something, follow through.
Manage expectations. If you can’t guarantee an outcome, say this. Don’t make a promise you’re in no position to be making simply because you want them to feel better. I can’t stress this enough. Your children need to believe they can trust your word.
If you can't follow through on a promise, try to explain why this is so. If the situation calls for it, ask them how they can help solve the problem as well. This will give them an opportunity to feel like they are contributing to their own learning experience.
Don't let guilt dictate your choices. It's okay to have time and space for yourself.
You may find yourself avoiding activities or engagements that don’t involve your children out of guilt of putting yourself first. Stop doing this.
Release the feeling of guilt because there’s nothing to feel guilty about. It's okay to have time and space for yourself, even if that means leaving your child with a sitter or asking a friend or family member for help. You're not being selfish. You need time alone and away from your children so that you can reset and recharge. This is normal.
If you don't feel like yourself anymore, it might be time for some self-care. Give it a try. When you do, avoid the temptation to bundle your self-care activity with a task on your “to-do” list.
Taking care of yourself helps you feel like YOU again, not just a parent or caregiver.
You are entitled to be more than just a parent. You are a person first and foremost, not just a parent or caregiver. You deserve to be more than just someone who takes care of others. Your children will benefit from you taking care of yourself. It's important for them to see their moms and dads as people with their own interests who like to have fun too. You love your children. Defining who you are outside of parenting doesn’t change that.
Commit to practicing self-care.
Self-care can mean different things depending on what works best for each person. Maybe it means getting out into nature every day or going on long walks; maybe it means setting aside time every week where all work stops and there's only relaxation; maybe it's engaging in mindful activities like yoga or sound healing; maybe it’s seeking therapy.
Whatever form self-care takes in your life, make sure to practice it regularly.
If you don't feel like yourself anymore, it might be time for some self-care. Give it a try. When you do, avoid the temptation to bundle your self-care activity with a task on your “to-do” list. For example, if your self-care activity is to watch a show, don’t fold laundry while you're doing it. The point is to unwind completely, make sure that YOU are prioritized in your self-care practice.
Get to know who you are and build stronger connections.
By making time for yourself, you’re investing in getting to know who you are on a deeper level.
When you know who you are, you become a more confident, happier person. You are more patient, more loving and less stressed out. And through time, you’ll find that the more you understand and nurture your individuality, it becomes easier to connect and empathize with those you love.