Celia Dean, Clinical Psychologist at Kids Matter, reminds us that we need to look after our own well-being in order to best look after our children.
Earlier this year the Duchess of Cambridge, as part of her on-going work with the Royal Foundation, launched a nationwide survey asking parents in the UK to share their thoughts on parenting 0 – 5 year olds in 2020. Last week they announced the results to the 5 Big Questions. There were many really interesting issues raised but one that really struck a chord with me was that 90% of respondents believe that looking after their mental health is important for the health and happiness of their children. However, despite this awareness, parents are still likely to put the needs of their children before their own. Interestingly, this starts early on the parenting journey with only 10% of expectant parents feeling able to take time for their well-being. I wonder how many parents of young children also struggle to take time to prioritise their well-being even though it’s likely to have a positive impact on family life. The survey also shared that 70% of us report that being a parent is stressful and for some, it’s very stressful.
What I find fascinating is research shows us that improving our well-being actually helps us function better, which includes coping with stress. It provides a buffer against the everyday curve balls that inevitably happen in family life. It helps us cope with those challenges and enables us to be more optimistic about finding solutions to difficulties. It also enables us to better adapt to changing circumstances and, as we know, parenting is full of change whether it’s new routines, behaviour patterns or developmental phases. As parents we have to constantly adapt, flex and accommodate, and this year more than ever. Parenting never stands still and neither do our children!
I think, as parents, it’s so easy to focus all our energy on keeping the family on track that we can easily neglect our own wants and needs. It’s hard to lift your head out of all the busyness. And if you do manage to pause for a moment, you might realise you’ve not spoken to another adult all day. There are always so many jobs to get done, and often so tedious. Let me tell you, the relentless laundry does not feature on my list of positivity boosters! But what if we were told that in order to look after our children better, we had to look after ourselves first? What if it was an instruction, a bit like on the aeroplane when we are told, if oxygen levels fall low, we must put on our oxygen masks before helping our children. We need to look after our own well-being in order to best look after our children.
So my challenge this December, in the run up to Christmas, is what will you do each day to boost your well-being? Will it be calling a friend for a chat, as we know connecting with friends and family can really help protect us against the impact of stressful life experiences, or will it be pausing to notice things to be grateful for each day. I, for one, will be playing some loud music on my phone and singing some Christmas tunes as I hang up the next load of washing before taking the long route to the letter box to post the one Christmas card I’ve written so far!
Kids Matter is a programme that engages with families and young children before crisis point – it strengthens families by giving mums and dads the tools to be competent, confident parents or caregivers. To get involved, as a volunteer or by financially supporting our programme, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org