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Day in and day out, deadlines, schedules, financial pressures, and social demands collide with the work of raising children, who test and challenge as much as they enthrall. In fact, impossible societal expectations that ask us to be high-achieving, dedicated workers, partners, and parents can often make us feel like failures. Feelings of depression, anxiety, loneliness, exhaustion, and resentment too often define our daily lives and negatively impact our ability to parent with joy and confidence.
Raising children is hard, but a practice of self-love enables us to ride the challenges and truly experience the pleasures of parenthood. Here are some strategies to give yourself the gift of self-love. You and your children deserve it!
- Prioritize self-care and sleep. Exhaustion and lack of self-care are often the hallmarks of parenting, but they don’t have to be! To the best of your ability, give yourself the same care that you give your children, in terms of healthy food, sleep, and exercise. Compromising self-care is one of the worst things you can do as a parent, not only in terms of role modeling, but also because it’s a direct affront to your parenting skills. Exhausted, strung-out, and sick parents experience a host of negative emotional states that can be harmful to your family.
- Acknowledge psychological pain. Psychological injuries are just as important to address as physical injuries. A profound step toward self-love is emotional healing. Refusing to deal with or numbing past pain is risky, as raising children will inevitably trigger old wounds. Understanding and healing our psychological pain is the ultimate expression of self-love.
- Aim for optimism. Do you have a pessimistic side? Always fearing or expecting the worst makes for anxious parenting. Aiming for a more optimistic approach may require retraining your brain, but it’s worth it. Start to take note of when your negative thinking was wrong, and start noticing positive actions and results. Believing in yourself and others will spread optimism and joy to your children.
- Give yourself praise. Children push us to our limits, invoking feelings of inadequacy. Instead of telling yourself that you’re screwing up, shift your focus on what’s going well. Spend some time each day focusing on what you’re offering your child and how well you’re doing. Pat yourself on the back for small accomplishments. By getting into a habit of praising yourself, you can reduce the unnecessary guilt that so many of us parents experience.
- Forgive yourself. Everyone gets tired and cranky sometimes, and every parent says things they wish they could take back. Aim to be as forgiving with yourself as you are with others. Acceptance and forgiveness are essential to any healthy relationship – even your relationship with yourself!
- Focus on gratitude. The power of gratitude may have become a social media cliché, but this important component of self-love shouldn’t be ignored. Children offer numerous reasons to be grateful, including their health, accomplishments, and unconditional love. Being grateful for moments large and small expands our well-being and self-worth. Try ending each day with a nod to gratitude, and notice the benefits!
- Establish rewards and indulgences. Parenting is hard, so set up some rewards and indulgences along the way. Perhaps an evening out as a reward for potty-training or helping your kid through midterms? Every Mother’s Day, I looked forward to buying a new pair of shoes for the spring. It’s a ritual reminder that my hard work deserves recognition. Raising kids can be a thankless job. Spoil yourself a little!
- Let go of unrealistic goals. Are you holding yourself to unachievable goals? Setting yourself up for failure is the opposite of self-love. Just getting your kids dressed and to school on time can be a challenge. Add the extra burden of extra-curricular activities, staying healthy, work pressures, and much more, and you’ve got an untenable situation. Compromises might have to be made to your goals so that you aren’t running ragged and failing yourself and your kids. Schedules and the work/family balance are always a work in progress, so show yourself some love and tip the scales in favor of success!
- Start saying No. Many of us parents want to be good citizens and well-liked, so we feel pressure to take on tasks and responsibilities that we really don’t have the time or energy for. Saying yes might make you popular, but it can come at the expense of your joy and well-being. Give yourself the gift of extra time and energy. True joy comes from actions that are self-directed and unattached to obligation.
- Plan adventures. Escaping our daily routine yields remarkable psychological benefits for you and your kids. Natural landscapes are proven to reduce stress. Unplug, get outside, breathe, and explore nature’s beauty, whether at the beach or a city park. Your kids will love you for it, but, more importantly, when you immerse yourself in a new experience, you’ll better appreciate your own value without the stress and chaos of daily life.
Many of us wish these gifts of self-love upon our children, but fail to model them. Instead of simply wishing them on your kids, show them how it’s done. The rewards will overflow as you and your children reap the bounty of self-worth, well-being, and self-love.