Remember the good old days when you could pause your responsibilities for a few hours to have lunch with friends? Or maybe those blissfully empty weekend afternoons when you took a 4-hour “cat nap,” just because?
After we become parents, it can be challenging to find the time for such luxuries while caring for young, small children. But if those activities were about replenishing us mentally and emotionally, were they really luxuries in the first place? From over here, they sound a lot like self care—that practice that lets you be the best version of yourself in each area of your life.
Plenty of parents hear the words “self care” and think, I have no time to squeeze that in. But by defining the term more expansively, you’ll quickly see that tending to your needs isn’t an indulgence. It’s vital for the well-being of your whole family and can be crucial for managing parental stress and anxiety.
Why Is Self Care Important For Parents?
Whether you’re a stay-at-home caregiver or work a 9-5 job, you may often feel like your cup of responsibilities is always on the verge of overflowing—grocery shopping, laundry folding, dropping your child off at daycare, meeting work deadlines, picking your child back up, then shuttling them to their activities or playdates. The list goes on.
And sometimes, your cup fills up faster than you can finish each task. This can leave you feeling a myriad of unpleasant feelings like:
From a caregiver’s perspective, it can be challenging to give your kids your full emotional support when you’re not giving those things to yourself.
To that end, self care is not an extravagance. It’s a necessity that allows you to take care of your wellness in order to tend to the other roles and responsibilities in your home. This includes being a supportive parent, but it may also include being a partner, professional, or friend.
5 Tips for Incorporating Self Care for Parents
The World Health Organization defines self care as one’s ability to promote and maintain their health. Accordingly, self care doesn’t have much to do with indulging in elaborate spa treatments. Instead, it refers to doing whatever you need long-term and in the moment to ensure you’re meeting your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.
Sometimes, self care means sitting in a quiet space and reading a book for 15 minutes—a brief mental break from the day’s tasks. Other times, it means completing chores or running errands (even when you don’t want to) to make life more manageable for your future self.
Whether you’re learning the ins and outs of being a single parent or learning how to co-parent, we're here to help with 5 self care tips that will boost your wellbeing, meet your basic needs, and make parenting feel a little bit easier to tackle. By building in time for self care, you will feel more centered at home and in the world.
#1 Schedule Some “You” Time
Parents are often so busy catering to child care that they forget to take care of themselves.
Whether you have 5 minutes to spare or find (gasp!) five hours for yourself, try using them to do something you enjoy. As a bonus, you’ll probably find yourself with a little extra gusto to help you conquer the rest of your day. If you struggle to find designated “you” time each day, consider other ways to help relieve your schedule:
- Ask for support from a friend or relative when it comes to childcare
- If you have a partner, coordinate your schedules so you both have time for breaks
- Plan activities to keep your kids engaged –– our Slumberkins Show and Apple TV Original by The Jim Henson Company can be a great first step
#2 Know When to Say “No”
Can you make spaghetti with homemade sauce tonight? Yes. Can you take me to my friend’s house after school tomorrow? Yes. Can we watch Frozen again tonight? Yes.
Sometimes it feels like you forgot how to say “no.” But a small change like saying “no” from time to time can have some positive impacts on your mindset, like:
- Teaching you to value and prioritize yourself
- Allowing you to set healthy boundaries (which your kids can learn from with the help of Lynx)
As a caregiver, saying “no” can feel in conflict with your role—to give. It may take practice to feel more comfortable asserting your needs. But there are a few gentle ways you can tell someone “no,” such as:
- Using the sandwich method – This strategy can help you through challenging “no” conversations. To use it, try “sandwiching” the no statement between two positive ones.
For example, if you already have a menu planned for the night, you could gently tell your child, “I think spaghetti is a delicious dinner idea, but no, we already have something special planned for dinner tonight. Tomorrow, we can buy all of the ingredients for spaghetti so we can make it this weekend.”
- Offering another alternative – If you don’t feel like watching Frozen for the umpteenth time this week, it’s okay to tell your children no. Try offering another activity or movie option that you’d both enjoy instead. While setting boundaries with children can feel challenging in the moment, especially if your kids argue in rebuttal, doing so on a consistent basis can help tremendously in the long-run.
Keep in mind that setting boundaries applies to more than just your children. As a parent, you may feel as though you have social obligations with others. However, it’s okay to say ‘no’ to those, too. From activities like book club to work parties, make sure to set boundaries and prioritize your own well-being by participating in activities that truly serve (rather than drain) you.
#3 Treat Your Future Self with Kindness
Being kind to your present self may sound easy when it comes to tapping the snooze button or treating yourself to an extra cup of coffee. But how do you treat your future self with an act of kindness?
The smallest deed today can give you a few extra minutes tomorrow to focus on another task. Or even better—it could offer you a few minutes of that you time.
Luckily, sometimes all it takes to prioritize yourself is a slight mindset shift. What small acts of kindness can you do today to set yourself up for success later?
If you’re stumped for ideas, consider:
- Going to bed early – Your body and mind will be grateful you chose an hour of extra sleep over scrolling through your social media feed.
- Filling up on gas on the way home – You’ll be able to breeze through your morning routine with ease instead of rushing to refuel and make it to work on time.
- Making enough dinner for two nights – Take a break from cooking tomorrow’s dinner by doubling up on your ingredients for tonight’s menu. And that’s the beauty of leftovers.
#4 Focus on Your Feelings
According to the American Psychology Association, people who attend therapy learn long-lasting skills they can use long after they finish treatment. Yes, the strategies you learn in therapy can help you cope with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, but therapy is beneficial for other areas of life as well, like:
- Increasing your self-esteem and confidence
- Improving your body image
- Helping you through transitions and changes in life
- Encouraging you to create goals
Gone are the days when the only option was to visit your therapist in person. If you’re short on time, there are other ways to fit therapy into your busy schedule, including:
- Phone therapy sessions
- Video chats
- Text chats
If your insurance doesn't cover mental health services, or if the cost is out of reach, consider looking in your area for providers with sliding scale fees. Many providers offer low-cost therapy to those in need. Local universities may also have community clinics where therapy can be as low as $10 a session.
#5 Take Time to Appreciate Nature
Whether you live in the middle of a bustling city or regularly enjoy the lush foliage outside your kitchen window, if you take a moment, you’ll find that nature is all around you. Taking time to smell the roses (i.e., enjoy the beauty of nature) can lead to an array of benefits for your mental health, including:
- Promoting better cognition
- Giving you a quick energy boost
- Increasing feelings of happiness and well-being
There’s no need to book a quaint weekend getaway upstate with the whole family to nurture yourself with nature. If you have even a few minutes to spare, you can try:
- Stepping outside to feel the warmth of the sunlight
- Walking around barefoot in the yard or park to feel the grass between your toes
- Leaning in to sniff a neighbor’s rosebush on your walk back from town
Small moments of communion with the outdoors are proven to support a renewed, optimistic outlook on the day. Even more surprising? Some evidence suggests that even looking at pictures of landscapes may help improve overall well-being.
In one study, hospital patients who had pictures of landscapes in their rooms reported experiencing less anxiety and discomfort than ones without landscape photos. So, if you’re unable to step out and enjoy the real thing, consider hanging images of a lush landscape you love in your home instead.
How Taking Care of Yourself Benefits Your Family
When you’re stressed or tired, your children can sense it. You may even notice their emotions beginning to mimic your own. That’s why the importance of self care for parents reaches beyond one person. It affects family members, too.
When you’re feeling your strongest mentally, emotionally, and physically, you’re more capable of being a positive role model to those around you, especially your children. When they learn they can rely on you to learn how to rebalance even when situations stir up big feelings, they’re more likely to practice those same things in their own lives. It’s never too early to start teaching and practicing self care for kids at home. Doing so can help them in the long run.
Remember the “oxygen mask” rule from flying on planes: Only after you have your oxygen mask on can you help everyone else with theirs. The same rules apply to parenthood. When you’re cared for, it gives your children a better opportunity to feel cared for, too.
Teach Your Children the Importance of Self Care with Slumberkins
Self care is a learned skill, especially for busy parents. But with practice, you can begin weaving self care activities into your schedule. Ultimately, tending to you can help strengthen your relationship with your children and yourself.
With books, Snugglers, and furry friends that teach children crucial topics from self-esteem to stress relief, Slumberkins products were created to foster resilience for all family members. After treating yourself to a little well-deserved TLC, browse our collection of social emotional learning kits and begin your child’s self care journey today.
“Self-Care Interventions for Health.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, Nov. 2021, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/self-care-health-interventions.
Psychology Today. The Power of Saying No. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mind-matters-menninger/202111/the-power-saying-no
“The Power of Saying No | Psychology Today.” www.psychologytoday.com, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mind-matters-menninger/202111/the-power-saying-no.
“Recognition of Psychotherapy Effectiveness.” https://Www.apa.org, www.apa.org/about/policy/resolution-psychotherapy.
Weir, Kirsten. “Nurtured by Nature.” Monitor on Psychology, vol. 51, no. 3, 1 Apr. 2020, www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature.
Lankston, Louise, et al. “Visual Art in Hospitals: Case Studies and Review of the Evidence.” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, vol. 103, no. 12, Dec. 2010, pp. 490–499, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996524/, https://doi.org/10.1258/jrsm.2010.100256.