RETHINKING SELF-CARE FOR PARENTS

As a parent, remember that putting yourself first doesn’t mean ignoring the needs of your loved ones. Rather, it’s about making sure that you can always give the best care possible for everyone.

In a previous article, Rethinking Parenthood’, Dr. Nicassio discussed the importance of increasing sensitivity to better respond to the needs of others. Instead of focusing solely on yourself, she spoke of the value of compassion and the importance of being more inclusive of the people around you.

Should you always put your child’s needs first?

Many parents have taken this principle a step further when raising their children. They become so focused on looking after their kids that they forget about their own wellbeing. Gemma Hartley’s article in Romper specified that this belief stems from the societal expectation that parents, especially mothers, should always put their children first, regardless of the situation. Never mind if the parents’ needs are left unmet, so long as the children are healthy, happy, and have everything they need and want.

What about SLEEP?

This kind of mindset, while commendable, may be unhealthy in the long run. Consider, for example, how some mothers barely rest because they are at their childrens’ beck and call. In fact, some even consider it their badge of honor if they function on only a few hours of sleep at a time. This behavior has long-term detrimental effects not just on physical and cognitive function, but also on emotional stability. In her article in Leesa, Sharon Nichols Keith describes some of the science behind being cranky due to sleep deprivation and cited research from Tel Aviv University. The authors of the study reported that the amygdala – the part of the brain responsible for processing emotions – has increased activity from negative stimuli when someone is lacking in sleep. This can explain why a parent might be triggered to lash out at loved ones, including their partners and their children. Others have also suggested that sleep deprivation may also contribute to lowering the body’s immunity and may even make you more susceptible to all sorts of illnesses, from simple ailments such as the common cold to more serious conditions like heart disease.

The effects of sleep deprivation are not too dissimilar from depriving yourself of proper food and nutrients. When parents are meticulous about what they eat, this not only benefits their own health, but as role models for their children, can also offer long-term benefits for their children as well. A team at Montana State University pointed out the tendency for children to pick up their parents’ attitude and habits towards food. For instance, children could be encouraged to eat more vegetables if they see their parents demonstrating similar habits.

Taking care of YOU benefits everyone

With all that being said, parents’ needs are not just exclusively focused on getting enough food or sleep. For example, The Washington Post columnist Lindsey Roberts urges parents to enjoy days off so they can take a breather from familial duties.

Aside form the effects on parents, micro-managing your child at all times can have psychological effects on the children as well. Parenting Horizons owner and executive director Julie Ross cautions parents that always waiting on their children can be harmful, because it results in a mindset that someone will always look after them. It often becomes difficult for them once they grow up and realize that they have no one but themselves to look after their needs and clean up their mess. She suggests that in these cases, it might take longer for children to gain the independence they need to function properly as adults. (HuffPost, Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo, Contributor)

The bottom line is that continuing to disregard self-care can have a lasting impact on both parents and their children. As a parent, remember that putting yourself first doesn’t mean ignoring the needs of your loved ones. Rather, it’s about making sure that you can always give the best care possible for everyone.

Guest Blog by Jessica Leong