Learning to Nurture Ourselves

Parents have needs too. In order to be an effective parent, take care of yourself and your spouse.  It’s easier to be a positive parent when you’re healthy and happy. If your needs have been met, it will be easier to meet the needs of your children.

It should be apPARENT that in order to have a family, there must be a PARENT.  If an adult does not assume that role, a child will be left without positive direction. Among the many things a parent must do, are the following:

1. Be responsible for establishing structure and order. Model positive behavior, appropriate boundaries, work ethic and flexible structure. Develop and maintain your family first thinking which can blossom into fun, family rituals. Children and teens crave boundaries, order and structure. Their mental health and wellness flourishes when they know their parent has provided a firm foundation and support system for their development.

2. Nurture and provide safety.  Your family health and family preservation wholly depend on this. Children and teens, as well as adults, must  have a safe environment for any productive, stable growth to occur. Nurture and safety are foundational needs which cannot be overemphasized.

3. Provide choices.  Challenges, agitation and  behavioral problems occur when children and teens do not feel apart of the family decision-making process. Include the children when making family decisions and determine their input, role and responsibilities in the new decisions.

4. Make decisions. Choice is important – but ultimately the parent must be the ultimate and final decision maker. Parents who take charge in the final decision making process are coaching and modeling positive behavior to their children and teens. Overall mental health of the entire family will benefit when each family member understands, adapts to and takes personal responsibility for their own role in the family. Decision making then becomes fun and anxiety free.

Many assumptions are made when parents are asked to carry out the tasks necessary to effectively raise a child. The most important of these assumptions is that the parent possesses the ENERGY necessary to attend to all the tasks and responsibilities of raising a family. The parent must also remain effective at work and in other areas of life. To accomplish this huge responsibility and not become overwhelmed, you must take care of yourself so that you have the energy to be the parent you want to be.

Be a parent, not a saint:  

Recognize your skills and strengths. A major limit to your effectiveness as a parent is a lack of confidence in the skills you have already developed.  In all likelihood, your skills are as strong, if not stronger, than you believe them to be. They may only appear to be weak because of the challenges you face from the stress of your responsibilities in and out of the home. You will feel more competent and in control of your time, as you become aware of the successful strategies you have already developed for dealing with many of your current challenges. Family preservation and family mental health will improve once you gain greater confidence in the skills you’ve already developed.

 Be aware of what’s really important:      

Set Reasonable Goals: When faced with conflicting demands, when tired and feeling overwhelmed, when your own mental health is being tested, you may act in a manner below your expectations. The creation of reasonable, achievable goals for yourself and your family is crucial, if you are to maintain the self esteem and self assurance necessary to be an effective parent. Monitoring your own wellness and mental health is crucial to setting goals and sticking to them. Be reasonable – set goals which are realistic – and remember that you’re the coach and role model as well as parent.

You are not perfect: When you act below your expectations, recognize it and try to do things differently the next time. Children are resilient and will understand that you’re not perfect. It’s the compound of your positive nurturing actions over time that will overcome your occasional outbursts, frustrations, short temper and lack of patience. Children go through the same mental health processes that we go through – albeit at an adolescent level.

Think straight: Challenge the unreasonable beliefs that lead you to set unachievable goals. Reset your goals so they can be met. Being flexible in your goal setting allows you to rethink unreasonable demands and make necessary changes in your family plans.

Have a Sense of Humor: Keep your Humor. Creativity, flexibility and humor are critical if you are to succeed as a parent, especially one who “just does not have the time.” Recognize that structure does not mean rigidity. True structure incorporates the ability to be flexible. Enjoy your family and allow them to enjoy you – find pleasure in the simple act of enjoying each others company.

Sleep disorders, depression and anxiety, temper tantrums, behavioral problems, learning disorders – all will become minimized when family matters.

Organization provides the opportunity to recognize when flexibility is appropriate.  Chaos does not give you that choice. Remember, the only individual you can truly control is yourself. The greater your level of personal health, wellness, mental health and control, the greater will be your ability to influence others. Think about the following:

 Rigid walls crack under pressure.

  1. Being an effective parent is a state of mind – family preservation, mental health and wellness is up to you. Determine now that family matters and watch the positive changes take effect.
  2. Sometimes you have to give up control to gain it – traumatic stress, behavioral problems, anxiety disorders, mental illness, regression, depression and sleep disorders are never worth it.

Take Care of Your Own Needs: Protect your own mental health and wellness, preserve your energy and take care of your own needs, so that you have the energy to help your child or teen. There is a direct link between the level of a child’s academic and social growth and the stability of the family environment. Families that have greater organization, routine, consistency, and less disruption, anger, sadness, agitation, hyperactivity, depression and anxiety ‘set the stage’ for more effective development.

Parent energy and strength are the basic building blocks for positive family mental health and wellness. In order to have this energy and strength, you must take care of yourself. Unwind from the days stress, anxiety and challenges.

The fact that you ‘set aside’ five minutes a day for a cup of coffee, a phone call to a friend, or to read the headlines, or even a night or weekend away, establishes you as a priority, with needs that are important. It’s also a concrete sign that you are in control and have the organization and ability to competently nurture your whole family.

– by Frank Doberman, PhD

Dr. Frank Doberman is Co-Founder of Karner Psychological Associates (KPA) and is a leader in the fields of clinical psychology, is a Licensed Psychologist, Certified in School Psychology, Educational Administration and is a regular contributor to News 10 WTEN.

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