Positive Self-Care Makes Us Better Parents

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

When I am tired and have not slept well, I am grumpy and hard to be around.

When I am over-committed and running around all crazy, I am anxious and hard to be around.

When I am not eating right and hungry, I am angry and hard to be around.

When I am anxious and worried about something, I am short-tempered and hard to be around

The common thread in all of these: when I am not taking care of myself, I am hard to be around. The unfortunate truth is that when you are a parent, you don’t really have the option of not being around for very long. Invariably your children will come around and you will likely rush to judgement, speak in anger, or step on someone’s feelings.

I am a hard-driving, over-achieving, type A person. I am not happy unless there are at least three projects rolling around in my head, I’m on all the right volunteer committees, and I’m in-charge of something. On the flip side of that, when I am all wrapped up in satisfying my type A personality, I am leaving a pretty wide wake of destruction in my path. I will never forget one morning barking at my six-year-old son because he was putting on his shoes too slowly for my busy schedule. With a tear welling in my son’s eye as he was trying his best, my husband leaned over and whispered in my ear… “You aren’t handling your stress well!”  At first I was taken aback, but it was a reality check I desperately needed. While making changes in my life is a struggle, I have learned that doing a better job taking care of myself not only benefits me, but also my family and those around me.

Here are four suggestions for taking better care of yourself and your family.

  1. Learn to set reasonable boundaries on your time and availability. I constantly underestimate how much time a project will take. I also constantly underestimate the amount of time and attention my family needs and deserves. Learning to set limits on myself has been a huge lesson and one I constantly struggle with. In Ephesians, Paul reminds us to be wise, making the best use of our time. The first step in setting boundaries is to establish levels of priority for all the people and things in your life. After setting priority levels, it becomes easier to move to the second step of setting boundaries: Learning to say no. Most people have an inner sense of when to say yes to something or when to say no to something. Learning to listen to that sense and saying no with confidence may take some practice, but it’s worth it.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

  1. Develop a support community. In the journey to rein in your schedule, it is helpful to have a community of people around you who can hold you accountable and help keep your no and yes habits in check. Even though it adds an appointment to your calendar, it is important to regularly spend time with close friends who will feed your soul, enrich your life, comfort you, and most of all pray with you. Setting aside time regularly to connect for coffee, go for a walk, or head out for a girls’ night is essential for feeding those precious relationships.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10: 24-25

  1. Develop a habit of self-care. You may have heard the popular saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” If you want to be present for your family, engaged with your children, and focused on tasks ahead, it is important that you set a priority to care for yourself. You deserve to treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion you give to others. Make times each week to take care of yourself, recharge, and rest. For some, that is simply getting some time alone, reading a good book, or binge watching a favorite series on Netflix, while for others that may be engaging in a fun group activity. I find it best to actually block out this time in my calendar and hold myself accountable to take that time.

Another aspect of self-care is making sure your are eating a healthy diet, getting rest, and practicing regular exercise to create the best, healthy version of you that you can be. This is probably one of the hardest habits to change in our busy lives of go-go-go. When you are tired and cranky, and on the edge of HANGRY, you are not the parent your children want to be around. Modeling healthy habits for your children will be a stronger teacher than words can ever be.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” – Mark 6:31-32

  1. Spend time EVERY DAY with God. This is not the first time you have heard this suggestion, and it is probably on your list of things you should do but feel guilty that you can’t seem to make it happen. But I want to encourage you to bump this one up on your priority list and look at it as important as eating a healthy breakfast. Taking a few minutes to spend in prayer and reading God’s Word will set your day on a new foundation. A few years ago, I took a 30-day challenge to spend 15 minutes every morning in prayer and read a simple devotional. After a couple days, I started to see my mood improve and my perspective on life dramas begin to change. At the end of the 30 days, I had come to the place where I was actually looking forward to that time alone with God. They say it takes 30 days to make a habit, and I challenge you to give it a try.

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”  James 4:8 

Along the journey to change things in my life, I have learned that God truly wants the best for me and my family. To be so blessed and not take the time to be thankful is a huge missed opportunity to be wrapped in the loving arms of Christ.

Christine Clark is the Ministry Coordinator for the Family Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church. She has a passion for supporting parents and helping them gain confidence and tools to be spiritual leaders in their homes. She is blessed to be the mom of a middle school son and the wife of her college sweetheart for more than 20 years. She is also an avid sports fan who loves all things football, especially in the fall in Texas.

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