Take Care of Yourself: It’s What Your Challenging Child Needs Most

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Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, studied a sample of 600 parents and 1000 children (ages 8-18). The children were asked what they wished they could change about their parents’ work. The majority of the parents guessed that their children would wish that they worked less. However, most children wished that their parents were less stressed out!

When we are stressed our kids know it and they suffer. They worry about us and they experience the negative impact of our stress through our impatience, inattention, and irritability. Stress impacts our marriages adversely which, in turn, is bad for our kids. When we are stressed our feelings of well being and happiness decline as does our health.

Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish; it’s what your kids want and it is what your kids need. Great stress busters include getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol. I know these are difficult things to do. Because you have kids, it’s hard to get enough sleep. Also, it’s precisely because you are stressed that you crave carbs, sweets, alcohol and comfort foods.

Exercise is another important part of self-care and stress management. Yoga has been show to be an especially effective form of stress management because it combines exercise with meditative breathing. Meditation, hypnosis, and progressive muscle relaxation are also excellent techniques for reducing stress. Again, I know you are saying, “I don’t have enough time as it is. How could I possibly find time to exercise, take a yoga class, or do relaxation exercises?”

Here are some ideas to get started. In the 2013 May/June issue of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal, researchers Brett Kilka and Chris Jordan describe a 7 minute high intensity workout that requires no special equipment and provides participants with significant health benefits. So you only need 7 minutes to get started. (There are free 7-minute workout apps for android and iPhone users, also there are numerous YouTube videos that will lead you through this workout).

I am asking you to commit to caring for your child by committing to take at least 10 minutes a day to do something to care for and rejuvenate yourself. Here’s a list of possible activities (of course make sure that your children are appropriately supervised).

  • Do the 7-minute workout described above.

  • Do another brief workout – walk up and down stairs, do 10 minutes of yoga, etc.

  • Meditate. (I like: A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein. You can check out some of the exercises for free at the MBSRWorkbook Youtube Channel).

  • Hypnosis for relaxation or Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  • Take time for gratitude. Think about what you are grateful for in your life (this can be especially helpful if you think about what you are grateful in your relationship with your challenging child).

  • Read something humorous, inspiring, or relaxing.

  • Take a 10 minute “power nap.”

 

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