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07Mar
2009
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Self-care for parents and children

Balance of Experiences
Do you know what your true interests, talents and passions are?It is beneficial for parents and children to devote their time to different types of activities throughout the day or week in order to lead a more balanced lifestyle. Socialising, working, family activities, leisure activities, eating, household chores, exercising, volunteering, relaxation, intellectual activity, sleep, and creating are all crucial to a truly balanced existence.Parents and children require lots of physical activity to balance the intellectual and social experiences they participate in. Children and adults need to be exposed to many kinds of activity. They will eventually start to develop preferences for particular types. Exercise has to be enjoyable and part of everyone’s daily schedule.

Prioritising
Tasks can be put in order so that being a parent or child is less overwhelming. This can be daily or weekly or yearly. It can be urgent, in the near future or perhaps in the next five years or more.

Routine
Having a routine helps children and parents to feel secure and settled. It is easier to meet the needs of family members if a routine is maintained. It needs to be flexible and cater to all family members. Having a routine gives predictability and makes it easier for all members of the family to plan ahead. It also makes it easier to have balance in our lives and enables us to fit important things into each day.

Leisure
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? There are a huge number of leisure pursuits and it is a great idea to try out a large number to find out what really suits you, your family, your financial status and your lifestyle. It would be a shame to live a large part of your life and not know what your true passion is.  Whether its exercise, music, sport, a hobby, socialising, sightseeing, it can breathe new life into our existence. It can give us something to look forward to, clear the cobwebs of our brains and tone up the body. We can distract ourselves from our problems for a while and lower our stress levels. We can have the opportunity to make and keep friends and experience other cultures and scenes.

Creativity
There are a great number of ways for family members to be creative and these need to be fostered. Creativity can be extremely satisfying, empowering and therapeutic. The process is what is important, not the end result. There is nothing like creating an original work, for children and adults. It may be a quilt or a letter, an invention or a new song. It is invigorating and fulfilling. Young children are normally keen to create if they are given a rotated variety of materials to explore. They love to find out what can be done with them. This natural activity needs to be encouraged, not criticised. School children and adults can become inhibited and self-critical of their own efforts. But the process is very important to everyone. Being perfectionistic or too competitive can deter many from finding pleasure in creating. A belief that mistakes are bad and that we aren’t good enough to have a go, will similarly stifle creativity.


Relaxation

Members of a family will gain immensely from regular relaxing experiences. Some worthwhile activities are deep breathing, yoga, baths, meditation, massage, watching documentaries, listening to soothing music, playing an instrument, singing, laughing, communing with nature, viewing beautiful things such as art or craft and eating out. Giving ourselves permission to take regular breaks from work is necessary for our emotional and physical well-being. Learning to be assertive and to let go of always pleasing others is healthy as is being able to change our expectations if required. Changing our irrational thoughts to more rational ones can lessen anxiety as can focusing on what is happening in the present more fully. Worrying about the future or the past is not conducive to relaxation.

Time management
I am a person who loathes and detests cleaning my house. I find that if I can do a little each day and do it at a time of day that suits me, that it is not such a chore. Playing music simultaneously works well for me. If I have something that needs to be done by a certain time, I try to do a little each day or week or month rather than putting off everything till the last minute. Crises can and do happen when a deadline is imminent. Time management can be useful for all kinds of work such as everyday housework, spring cleaning, studies, homework, reading a book, learning lines for a play etc.

Character
“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”
–H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Deciding who we really are and the particular values that we want to adopt can be tremendously beneficial. What is your purpose and meaning in life? What would you like to achieve in your lifetime or by the end of the year? We may wish to be honest, respectful, faithful, friendly, compassionate, etc but it is not always easy to keep these values uppermost when the world is emphasising negative standards repeatedly. It is wise to become aware of the negative influences that can tempt us to lower our standards. For example; lying, stealing, cheating, deceiving, abusing etc.  Acting differently to our core values can be unsettling and damaging in the long run. Behaving with integrity allows us to present our true selves in all situations and for us to model appropriate behaviour to children and adults.

Independence
If we can teach our children to do things for themselves that they are developmentally ready for, and allow them time to do them on their own, we will have lots more free time in our lives. Our children will greatly benefit also by developing confidence, self-reliance and responsibility. When a child is able to do something on her own, she/he needs to be responsible for that task from then on, unless she is unwell or temporarily incapacitated in some way. In a similar way, if we can have the courage to try out new things that may be a little daunting, we will feel satisfied, self-assured and competent and set a healthy example for our children.

Organisation
Endeavouring to keep our homes and work and play areas reasonably organised has many advantages. We can find things quickly, enjoy our surroundings, have a safer, more child-friendly space and feel happier, more empowered and relaxed. Containers, cupboards, drawers, filing cabinets, drawer inserts and shelves can be effectively used to organise our stuff. Passing unused items on to charities, re-using, re-cycling and disposing thoughtfully of unwanted things will lessen the clutter considerably.If we can set a good example to our children of putting things back where they belong, our children are far more likely to follow suit than if we let mess pile up. Young children naturally enjoy helping and this needs to be encouraged and expected. They can help fold towels, put dirty clothes into baskets, etc. We need to accept less than perfect from them, with the knowledge that practise makes perfect, so that they can feel competent and valuable.Packing up our things at particular times of the day can be beneficial too. Children will get into the habit fairly quickly if we help them initially to tidy their toys before each meal or before the TV goes on. Encouragement when cooperation occurs is the best way to achieve this.

Socialising
Spending time with others chatting and or participating in a shared activity can be very enjoyable. If we can take the time to find supportive and friendly people to hang out with, this can be even more rewarding. There are many opportunities for mixing with others such as play groups, sports, hobbies, committees, school events, common interest groups, leisure pursuits, community groups, exercise classes, study groups, work, etc.

Support
It is vital that we care for and nurture ourselves properly as well as our children. I urge parents to ensure that they are getting enough support in their vital work to raise their children effectively. This includes having regular breaks from their loved ones to spend time on pampering, hobbies, sports, interests; help with housework; counselling for parents or children if required, and time to socialise with adults.

Goals
“The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”19th century American poet and author
Goals may be short term or long term. We might decide to finish a book before it is due back to the library in a few days or to thoroughly clean the guest room in preparation for a friend staying over. In the long term we might decide to travel to Switzerland or buy a house in the country.Goals give structure to our lives and can give us meaning, direction and motivation.Each goal can be broken into tasks so that the whole process is less daunting, more achievable and allows us to keep a balance with other vital activities. When a task has been completed, we can reward ourselves in some way to help us stick with the goal. It’s a good idea to set a time limit for each task and goal, but we need to be a bit flexible to allow for unexpected happenings. We can change the time limits occasionally and still reach our goals, perhaps a little later than we first intended. A goal needs to be realistic. For example, a tone deaf person is not likely to be accepted for an onstage singing role in an Opera production. If we don’t achieve a particular goal, we can change to another goal so that we are still moving towards something that we feel passionate about. It is important that we don’t beat ourselves up if we fail. We can try again straight away, we can try again at a later stage or we can try again in a different way. Or we can change our goal.We may need to call on others to help us with tasks, to provide some moral or practical support. We may need to do some research as to the best way to achieve our goals. We might want to tell a trusted person about our goal so that we are more likely to keep at it. We may even get this person to apply an agreed consequence of some description if a task or goal isn’t completed by a set time or to reward us if it is, in some way. Writing down our goals/tasks can be of great assistance too.

Dealing with advice from others
Other people love to tell new parents how to manage their children. They usually have good intentions, but new parents can become overwhelmed, confused and anxious when they receive conflicting advice. They need to be listened to in non-judgemental, validating ways. They need support and understanding. It is important for them to express their feelings and thoughts in a caring and supportive environment. Mums and Dads need to pay attention to their gut instincts and to do what they feel is best for their children. They know their children better than others.