Behind every Idaho Youth Ranch success story, there is a parent who found the courage to say they needed help. There are heartbroken mothers who sobbed with a complete stranger on the phone about how her baby was in trouble and she simply didn’t know what to do; and there are fathers thinking over every decision they’ve ever made and wondering where it all went wrong.
There is nothing braver any parent can do than to reach out for help when they need it. Somehow, our world has trained people to think that they love their children less for needing help, or that they have somehow failed for not knowing what to do.
At Idaho Youth Ranch, we believe in working with the whole family to help our kids succeed. Often times, when a kid is acting out, the young person and their parents lack the skills they need to communicate in healthy ways and deal with stress.
For parents, this tends to compound the issue. The guilt and frustration build up until moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, and caregivers are left feeling overwhelmed and under-appreciated.
Hopelessness settles in, and they don’t know what to do.
Taking care of parents and teaching them is as much a part of our mission as helping kids, because we know that when we build strong families, we build stronger communities.
You can find lots of information about improving communication with your kids or understanding the difference between fear and respect, but sometimes the best thing parents can do to take care of their kids is take care of themselves.
Self-Care for Parents
Self-care for parents is often treated like a luxury, something we all want but don’t really need.
However, in a workaholic culture, parents—especially moms—have the pressure of trying to do it all. As parents try to navigate comparison culture, the influence of social media on them is arguably as pervasive as it is on their teens. From the time babies are born, there is a long and often conflicting list of the things you are “supposed” to do, leaving many parents feeling like failures.
Because of this, parents in their 30s are susceptible to bouts of depression and anxiety which directly and dramatically impacts their kids.
In fact, living with someone with a mental illness is one of the 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Creating unrealistic expectations and unhealthy boundaries is not only unhealthy for parents, it can also be damaging to kids by creating feelings of being a burden or fear about going to parents or caregivers for help.
There are five key benefits of taking care of yourself as a parent: the ability to manage stress, reflection that helps you grow as a parent, higher self-esteem, modeling healthy behaviors, and counteracting bitterness. Let's take a look at these more indepth.
15–30 minutes of daily quiet time allows parents and caregivers to manage their stress levels. When the human body is under constant stress, it releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which limit cognitive function and raise the body’s threat level. The end result is that you will have a shorter fuse and lack the ability to think through challenges that come up within your family. Taking intentional time for things like exercise, meditation, or reading allows your body and brain to take the threat level down and relax. You will find it is easy to remain calm and your “fuse” is not as short when it comes to handling those spats that come up between siblings.
Taking time to think back over your day without judgment and reflecting on how you handled your kids is an important part of growing as a parent. Was your daughter trying to tell you something? Did you answer your son’s question? Giving yourself a moment to pause and reflect is an important skill for both mindfulness and emotional regulation. You are telling your brain that the next time a situation comes up, you will choose to handle it differently.
Low self-esteem is as damaging to adults as it is to kids. Feelings of guilt, unworthiness, or failure can lead parents to overcompensate and contribute to depression and anxiety. Taking time for self-care means acknowledging that you are worth taking care of and that you offer value in your family. When parents or caregivers have a strong sense of good self-esteem, they will have healthier boundaries for themselves with their partners, co-workers, friends, and children. You will also model good self-esteem to your kids.
No, not rocking the runway. We mean modeling healthy behaviors for your kids, which is an important way of making sure they learn how to take care of themselves. If you are constantly giving yourself negative self-talk or calling yourself names, your kids will learn to do that as well. By taking good care of your own physical and mental health, you will be taking care of your kids’ health too.
When every single day becomes about taking care of everyone else and not yourself, it is a natural human reaction to get bitter about it. That bitterness becomes toxic in your relationships with your co-workers, friends, kids, and spouse. It also blows everything out of proportion. For example, if you spend 18 hours a day taking care of everyone else and don’t have time for yourself, it is easy to become demoralized. Your temper will naturally be shorter, because you are likely to feel unappreciated. Appreciate yourself by taking some time to breathe.
The ABCs of Self-Care
Here's an easy way to ensure you're taking care of yourself: follow the ABCs of self-care.
Self-care is an act of intention. Prioritize time in your week that is just for you.
Self-care is an individual thing. If you like to paint, then paint. If you like to exercise, then exercise. Don’t try to do something because someone else said you should.
Self-care is about calming the mind and spirit. If you make self-care a regimen that creates more stress, then you are defeating the purpose. Just take a breath and remember the goal.