As a mum or dad, you have the vital job of building a solid foundation for your children. You also have to ensure you receive the support you need to accomplish this. The trick is to make consistent efforts to meet both of those goals. When your head is above water, you're a far more effective buoy for your children. Read on for tips on raising confident healthy children as well as ways to maintain a strong support system for yourself.
Provide support (without suffocating them)
“Self-esteem is not something we can hand our children," says family therapist Laurie Oestreich. "The only way to achieve it is to work through the struggles of life and emerge intact on the other side." Your job is to cheer from the corner of the ring, and to be ready when life knocks them on their feet. "If parents overreact and rush in to rescue their children from whatever the situations are that prompt emotional responses, they will, in effect, rob their child of opportunities to build and strengthen their self-esteem,” Oestreich says.
Once upon a time you, too, were a small child. Now that you're an adult, it's time to impart some wisdom. “We can talk about similar experiences we have been through, either as a child or more recently as an adult, and talk about the way the circumstances made us feel,” says Dr. John Duffy, a clinical psychologist. Duffy encourages parents to be open and honest in an effort to help their children identify similar feelings early on.
Parent by example
Actions speak louder than words. It's trite, but true. Eating healthfully, exercising regularly and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule are important both for you and your children. "Kids take their cues from us," says Antoinette Kuritz, a London mum. "Many parents don't realise that with just a look or by leaving their veggies on their plates and expressing dislike, they transfer their own trepidation about veggies to their kids.” The same goes for sleeping, criticising yourself in the mirror (a big no-no) and maintaining a positive disposition.
Say goodbye to supermum
“It is easy for parents to get into superhero roles, where they feel as though they have to do everything, and be there for everyone else,” says Linda Miller, licensed family therapist. But motherhood isn't about super-human feats. Sometimes you'll need help from friends and family, and sometimes you'll have to put the washing-up off so you can take that much-needed nap. Remember, it's not your job to do everything. Set reasonable expectations -- it's a much more effective route to good parenting than donning a cape and learning to fly.
Surround yourself with other parents -- online
"I desperately wanted to chat to other mothers for support. I wanted to make sure my feelings were normal," says Lynne Thomson, blogger of "Ooh Baby -- All Things Cuteable." Like many mothers today, Thompson went online. "Mothers can often feel isolated and out on a limb," says clinical psychologist Dr. Cheryl Rezek. "Blogs can provide emotional support, alleviate anxiety, provide a discussion forum and be a place to share information." After you've spent a full day providing support for your children, be sure to get some for yourself.
Spend time with significant others
Upholding the relationships you had pre-parenthood might feel like one more item on your to-do list, but maintaining a semblance of your old schedule and spending time away from your child is beneficial for everyone. “Parents always have to have date nights and time with their friends doing the things they used to do before the children,” says Dr. Robin Siebold, a psychotherapist. “Otherwise, you begin to feel like less than a human, and resentments will build toward the children, your spouse and life in general."
Spoil yourself (and stop feeling guilty!)
“When we take positive self-care time, whether it is a 10-minute walk or a lunch with some friends, we are helping to release the stress from our bodies and allowing ourselves to better focus on our children and being the parents that we want to be," Miller says. Take time for yourself. Take a class, go to the gym, spoil yourself with a pedicure -- do whatever it is that will help push the "reset" button and make you feel a little more human and a little less harried.