By Tracey Dowdy
It’s the second week of 2020. How are those resolutions coming? Don’t worry if you’ve already gone off the rails – it happens to the best of us.
As parents, we want to be the best version of ourselves so we can model the behavior and character we want our children to have. When we fall short, we’re harder on ourselves than we are on others and even the most self-assured among us sometimes question if we’re doing a good job.
It’s healthy to consider the example you’re setting. A great way to model the character we want to see is through setting healthy goals that help you grow personally and as a parent. So even if you’ve fallen short or gotten sidetracked, there’s no time like the present to regroup and make 2020 a year of growth and accomplishment for you and your family.
Make time for self-care. Setting aside time to take care of your own needs isn’t selfish – it’s healthy. Think of it in terms of emergency procedures on a plane – you put your own oxygen mask on first before you assist others. If your emotional tank is empty you won’t be the kind of parent you aspire to be. Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive – take a walk to clear your head, go to bed early, set up a date night with your partner or a game night with friends – whatever fills your tank.
Be intentional about family time. When it comes to spending time with your kids, it’s not quantity or quality – it’s both. When they’re grown and looking back on their childhood, your kids won’t care how tidy the kitchen was or even what they got for Christmas most years. What they will remember is the bedtime stories, projects you worked on together, playing games in the park, family road trips, a movie nights on the couch. These are the times that teach your children how much you love them, want to be part of their lives, and how proud and grateful you are to be their parent.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Are you even a parent if there aren’t days you’re overwhelmed and don’t know which way is up? There comes a day in every parent’s life where we hit the wall and want nothing more to tunnel under the heaps of laundry – clean or not – and hide. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When my kids were little, our friend group would trade-off babysitting playdates so that we all got a break to relax or clean our house – whatever we needed. We were all in the same boat – even if we needed to bail out our boat sometimes. It’s a simple way to engage in healthy self-care.
Date your partner. In the busy-ness of day to day life, it’s easy for us as parents to focus all our attention on our children and neglect our partner. It’s important to be intentional about spending time with one another, reminding yourselves of why you came together to build a home and family in the first place. One of the best gifts you can give your children is modeling a healthy, loving relationship with your partner. Someday your children will move out and start families of their own, and you don’t want to be left in a relationship with a stranger.
Work on your weaknesses. Every one of us has an area of parenting where we fall into unhealthy patterns, and as you read this sentence, you’re already thinking of what yours is. Instead of beating yourself up, work on it. If you’re impatient, learn simple anger management techniques to settle yourself and keep you from flaring up. If you’re disorganized, commit to creating a calendar with digital reminders to help you stay on top of what’s coming up. There’s no shame in falling short – it’s only a problem if you choose to let it continue to derail the family.
Finally, give yourself some credit. Look back over 2019 and think of all you accomplished. Most of us had far more highs than lows and have much to be grateful for. Celebrate your victories, learn from your mistakes, and make 2020 your family’s best year yet!
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.