September is the New ‘New Year’ for Parents: There is always something very unrealistic about January and resolutions. After the madness of Christmas, there is an expectation that all bad habits and choices will just stop instantly. The ‘new year, new you’ mantra, however, generally fizzles out within a few weeks and before you know it, you’re back eating too much chocolate! The academic year – from September to June – dictates much of our parenting schedule. We know that, for those months, our daily routines consist of organising childcare arrangements, being chauffeurs and standing on the side-lines of fields, sports halls, dance studios and every other imaginable after-school activity. The start of another academic year is a great opportunity to reflect on yourself and your parenting style and maybe to introduce some new habits that will support both of those things. You have sent your children back to school with shiny new uniforms, nourishing lunches and optimism about the new year ahead of them – now take some time to do those kind of things for yourself.
Reflecting on what we say and what we do is a very personal thing. For some people, it comes naturally. Others have to make the time to consciously look back and think about what they did and if they could have done it differently. Think of an argument with your child, for example. You were tired, they were unreasonable and it ended with you raising your voice and frog-marching them to their room. There are two usual solutions to this common scenario; you can sit your child down, apologise for your reaction and encourage them to reflect on their part in it. Or you can just ignore it, and pretend that it never happened. The time and space you take to reflect on these kind of things determine your parenting style.
Finding time to reflect is a tough call as your head fills with timetables, grocery lists, school fundraisers etc. Non-stop ‘to do’ lists can be very stressful so think about using your time more effectively. A common situation parents find themselves in is the wait while their child is in an activity. Sure, you can stand on the side-line week after week or you can use the hour to pick up some groceries. But what about using that time to create some headspace for yourself? Maybe go out to your car, set your alarm and have a nap or listen to a podcast. Or throw on your runners and go for a brisk walk. You’ll feel refreshed which will benefit both yourself and your child. When you’re more relaxed, the car journey home is less likely to be a list of instructions about dinner, homework and bedtime.
Another key to looking after yourself is to keep an eye on your own nutrition. How many of us sneak the treats when our children aren’t looking, because we spend so much time explaining the importance of healthy choices to them? A great rule to follow is that if you wouldn’t give it to your toddler to eat, you shouldn’t be eating it yourself. When you’re packing your child’s healthy lunch box, pack your own. Small changes will make a big difference to your energy and reserves. So, head into the new academic year with renewed focus and energy and you’ll be surprised at how parenting becomes a little easier.
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations.