You might think: "What does self care have to do with parenting skills or motherhood"? Well it has everything to do with it, actually. The most important way we can pass on our knowledge to our children is through our actions. It is the way in which we have the greatest impact on them, more than with the words that we speak. If you want your children to take good care of themselves, especially in your absence, you need to do it for yourself first. Leading by example is key.
If they see you always prioritizing other people's needs before your own, you are teaching them to place others' needs first at the expense of their own. People pleasing is not a sustainable way of living. In the long term it can lead to depression, anger, resentment, despair.
Unhealed wounds are passed down from one generation to the next, when we live and parent unconsciously. All too common, we see women raised with the principle that putting their needs first equals being selfish. Childhood or past wounds can lead to poor self esteem, which in turn leads to lack of proper self care. If you struggle with this, delve deeper into your issues, and work through them. This will greatly change the way you parent yourself, and in turn your child, for the better.
Adequate self care starts with setting healthy boundaries, which goes hand in hand with self respect, and self respect stems from healthy self-esteem. If your have an adequate amount of self love, the greater the chances your child will also develop a healthy level self esteem.
In the midst of attachment parenting and conscious parenting, there is still space to take good care of yourself. How will your child learn self love if you don't have love for yourself. You teach people how to treat you, and it starts with your family. If you send conflicting messages between your actions and your words, trust me, your children and people around you will be guided by your actions.
I have seen it too many times in my practice, parents asking me to heal their child of an ailment which is only a mirror image of their own suffering. But like most moms, and I have been guilty of this on many occasions, sometimes we show more love and dedication to our children than we do to ourselves.
We always put them first, at the expense of our own health and wellbeing. But I learned the hard way that if I did not heal or take care of myself first, then I am not a good teacher to my daughter.
It is important that you create for yourself rituals of self care, and set clear boundaries for others to respect of mommy time. Practice your favourite hobby, socialize with your friends, have date nights with your husband or partner, workout, do yoga, meditate, read, enjoy a warm bath, treat yourself in a way that makes you happy, etc. Whatever brings you joy and peace. Schedule it and make it a habit. It is important that you make time dedicated to yourself only. Make yourself a priority.
Step 1: Do make a point to make yourself happy once a day for the easy doable things, and regularly for bigger ticket items. Here are a few examples of what I like to do for myself on a daily basis: read a book at bedtime, meditate, yoga, write my book, listen to my favourite radio station when I cook or walk the dog or drive. Here are examples of things I like to do for myself on a weekly basis: meet with a good friend or call, garden, go out for tea or coffee in my favourite coffee shop and write, have a nice long walk with the dog, take a nice bath with candles, work on an art project, take time alone in my healing room, light a few candles, put soft music, and read special passages in various books (or inspirational cards) (1) that I have, or just sit there in silence and gratitude. Sit down with a piece of paper and jot down ideas of various things or activities that bring you joy.
Step 2: Create a special space in your house, or apartment, for yourself. It can be a whole room or a section of a room. If your space is small you can use a divider, or the architecture, to create an illusion of a separate space. You can create a non-religious altar where you keep special items in that area (on a table or bookshelf) (1). It can have pictures of people you love, special stones, books, candles, crystals, incense, essential oil diffuser, a Himalayan salt lamp, or any inspirational object that has a special meaning to you. You can add a comfortable chair or cushions to sit on, a music player to relax the senses, etc. Your space can have a theme, a colour, special decorative items, etc. The sky is the limit when it comes to deciding what you make of that space. The important part is that when you enter that space, immediately it shifts you into a positive state of mind, and thus will relax you and help you disconnect or unwind, and bring you peace and joy. I recommend that you give that space a name. I call mine the "healing room". Retreat to that space in those moments of self care.
Step 3: Self love and self care involve loving your imperfections and doing so out loud. Show your kids that it's okay to not be perfect and to make mistakes. Forgive yourself and be kind to yourself. Don't be so hard on yourself and such a perfectionist, as this is what you are teaching your children to become. Instead of paying attention to your perceived flaws, pay attention to your strengths and assets, and highlight them and be proud of them. Teach the same to your kids. Even super models hate parts of themselves, no one is perfect! If you catch yourself berating yourself or your appearance, correct yourself as you would correct your child. Tell that mind of yours to take a hike!
You need to embrace your mistakes and imperfections; they are gifts. If you don't, your child will not only mirror them back to you, but how do you expect them to embrace their own imperfections? Lead by example or you will be perceived as a fraud by your children. Start by practicing this simple technique called "Mirror Work" as taught by Louise Hay and change the way you talk to yourself (1). What you keep affirming becomes your reality. So make sure you affirm good thoughts in your life.
Step 4: Develop a gratitude practice. Once a day, at least, reflect on what you are grateful for (you can even write it in a beautiful journal). It is especially important to do this on difficult days as it will put things in perspective. Psychology research has shown the positive impact of keeping a gratitude journal (e.g., better sleep, better mood, fewer illness, more happiness - read more articles on the impact of gratitude). Read some tips on keeping a gratitude journal. You can also complete a gratitude quiz to see how grateful you are, it will give you a great baseline measure (1). It is well known, that an attitude of gratitude leads to greater life satisfaction.
Step 5: If you have unhealed wounds, invest in a good therapist. YOU are worth it. As you heal your wounds, and take care of yourself, naturally, your child will benefit. You will then parent more consciously and consequently, be more present emotionally to you child's actual needs, and you won't project your own issues on him or her (1).
"When mama's happy everyone is happy". This saying bares so much truth. Take the time to pamper yourself, it's well worth it.
Action Step: To practice self care and self love, requires a bit of introspection. Start by deciding what you value in life and what brings you joy, carefully ponder on this. It may take a few days. Look at your schedule and see how, on a daily, and weekly basis, you can make time for yourself. Develop those rituals that show how much you love yourself by working through the 5 steps mentioned above and start seeing positive changes in your life and your family's life. For more on self-care, read this good book by Cheryl Richardson (The Art of Extreme Self-Care). It is designed to complete one chapter a month.
Check out these related articles, too:
(1) Visit my blog post "5 easy steps for better self care for moms" for more How To instructions and links to each step.
Dr. Gina Madrigrano is a clinical psychologist and parenting expert with 18 years experience in the field. Her holistic approach to health and parenting offers easy, simple, and back to basics strategies that last a lifetime. She strives to bring parents to raise their children more consciously and purposefully. Her focus is the parent-child bond which is at the core of preserving a child's precious self esteem. She helps parents discover how both parent and child help each other grow. Finally, she teaches parents the importance of self care in growing a well balanced and healthy family unit.
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Read more articles with great insights into parenthood and child rearing, and great homemade recipes on her blogs http://www.drmadrigrano.com and [http://www.consciousparentingexpert.com]. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
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