Being a parent is a joy, but it’s also a chore. On the one hand, most parents say that raising their children is central to their identity and rewarding most of the time, if not all of the time. On the other hand, parenting stress levels have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and they haven’t come down yet. Even before COVID, parents tended to report feeling more daily stress than non-parents.
These ups and downs are expected when you do the long and hard work of raising another human (or more). But researchers and parenting experts also know that there are simple strategies that can help parents tap into their sense of happiness and joy every day. Here are five of them:
1. Empower your kids to do things on their own
In her 2018 book, “How to Be a Happier Parent,” journalist KJ Dell’Antonia claimed that one of the simplest things parents can do to improve their own day-to-day happiness is to help their children learn to perform many basic daily tasks. by them selves.
“People who describe themselves as happier parents typically go from being more involved when their kids are younger to encouraging independence when their kids are older,” said Dell’Antonia, who also founded the blog. Motherlode from the New York Times.
So when children are younger, she gave as an example, parents lift them up for school. But as they grow, it becomes the children’s responsibility to set an alarm. If they are late, they suffer the consequences.
Ensuring children have chores and take ownership of certain household chores – and that they know how to handle basic daily tasks – fosters a deep sense of confidence and self-confidence that research shows lasts until ‘adulthood.
But it also makes things easier and more enjoyable for you. By gradually teaching kids to be more responsible for themselves, you’ll eventually spend less time cleaning up after them or nagging — instead focusing on connecting and maybe even a few minutes for yourself.
2. Breathe Together
It’s well established that focused breathing can be a major stress reliever, helping to slow your heart rate and stabilize your blood pressure. Research also shows that taking a few deep, focused breaths can immediately reduce a child’s “physiological arousal” — basically, it can make them feel less alert or edgy.
A specific technique to try is the three-breath hug. As female empowerment coach and psychotherapist Shonda Moralis once told HuffPost: Give yourself a big hug, then slowly inhale and exhale three times together.
“It can be really calming in the middle of a meltdown,” said Moralis, author of “Breathe, Mama, Breathe.” It also has the added benefit of promoting physical closeness, which can help release powerful hormones like oxytocin. So it’s like a double whammy of relaxation.
3. Unfollow parents who make you feel bad
Technology has made parenting easier in so many ways, from being able to instantly look up your child’s symptoms online to connecting with other caregivers in online support groups. Yet parents clearly feel conflicted about it. A 2020 Pew report found that more than half of parents say they spend too much time on their smartphones, while almost 70% say they feel distracted by their phones when spending time with their children. Social media, in particular, can make parents feel like crap. In fact, there is a link between symptoms of depression in young parents and social media use.
That’s why it can be so nice to just unfollow parents from your various feeds that make you feel bad about your own parenting journey, whether it’s an influencer mom you can’t. not stop you from comparing yourself or a friend who shares opinions that tend to piss you all off.
4. Prioritize a few minutes of one-on-one time with your child every day, without distractions
If you’re a busy parent who rushes when the alarm goes off (or a child comes whining) and doesn’t stop until you crash at night, the last thing you probably want to hear is a board telling you to squeeze in Continued time with your child.
But parenting experts often point out how essential a few minutes of focused parent-child play can be. Children love getting your attention, which can make a big difference in their overall behavior. And parents can spend those few minutes soaking up who their kids are.
Claire Nicogossian, a clinical psychologist and author of “Mama, You Are Enough,” previously told HuffPost that parents should think about this question: “How much quality time having fun and enjoying your child’s company in doing an activity together have you been able to do?”
Whatever number you find, try to earn a few more minutes. If you typically spend about five minutes a day playing with your child, try 10. The goal is to have connected, unstructured time where you give them your full attention.
5. Try to sleep a little more
Research shows that parents’ sleep doesn’t just suffer when there’s a new baby in the house; it takes a hit in the long run. A study found that parents don’t sleep well for at least six years after a baby is born.
But of course, good sleep is so fundamental to people’s ability to function day-to-day and to their long-term mental health. People who sleep less than six hours a night are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from mental distress than those who sleep more than six hours a night.
There may be limits to the number of ZZZs you can get that you can’t do anything about right now, especially if you have a baby or toddler at home. Do what you can. If he’s old enough, consider a sleep training program. If not, or if you’d rather not go this route, have a partner (if you have one) take care of morning wake-ups or nighttime feedings a few times a week. Some experts believe that just 15 minutes of extra rest per night can make a big difference in your ability to focus and not feel overwhelmed by daytime sleepiness.
Short power naps can also help. (Experts generally recommend snoozing for at least 10 but no more than 30 minutes.) Ultimately, the goal is to try to put yourself first — and your sleep needs — first, or at least before the things you probably don’t really need to do, like the dishes or procrastinating bedtime revenge.
If implementing these five strategies seems overwhelming or impossible, start with one and work your way up. Even small adjustments can make a difference in your overall health and happiness as a parent.