I had a parent tell me a few weeks ago that she loves her family, but lately she feels like she hasn’t enjoyed her family in a long time.
She went on to explain that as the kids grew older and became more involved in school and activities, she went from “joyful experiencing mode” to “reaction mode” when it came to managing her daily family life.
She misses the days when her kids were younger and she nonchalantly marveled in every new stage they went through – from taking their first steps to reading their first word to going on their first sleepover. Now she feels as if she is constantly readjusting her schedule to accommodate extra curricular activities, staying up late to help a child finish a school project that was left to the last minute, or taking a sick day from work on the day of the big meeting to care for a sick child.
She is not alone – many of us want to get back to those old days of gaining daily fulfillment from our families.
Therefore, I thought I would write a blog post giving you the same advice that I gave to her – especially since she sent me an email a little while later reporting back to me about how making these SIMPLE changes made such a HUGE difference in terms of her happiness with her parenting.
1. Do LESS to experience MORE. Be proactive and intentionally create a more fulfilling family life by letting go of some of the unnecessary things in your daily schedule. Think about what “fat” can you trim from your day so that you are more emotionally present for your family.
Return calls to friends after the kids are in bed. Pay bills and perform other miscellaneous chores on the weekends. Give yourself permission that your house doesn’t have to look like it came straight out of a magazine or that you are not perfectly organized. You will be able to relax more and have a greater appreciation for your family when you are not worrying about perfection.
You can also evaluate your schedule to see if you and your kids are in too many activities and if these activities are actually meaningful to your family. For example, does your child really need to be in soccer, dance class, AND karate? Or is every afternoon and weeknight taken up by a family member’s activity? Maybe you can switch your yoga class to the mornings or allow your kids only 1 extra curricular activity at a time. Unstructured family time (and relaxation time) is invaluable to growing kids.
2. Adjust your expectations. I have seen too many times where parents put unrealistic expectations onto their kids that are impossible for their child to live up to. I’ve done it myself, so I know how easy it is to do this.
When we “crown” our kids to be “the smart one” or “the future doctor” or “the artist” simply because we selfishly feel better as a parent if our kids live up to these standards we have set, then this is not helping out child.
Instead, we need to allow our kids (and we can also do this to our significant other too) to be the person they were meant to be. Now, this does not mean that we allow them to break rules, be disrespectful, or don’t keep up with their schoolwork, but we will experience less overall stress if we stop putting unnecessary energy into forcing our kids to be a certain way.
Letting go of these kinds of expectations allows us to be more relaxed as parents which also gives us the benefit of appreciating our kids and spouse for who they truly are. This gives us pride in our family.
3. Create a new morning or evening ritual that fits your family’s current developmental stage. As our kids go from one developmental stage to the next, it is necessary to adjust our special rituals. Or maybe you are the kind of parent who feels that morning and/or evening routines are just for little kids – but they aren’t.
Morning and evening routines are still important for older kids because they:
- Like the predictability of routines
- Family closeness becomes a daily habit
- Family is less stressed because they all know their roles and responsibilities
I highly recommend morning routines that includes a way for parents to communicate their love and interest to their child each day. Tell your child “I love you” (you’d be surprised how many parents forget to do this!) each morning and acknowledge your child’s daily tasks such as that day’s test, or current stressors such as a large upcoming school project or a fight they had with their best friend.
Even if you don’t have breakfast with your child, you can still find time each morning to connect. For example, I love the commute with my kids to school each morning. I drive my son to the high school and then, later, my daughter to middle school so I get individual time with each child in the car. When my kids were little, I would ask them about the plans for their day and now that they are older, it is so rewarding to see them asking me about my day. This is an important social skill that has been modeled and nurtured in the car each morning over the years.
Evening routines are also extremely important. When I work with parents at the clinic, they often complain to me that their child is not getting their homework done. When I ask these parents what the afternoon and evening routine is like, overwhelmingly hey tell me they don’t have a routine. Make sure you have a routine in place where kids know when to o their homework and how to ask for help should they need it.
4. Give yourself permission to indulge in personal relaxation. As parents, we are used to giving our families our all, but what happens when we keep giving and giving and giving without a break? Our compounding frustrations, anxieties, and emotions EXPLODE onto our family members.
This is why taking a break to take care of ourselves so that we don’t get to that breaking point is so important, but I have found that a lot of parents are waiting for someone to give them permission to take a break.
Well, let me be that person for you, because no one else will be that person.
Take a daily break to fulfill your personal needs. Take part in those hobbies or passions that feed your soul on a regular basis and don’t feel bad about this. Remember, you are modeling the kind of adult that you want your kids to be when they grow up. You want them to have a good balance between responsibilities and passions, right? That is the path to personal fulfillment so be a good model for your child.
After I outlined these 3 simple tips to my client, she immediately went home and put them into practice. When she emailed me just a few days later, she said that she felt an immediate change in her happiness with her family – as well as with her own performance as a parent!
It is so easy to slip into habits that contribute to our experiencing unneeded stress and unhappiness. I do that from time to time too with my own Modern Family! If you take the time to put these 4 simple tweaks into practice in your own family, I guarantee that you will feel immediate satisfaction.
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