It’s a time honored tradition to set goals for yourself for the New year. For some, it’s reducing sugar intake; for others, it is spending more time in nature. But what if this year you tried setting parenting goals for yourself?
Your parenting goals could be a behavior you want to change in yourself, such as practicing being “present” in the moment, or a family goal of spending more time together, cutting down screen time, etc.
To make a change that will stick, it’s best to start small with goals that are realistic and achievable. The key is to make sure you are successful. Make a list of two or three clear goals. Here are some ideas:
Carve out time for yourself
When you are on an airplane, you know that in case of an emergency you put on your own oxygen mask and then help your child put on their mask. The fact is that taking care of your needs means you are better able to take care of your child’s needs. Not only will you be nurturing yourself, but practicing self-care will also help you be a better parent and model for your child that you are important as well.
Having trouble thinking about what kinds of things you need to do to care for yourself? Think about what you do for your child – you make sure they eat right, sleep enough, play, express their emotions and creativity, and so much more. You can do the same kinds of things for yourself. Here are some other ideas to meet your self-care needs:
- Spend time in nature. It’s proven to help reduce anxiety and stress. There are a lot of great Lane County spots – walk to Delta Ponds and look for herons and turtles. Even a walk in the park or sitting on a bench by the river will help to renew you, and bring you into your body so you can be more present with your child. Sound overwhelming? Walk outside your door and look at the sky, watch the wind blow the trees, or appreciate your neighbor’s garden.
- Parenting brings a lot of joy, but it also brings stress and challenges. Having friends to talk with, play with, cry and laugh with is an essential part of self-care. Parenting groups are a great place to create new friendships with other parents, often with children in the same age range as your child. Reconnect with a friend you haven’t seen in a while by sending a quick text or call.
- Use exercise as a way to reduce stress, as well as have fun and improve your mood and physical health. Exercise has proven mood-boosting properties, and there are lots of fun ways to get the heart-rate going, including a family dance party, soccer game, or running challenges.
Make it a priority every day to spend a little time on you – you’re worth it!
Read more with your child
There are so many benefits to reading with your child—and it’s never too early or too late to start! Reading to your baby will help develop their language skills, even before they can talk! It’s a great way to cuddle, connect, and calm down together. Toddlers benefit from reading time—especially if it’s their favorite book over and over again—because it helps them to deepen their understanding of cause and effect, recognize patterns, and build their vocabulary. Children can begin to see the world from another’s perspective through books, building a foundation for empathy. Older children also benefit from reading with their caregivers. Even if your school-aged child can read independently, they will appreciate being read to or sharing their reading skills with you. Reading with your older child is a wonderful way to sneak in some one-on-one time together. When you enjoy reading together, those warm feelings you have together nurture your relationship. Reading a longer chapter book together every evening is something you both will look forward to in your day.
You could make a goal to build reading time into your family’s daily routine, or if you already read with your child every night before bed, your goal could be increasing the number of books you read together per night, or adding an additional reading time into your day. For example, reading 3 books after lunch, before rest time or after school pickup.
Be more present
“Presence” is the concept of being alert and focused on the current moment, rather than looking ahead to the future, or distracting yourself from the moment with other thoughts or activities. Being present with our children is a great way to meet their emotional needs.
We can think of being present with our children by picturing opening our arms to them, either to encourage them to explore or to welcome them back. Children need both of these things, and they learn to be independent by first knowing they have you to always be there for them.
Some experts say with 15 minutes of your fully focused attention children will feel satisfied and independent for the next half hour or so. If a work email needs to get sent ASAP but your toddler is struggling to play independently, try reading books with him for 15 minutes first, then try getting your work done again. You can think of the positive time and attention you are giving your children as “money in the bank,” or positive connection you can count on as a buffer for when you need to be away from them.
Other ways to feel and be more present, include:
- Putting down your phone, tablet or other device, and putting them out of sight.
- Kneel down to talk to your toddler or young child at eye-level. It’s scary to always be looking up at people towering over you. When you talk with them on their level, they feel safe.
- Take 5 minutes every day to just breathe, meditate, stretch—whatever it is that clears and calms your head.
Can’t go wrong with a focus on family
The great thing about setting parenting goals is that you can’t really do it wrong. Just the simple act of intending to set parenting goals to improve your skills as a parent, spend more time together with your family, or change the way you interact with your children, shows just how much you love them. Here’s to a great year in 2022!
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis, and Lynne Grilley.
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Are you interested in receiving more parenting advice? Triple P Online – Positive Parenting Program could be for you! This online parenting program allows you to take a parenting class in the comfort of your own home! Triple P Online now includes a guide for parenting during COVID-19.
If you live in Lane County, you can get Triple P Online for free by filling out the form below. A staff person from Parenting Now will send you an access code within 24 hours and you’ll be able to start using the program right away! For more information about the program visit the LaneKids Triple P homepage.