As the start of the school year approaches, parents are breathing a sigh of relief while at the same time undergoing associated stress. For those parents that have enjoyed a summer with their children, they will welcome a relief from the repeated question “what are we doing today?” For those parents that have had to work out of the home, they will welcome the relief from often patch-work child care/camps/playdates and holiday schedules. However with this relief comes a new bag of items to organize: planning, preparing and packing lunches, driving and pick up, homework monitoring and after-school program maintenance and scheduling.
Part of the stress on parents is spurred by the much-needed, but often busy, after school programs. Not only is it a question of what activities to have your children sign up for but also the cost, the driving, planning dinners around it, carpools, equipment, uniforms etc…
So what do parents do to stay calm and level-headed?
While planning your children’s activities, enroll yourself in an activity. This is possible for anyone – as impossible as it may seem. Although easier for some more than others, it is hugely important for parents to take time for themselves in order to relax and recharge for the following reasons:
1 – Improve or maintain health good health: registering in a leisure activity can include a form of physical fitness – whether it is going to the gym, signing up for a kickboxing class or a masters swim team, they all will benefit you in some way physically – as a part of a healthy lifestyle
2 – Reduce stress: whether it is a spin class, cooking class or a yoga class, there are aspects of any of these activities that help to reduce stress. Even stepping away from the house and the kids and doing something on your own, for YOU, helps to slow your breathing and gain perspective. Yoga has meditative qualities and breathing exercises that make you stop to focus on yourself.
3 – Lead by example: children learn how to relax and spend leisure time by watching their parents. Do you read? Do you have a hobby? Do you exercise? Do you know how to relax? Do you take time for yourself? By doing these things teaches children the importance of balance and making “you” a priority.
4 – Perspective: Returning from a walk or a yoga class may help you be much more “level-headed” than before the activity began. These activities force you to step away from the current, sometimes crazy, situation and just breathe. Simply breathing and not “thinking”, per se, allows you to relax, focus and gain perspective. Is the puzzle spread over the flood a tragedy? Is the sink full of dishes going to be the end of the world? If the floor doesn’t get vacuumed today will anyone be worse off in life?
So this “back to school” time, make it “back to you”. Put yourself on the ever growing “to-do” list. Ask for help when you need it. Enroll in that class. Make yourself a priority. Do not feel guilty or make excuses why you can’t. You and your family will be better off for it.