As a mother, wife, and therapist, it can be hard to feel like you have everything balanced….that you’re giving enough time to your spouse or significant other, child, and career. Oh, and of course, yourself. Often times, you can feel pulled everywhere, trying to please everyone, and “forget” about yourself. Sometimes, we even question our parenting skills. As the New Year has begun, I want to provide some tips on how to feel more balanced with all of the responsibilities you may have, as well as ways to bring you and your family closer.

  1. Put Yourself First. When you fly on a plane, the flight attendant tells you to put on your oxygen mask first, before putting on anyone else’s, in case of an emergency. If you don’t put your mask on first, then you’ll be unconscious and unable to help those who need you. Often times, parents put on “their child’s oxygen mask first”. Because we love our child, spouse or significant other, and loved ones, we feel that we have to take care of them first. However, it’s the opposite. Parents need to take care of themselves first and no, that doesn’t mean you’re selfish or a bad parent. It means that you’re practicing self-care. Burn-out, depression, loneliness, and physical ailments are just a few results that can happen if we neglect self-care. Here are a few tips that you can do to practice self-care: take a bath, have a glass of wine, go to a movie, go for a walk, exercise, practice yoga, go out for lunch or dinner, go on a date with your spouse or significant other, or read a book.  
  1. Say, NO. At times, parents feel that they have to say, yes, to every parenting opportunity that comes their way (e.g., being room mom, volunteering at your child’s school, going on every play date someone asks you to, etc.). Don’t get me wrong. It’s great and I strongly encourage you to be an active role in your child’s life via school, play dates, and other activities and/or environments your child is apart of. However, you don’t have to say, yes, to everything. Say yes to everything, and you may find yourself “spread too thin”, overwhelmed, frustrated, and stressed, which can affect your parenting, your relationship with your spouse or significant other, and your physical and mental health. So, go ahead, and say, no, sometimes.
  1. Decrease “Praising” Your Child and Start “Encouraging” Your Child. If we always reward a child with praise after a task is completed, then the child comes to expect it. However, if praise is not forthcoming, then its absence may be interpreted by the child as failure (Aldort, 2000). Some praise is good, however, encouraging your child teaches him or her that their actions are good. It also teaches your child to look inside of him or herself to reward him or herself versus looking for a reward, praise, or acceptance from someone else. It also teaches them to focus on their efforts and not just the outcome, while improving their self-esteem. Some examples of praise versus encouragement are: (Praise) “You’re the smartest person in your history class because you got an A on your test.” versus (Encouragement) “You studied really hard for your history test and got an A.”, (Praise) “I’m so proud of your drawing.” versus (Encouragement) “I can see how much you enjoy drawing. You drew a big house and a tree.”, (Praise) “I’m so proud of you.” versus (Encouragement) “You should be proud of yourself.”, (Praise) “ You did great!” versus (Encouragement) “You did it!”.
  1. Put Down The Electronic Device! I have noticed, a lot of times, when I’m driving, I’m talking on the phone…whether if it’s business or personal. I look back in the back seat and I see my children, just sitting there, with nothing to do or no interaction. Since, I’ve come to this realization; I try to limit my time on the phone, when I’m driving, especially, when I have my children in the car. This could be bonding time between you and your child. You could listen and sing to music or just talk. It’s also setting a good example that you shouldn’t talk on the phone and drive, as well as, reinforce that your phone conversation isn’t more important than your child. Also, limit your time on the computer, TV, etc. Again, this could be valuable bonding time between you and your child. Reading a book together or just playing together are just a few things you can do with your child. Just devoting your time to your child’s interests is a simple, yet meaningful thing.
  1. Eat Dinner Together As A Family. I know a lot of us are really busy, with after-school activities, long work days, etc.; however, taking the time to eat dinner together, as a family, at the dinner table is very important. This is an opportunity to spend time together, discuss how the day has been, and help your family to be closer together. It allows you to know what is going on in your child’s life. If eating dinner together as a family is unrealistic to do every night, then start off with a small goal, with just one or two days per week, and increase it as time goes by. The dinner doesn’t have to be elaborate and can even be take-out pizza. You can even have your child assist with meal planning, cooking, setting the table, or ordering out, if need be. The important thing is that everyone eats and spends time together as a family. However, TVs, phones, and other electronic devices are not invited to dinner. Also, make the discussions pleasurable, leaving serious discussions for another time.

  2. Actively Seek Out Diversity. Do all of you and your child’s friends look like you? Diversity is so important to have! I can honestly say that our (my husband, children, and I) have a diverse group of friends. We have friends that are White, Black, West Indian, African, South American, etc. And I don’t mean, “friends” like “we have “friends” of another race or culture” meaning we just know them, but don’t really have a personal relationship with them. I mean, like friends that we talk and hang out, go to each other’s homes, even go on vacations together, etc. If your child looks and lives like all of his or her other friends, your child believes himself or herself to be the “norm.” In addition to having diversity in your friends, you can also actively seek out cultural and diverse events and activities to attend as a family. Parents must work with children to avoid building up walls of intolerance, prejudice, and harsh judgment. If you are interested in doing this, one thing that you can do is join my Facebook group, The Ebony Journey at http://www.facebook.com/groups/theebonyjourney.

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