How to make children happy is a thought that preoccupies parents, but how much time do you dedicate to considering your own wellbeing?
It may feel indulgent, possibly even a little selfish, to turn the focus onto yourself, but doing so could make a world of difference to your children.
That’s why mums and dads are being asked to focus on their own wellbeing this National Children’s Day (Sunday 15 May).
“We know that good parenting is the single most significant factor for later child health and wellbeing,” Wendy Ellyatt, chief executive of the Save Childhood Movement told The Huffington Post UK.
“It is also one of the most important public health issues facing modern society.
“We believe that parental health and wellbeing should be prioritised within all early years strategies and interventions.
“As the quality of early relationships is implicated in mental health, childhood illnesses and accidents, substance misuse, teenage pregnancy, school truancy and underachievement, child abuse, unemployability and crime.
“In other words what happens to us in the early years has lifelong implications, both for the individual and for society as whole.”
This is your carte blanche to have some well deserved ‘me time’ and try some of these little tweaks to make your life happier.
“Join with the thousands of others that have realised that more is not necessarily better, and that happiness often comes from the simplest things,” says Ellyatt.
Rediscover The Joy Of Play
Fed up of playing with consoles? Make time spent playing with your children even more rewarding by introducing your children to games you used to enjoy playing when you were younger.
“Parents who enjoy life will pass this attitude onto their children,” said Robin Balbernie, clinical director of the Parent Infant Partnership UK.
“Parenting is a matter of making the world safe, interesting, challenging and fun; not to do with setting rules or (to use a rather awful trendy word) boundaries.
“Forget ‘Super Nanny’ and ‘time out’, rumbustious time in is far more productive. From babyhood onwards simply messing around with your child in any sort of way that you both enjoy is just about the best way to give them a jolly good start in life.”
“Take time to step back from everyday life and see if you are prioritising the right things,” advises Ellyatt.
“Adults too need a break from the phone, ipad or other media,” says Janni Nicol, executive officer at Steiner Waldorf Education.
“They need to find time and space to be wholly present for their children,doing a craft, digging in the garden, mending the fence – working and playing together, indoors and out.
“Developing healthy relationships by giving time – time to have a picnic in the park with friends or family, a walk by the river, or even in the streets – taking in the change of seasons and experiencing all the different weather.
“Childhood is a time of magic, of awe and wonder. Adults too can experience this, and it is more enjoyable when experienced through the eyes of a child.”
Don’t Fret When You’re Apart From Your Kids
“Childcare practitioners have an essential role to play, not just in ensuring the children they look after are both ‘happy and healthy’, but also in supporting parents,” explains Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years.
“When parents return to work, or a child starts in a childcare setting, feelings of guilt, anxiety and worry are all-consuming, and separation anxiety can affect parents as well as children.
“Parents can often feel they’re missing out on their child’s day, so it is the role of the childcare professional to provide reassurance, and ensure that they are involved in their child’s learning and development.
“Sharing knowledge and understanding about individual children is key, parents are after all the most important educators in their child’s life.
“If childcarers work in partnership with them, it will have a positive impact on both parent and child wellbeing.”
Get To Grips With Your Emotions
“Children need a parent who is in touch with and yet not overwhelmed by their own feelings,”says Dr Christine Puckering, programme director at Mellow Parenting.
“To be a strong parent, is to take delight in the happy and exciting feelings and know how to help to contain the sad and angry feelings.
“Being strong means looking after ourselves and using family and friends to help when we have strong emotions.”
“Give yourself 10 minutes a day to focus only on the present and explore your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judging yourself,” suggests Ellyat.
A Problem Shared
“Many parents and carers struggle to achieve a happy, healthy work-life balance, and as a consequence their wellbeing is affected, ” explains Melanie Pilcher, policy and standards manager at the Pre-school Learning Alliance.
“When adults caring for children are struggling to meet their own emotional and physical needs, they are less able to meet a child’s.
“There are things we can do to make life less stressful: acknowledge that looking after children is hard work and we all need a little help from time to time.”
“The most important factor for wellbeing is our relationship with others, and this comes from caring and giving as well as receiving,” advises Ellyatt.
Treat Yourself To A Bedtime Story
“Dedicating just a few minutes a day to book sharing can not only help to support children’s development but can also be beneficial for parent’s own wellbeing,” explains Vicki Dawson, CEO and founder of The Children’s Sleep Charity.
“The bedtime story offers the perfect time to enjoy cuddles as a family, this in turn helps us to increase our Oxytocin levels.
“This hormone doesn’t only make us feel good, it has also been proven to affect our mental wellbeing in a positive way.
“Research has shown that hugging and close family bonds is an extremely effective way of managing stress, anxiety and depression.
“Reading a bedtime story can help to strengthen the parent and child bond providing families with a positive time to reconnect at the end of a busy day.”