OCTOBER IS recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO) as Mental Health Awareness Month.
It is therefore very appropriate that this marks the genesis of what I hope to be a long-standing relationship between us as parents, guardians and caregivers. When one becomes a parent or guardian there is no book in the world, no coaching session, no workshop that can prepare you for the mammoth task of shaping and influencing another life! Take it from the learned psychologist!
The very early years brought with them sleepless nights, very long days and a level of fatigue that can only possibly be compared to sleep deprivation torture carried out on prisoners of war.
Seriously though – nothing really prepares you! I am here to testify, however, that it does get better and you get better! Over the years, one thing that I have found keeps me sane and helps me get through those really tiresome days is reminding myself, ‘I am doing the best I can – just take one day at a time!’
The lockdowns and restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in us being home more, and parents have found themselves spending more time with their children. We have had to become teachers by default, as school is now at home. This situation has forced many of us to do a lot of introspection and evaluation of ourselves and our roles as parents. I would like to use this medium to remind us of a few important tenets to ensure that we are preserving the mental health of both ourselves and our children.
1) Routine and structure – If these were not important before, they are even more important as we continue to navigate the effects and experience of this pandemic. Raising children requires a lot of our time and energy, and especially for parents who have jobs that are demanding, it can be challenging. It is highly recommended that parents and guardians try to maintain routine and structure in their daily lives, as well as the lives of their children. This predictability and consistency of knowing what is going to happen and when it is going to happen is very helpful, especially during these times of such great uncertainty. Children thrive on structure and routine, it makes them feel safe and secure. It is the same for us as parents. When we have set routines to follow, it allows us to maintain control over the things in our lives that we actually can control, and this can be very liberating and help to make us feel calm and content.
2) One thing at a time – One day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, one second at a time – that’s as much as we can do! Parents and guardians are encouraged to try not to do and take on too much at one time. It is very easy to start feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day expectations from our jobs, children, spouses/partners, family members, community, etc.
However, we have to remember first things first! As the prolific author and writer of the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says, “If you don’t get the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.” As you go through your day, remember to prioritise and take one day at a time. Focus on the big rocks in your life – time well spent with your children and loved ones, your health and peace of mind, your faith, your education – make sure you are fitting these big rocks in first!
3) Remember to take care of you! – As caregivers, parents are always thinking of their children (and by extension others) before themselves. However, it is critical to remember that we cannot pour from an empty cup. Our children, our loves ones, our community will not benefit from all we have to give if we are unhealthy, stressed and mentally and emotionally fatigued. Self-care is not selfish, it is a necessity. Make it a priority and point of duty as you plan each day to work in time set aside for yourself each day – to just do you! Whether it is mindlessly binge-watching your favourite television series on Netflix, working out to your favourite YouTube playlist, tending to your garden, getting a pedicure or massage – you name it! It is important that you find time each day to unwind and take care of you – so that you can take care of those most dear to you.
Remember parents, your mental health is your greatest asset and has to be guarded carefully if you are going to succeed at being the best parent you aim to be to your children. Until next time, walk good and remember – Empowered parents result in empowered children!
Kellie-Anne Brown Campbell is a licensed associate school psychologist and principal, McCam Child Care and Development Centre. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
Read More:Parents: Take care of yourself, you cannot pour from an empty cup