The Art of Parental Self-Care: Balance and Renewal for Middle School Parents

Parenting is a big job, so parental self-care is necessary. You’re shaping the lives of future generations, and you can’t do that from an empty cup. We have a special place in our hearts for middle school parents like you because you’re simultaneously navigating pubescent teens and school changes. It can be a lot to handle. Therefore, it’s time to master the art of parental self-care.

Why is parental self-care essential?

It gives you the energy to stay engaged.

Middle school is a tough transition, possibly the roughest between elementary and high school. Additionally, the abrupt bodily and mood changes don’t help the sudden increase in work and community middle schoolers encounter. When parents are rested and full of what they need to thrive, they’re more equipped to stay on top of things, which, in turn, helps your child perform better in school. Parental involvement leads to improved academic outcomes, but it also positively impacts students’ social and emotional skills and decreases instances of delinquency.

It prevents burnout.

Have you ever experienced a car engine overheating? One minute, you’re cruising the highway, and the next, you’re pulled over on the side of the road with smoke bellowing from the hood. It’s a similar experience when we’ve reached our limit on EVERYTHING. We crash and burn. We stop and cease to function.

The Cleveland Clinic reports that parents who don’t prioritize self-care may experience the following:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or emptiness.
  • Depression.
  • Sleep difficulties, like sleeping too much or not enough.
  • Changes in diet and appetite.
  • Lacking a sense of pleasure in activities.
  • Thoughts of suicide.

Self-care isn’t just a spa day.

At its core, self-care is caring for yourself. Throw away preconceived notions about what it should be and hone in on what you want it to be for yourself. Spa days are great, but only some people’s idea of a good time. Self-care should be catered to your interests. It should decrease stress and help reset your focus. If you’re unsure about what relaxes you, start by listing everything you enjoy doing OR would like to try someday. You can also rediscover hobbies or activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Whether reading, painting, gardening, or playing a musical instrument, engaging in activities you love can provide a sense of rejuvenation and help reduce stress. Make time for these activities regularly, even 15-20 minutes daily.

Strategies for implementing self-care.

Self-care requires intentionality. It usually will only happen if we plan for it. Yale School of Medicine offers several strategies for implementing self-care. Three of our favorites include:

Plan Ahead for High-Stress Times of Day

You’re likely managing your middle schooler’s schedule more than they are. You know the stressful parts of their day and your household’s stressful times or seasons. Stress does not have to negate self-care. Be sure to work in self-care before you’re in the stressful moments of the day. Get ahead of stressful times by incorporating self-care regimes around them.

Make a DONE List

That’s right, not a “to-do” list, a DONE list! To-do lists are helpful, but they’re neverending. They can become overwhelming when the items don’t decrease fast enough. The solution is opting for a done list instead. Finished the laundry? Add it to the done list. Signed the kid’s permission slips? Add to the done list. Squeezed in an episode of your favorite show? Mark it DONE!

Prioritize and Outsource

Aligned with what we said about intentionality, parental self-care also requires organization. Parents often address their needs in between pockets of helping their kids; that means spare time is precious and must be used wisely. For example, keeping routine doctor appointments is a form of self-care. However, you may only be able to schedule them during the hours the kids are in school. Organizing your day to prioritize the time needed for the appointment may mean visiting the doctor early in the morning after the kids are dropped off so you can manage the rest of your daily necessities.

What are my options for parental self-care?

Several. Again, don’t limit yourself to preconceived notions about self-care. Design self-care habits that fit you and your life. For example, you could:

  • Join a book club.
  • Get some alone time.
  • Enjoy nature.
  • Turn your bedroom into a retreat.
  • Take a break from electronics.
  • Meditate.

The Massachusetts Statewide Family Engagement Center suggests considering therapy:

“Parenting has a way of remembering our past trauma, particularly whatever we experienced in childhood. Care work can also become all consuming, especially during times of our child’s life when they need us more than ever. Talking to a professional therapist not only can help you make sense of what is happening, it can also create a habit of setting aside time that is exclusively for yourself and your feelings.”

Prioritizing self-care is vital to setting a positive example for your children. When your cup is full, you have more to give to others. Visit the Parent Zone for more parental tips and strategies.

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Willaim Wright

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