We’re only a few days into 2019 and it’s a perfect time to take a look at how our family lives are going. We can decide to make changes if needed, right? Here are a few questions to ask: Is life too hectic? Are you and your kids too exhausted at the end of the week? Do our kids have any downtime? Are we rushing our kids from activity to activity and then facing homework late at night?
I found this helpful article in the HeraldNet (which was one of the two daily papers we subscribed to when I was a kid — back then it was called The Everett Herald). In “Parenting is stressful; here’s how to be a more relaxed parent,” Paul Schoenfeld explains “Two full-time working parents have become the norm in America — mostly out of financial necessity.”
Here’s an excerpt:
No doubt, one of the hardest jobs I ever had was parenting. Of course, once you have kids, you are always a mom or a dad.
But during the first 18 years of life (at a minimum) parents have a huge responsibility — not just to provide for their children, but to help them become independent, decent adults.
When children do become independent, we can sit back and relax a little. But it takes a long time to reach that moment.
As both a grandparent and a child psychologist, I can see how today’s parents feel particularly stressed. Two full-time working parents have become the norm, mostly out of financial necessity.
Upward mobility was always a fact of 20th-century life — children were likely to do better than their parents. But in the 21st century, that is not a given. Indeed, most kids won’t be better off than their parents. There is even the possibility that they will do worse.
This new economic reality pushes parents to enrich their children’s lives with all kinds of extra activities — music lessons, dance, art, sports and tutoring. Parents are spending more time helping their children with their homework, too. This new reality has been called “intensive parenting.”
For many working parents, it’s plain exhausting.
Schoenfeld says there is no evidence that all this extra time we’re spending on activities result in our kids becoming successful adults. In fact, with anxiety rates rising in our youth, it may be one of the underlying causes. We do have more kids with anxiety and depression than ever before. That’s a fact. What can we do as parents to help our kids become independent and happy adults — and alleviate stress in their lives? We can try to be less stressed ourselves.
Here are some tips from Schoenfeld:
Here’s how to be a more relaxed parent in 2019:
At the end of the day, trust yourself. Sure, there is a lot of useful information out there. But you know your kids better than anyone else. Trust your own intuition, knowledge of your child and your own common sense.
Be realistic. Too much is too much. If you see that both you and your kids are exhausted at the end of the week, take a step back. You can’t be everything to everybody.
Take care of yourself, too. Try to get enough sleep. So what if your house and your yard won’t be perfect. If you don’t take care of yourself, you are going to be a grumpy, irritable parent. You won’t like yourself and neither will your kids.
Limit screen time. I know, I sound like a broken record. But too much time on email, computer screens, television, smartphones and video games sucks your time up like a vacuum cleaner. It doesn’t really add quality to children’s lives. I don’t think it makes parents’ lives better either.
Savor your child’s childhood. Turn off your cellphone, step back from your “have to’s” and “shoulds” and simply enjoy your children! These are precious, fleeting moments. Savor them, drink them in. Engrave them in your memory. Be 100 percent present and in the moment. You won’t regret it.
Paul Schoenfeld is director of The Everett Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. His Family Talk Blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.
Looking back, I sure could have used this advice back in the day. I’ll never forget when my son was in middle school and he was super busy (which means I was tearing my hair out). It was his choice to audition for the school play, try out for basketball, continue with piano lessons, enter a piano competition, have his science fair project make it through the local and county levels and then prepare for state. Plus, continue with the Piranha Swim Team. It was great he wanted to do all these things. But, as a parent, I was the one who should have said, “No. Let’s pick a few things and try the others at another time.”
I let him do it all and tried to support him. It meant I was dropping my son off at his piano teacher’s in Cathedral City, running my daughter to the pool (that was the one activity besides school she was passionate about) in Palm Springs. Then I drove back to piano to take my son to basketball practice at St. Theresa’s in Palm Springs — driving back and forth on the Cross Valley Parkway like a maniac trying to get to the activities on time. One night, I missed a turn, tried to do a U-ey — and smashed into the curb. Flat tire, bent rim. I realized it was time to stop and slow down.
Today, my son says he has recurrent stress nightmares from that time in his life. Mainly that I signed him for a swim meet, and he’d been too busy to go to practice. Talk about a nightmare!
What gives you a clue that you’re trying to do much in your life? What do you do to slow down?