Parenting doesn’t necessarily get any easier as time goes on. But there is good news. The longer you’re a parent, the more experience and perspective you have.
As a more experienced parent, you’ll be able to say, ‘It might be hard today, but tomorrow – or next week or next month – things will be different’. You know that the bad times won’t last forever, and the good times will come again. This can make it easier to stay positive and face any challenges.
Here are some more ideas on being a positive parent in the long term.
Focus on the positives
One of the best ways to keep a positive perspective on parenting is to remind yourself of what your children bring to your life:
• unconditional love and admiration just for being you
• hero worship – your children are probably the only people who think you’re the strongest, wisest and bravest person in the world
• the chance to be a child again through sharing in the magic and wonder of your children’s play and learning
• the chance to experience an amazing range and intensity of emotions, strengths and skills
• the chance to reflect on your own values, attitudes and assumptions about the world
• the chance to take time out from being a grown-up.
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is time with your children. Take some time each day to laugh, cry, play, dream, wonder and explore with your child.
Ignore parenting myths
There are lots of myths about parenting. For example:
• I should have the answers.
• Parenting comes naturally.
• I should be able to cope by myself.
The truth is – nobody has all the answers. You learn as you go, and as your family changes. Every parent needs help and support.
There’s no one right way to be a parent. There’s the way that’s right for you and your family.
Look after yourself
Being a good parent over the long term will be easier if you keep looking after your own physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Here are some lifestyle tips that can help you stay healthy:
• Get support when you need it. Anyone looking after a child needs practical help, personal support and good information.
• Go with the flow. Lots of people notice that they have less free time and less social time after they have children. Don’t wear yourself out trying to do things the way you used to. You’ll find other ways to keep up with friends and family.
• Make time for your partner and your relationship. For example, you could try setting aside one night a week as ‘date night’. Even if you can’t go out, you could get yourself take-away and skip the washing-up for a change.
• Enjoy exercise as a family. You’ll feel better, you’ll set a good example for your kids, and you’ll have fun together! It can be as simple as kicking a ball at the local oval.
• Eat a nutritious family diet – and try to eat together as a family most nights. Turn the TV off, and use dinner time as a chance to enjoy your food and catch up on everyone’s day. An added bonus is that you’ll model healthy eating habits for your children – which might help with any fussy eating.
• Get lots of rest. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night once your children are sleeping independently at night. This will help you keep up with them during the day.
• Quit smoking. A cigarette-free house is a healthier environment for your children too.
Find out what you can do to cope with feelings of stress, anxiety, worry, anger or depression if they occur. If you feel like you’re having more downs than ups, think about speaking to a friend or GP for some support.
Connect with other parents
One of your best sources of help, support and friendship is likely to be other parents.
When you connect with other parents, you discover that other people share your joys, frustrations and concerns about parenting. You also learn that there’s a huge range of normal when it comes to children’s behaviour and development, and also parenting styles.
Many people think that adolescence is always a difficult time, and that all teenagers experience moods and challenging behaviours.
It might help to know that studies show that only 5-15% of teenagers:
• go through emotional turmoil
• become rebellious
• have major conflicts with their parents.
Social, emotional and physical changes are part of your child’s journey to adulthood. It might feel like your child is moving away from you, but you still have a big role to play in helping your child develop grown-up attitudes, emotions and skills. In fact, you are the biggest influence on your child’s long-term decisions, such as career choices, values and morals.
As your child moves into the teen years, it’s important to keep working on being a positive parent. The strategies are much the same as when your child was younger:
• Focus on the positives.
• Sort the myths from the facts.
• Look after yourself.
• Connect with other parents.
When you look after yourself and make time for things you enjoy, you model a healthy, positive approach to grown-up wellbeing and relationships.
If you’re worried about your teenager’s behaviour or development – or your ability to cope with it – seek help. Start by talking to a trusted health or other professional. You could try your GP or a school counsellor.
Being a positive parent