Taking care of yourself is an important part of your caring role. Keeping fit and healthy, and asking for help when you need it, will help you and the child you’re caring for.
Why it’s hard to take care of yourself
Caring for children is a big job. You probably find you have less time to yourself, maybe less money and much more running around.
There might also be other things you have to do – like working – or other people you have to look after – ageing parents, perhaps.
It’s a big ask to do all this and look after yourself too.
Why it’s important to take care of yourself
Even when you’re caring for grandchildren, you can still take care of yourself.
If you can exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and get a good night’s sleep, you’ll be more likely to stay fit and well. Staying fit and well is good for you, and good for the child you’re caring for.
By taking care of yourself, you can give your grandchild a loving and secure home with people she knows. You’ll also be better equipped to deal with life’s ups and downs.
You can’t be a good carer if you’re stressed, tired or sick.
Video Grandparent carers: looking after yourself
In this short video, grandparent carers talk about the importance of looking after themselves physically and mentally. They talk about how they make time to exercise, socialise and keep active. They also discuss respite care and having support from other family members. A family support worker talks about caring for grandchildren when you’re older.
To see these courageous, wonderful, funny and resourceful kids, happy, secure and thriving is worth whatever it takes to make it so.
– Jeanette, kinship carer
Tips and strategies for taking care of yourself
Time for yourself
Even 15 minutes each day doing something you enjoy – reading, going for a walk, weeding the garden – will help. It might be before the children get up in the morning or after they go to bed, but it’s still time for you.
You can also ask your extended family or friends for help so that you can have longer breaks. You might be able to swap looking after children to have a night out, or a weekend away. In some parts of Australia, there are camps and activities for carer families.
You can find out more about respite options in your area by calling your local family support service or the child protection authority in your state or territory.
I have time out for myself. My sister sometimes takes her for the weekend and I’ll do what I need to do.
– Frieda, grandparent carer of teenage granddaughter
Dealing with feelings
It can help to write a journal about your feelings. By looking back at the last week or month, you’ll be able to see how far you’ve come on your caring journey.
If you’re feeling that you’ve lost control of your life, it can help to make decisions about the things you can control. For example, just deciding what you’d like to do each day can give you back some feeling of control.
Connecting with others
You don’t have to do this job alone.
Spending time with family and friends can remind you that other people care about you and your grandchild. Just having other people around with your grandchild can take the pressure off you. And you can talk to friends and family about what’s happening, and ask for help if you need it.
One of the upsides of being a grandparent or kinship carer is being able to make close friendships with people in a similar situation to you. Good ways to connect with other grandparent and kinship carers are our grandparent and kinship carer forum or support groups.
Video Grandparent carers: support groups
In this short video, grandparents decribe what they get out of being part of a support group. They say it has helped them to meet other grandparents in similar situations and to share stories and tips. A family support worker talks about the support available to grandparents through support groups and family support workers.
Health, fitness and nutrition
If you’re fit and well, you’re in good shape to care for your grandchild. And you’ll probably feel better in yourself too.
Regular check-ups with your doctor are important, and dealing with any health problems as they come up is a must.
Looking after children can be stressful, but high levels of stress can make it hard to cope. If you’re feeling stressed, you could try relaxation exercises such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation.
Walking is a healthy way to exercise and can also be good for stress. If you’re caring for babies or toddlers, you can take them with you in a pram or stroller. Older children might enjoy going to the park and playing together. Community sports centres often have group exercise classes, and many centres offer childcare as well.
Eating well is an important part of good health. And believe it or not, there are plenty of healthy meals that both you and your grandchildren can enjoy.
Confidence and a positive attitude
Accepting your role as a grandparent or kinship carer might take time – that’s normal and OK.
If you’re not feeling very confident about stepping back into the caring role, there is a lot of information available about parenting children on this site. There are also parenting hotlines you can call for advice.
It can help to stop and focus on the positives. If you can, step back and think about what a great job you’re doing caring for your grandchild. Or even just congratulate yourself on daily triumphs, like getting the children to school on time. If focusing on the positives seems nearly impossible or if you’re having trouble coping with feelings of stress, it might help to talk things over with your doctor.