Why looking after yourself is important for parents and carers
Raising children is an important job, and looking after yourself helps you do the job well. That’s because looking after yourself physically, mentally and emotionally gives you the energy you need to help your child grow and thrive.
Looking after yourself involves looking after your relationships, your health and your wellbeing.
When you’re focused on looking after babies or children, it’s easy to forget or run out of time to look after these parts of your life. But looking after yourself is worth it – it’s good for you and good for your child.
Looking after your relationship with your partner
For parents and carers with partners, looking after your relationship can help you both get the most out of being parents and partners.
Open communication can help you cope with the relationship changes and challenges that sometimes come with raising children. You might be getting less sleep, less time to talk to each other, and less time alone with each other. This can sometimes lead to disagreements.
You can handle these tensions and keep your relationship healthy by listening to each other and talking together about how you’re feeling. This can help you accept and support each other and find solutions to problems.
Setting realistic expectations, being understanding and forgiving each other can often be the difference between staying together and drifting apart.
Looking after your health: activity, food and rest
You can boost your energy levels and improve your ability to help your children grow and thrive by:
- staying active
- eating healthy food
- getting enough sleep and rest.
Regular physical activity improves circulation, increases your overall metabolism, boosts your immune system and makes you feel good. It’s great if you can get out into the fresh air for a daily walk. Or you could jump around the house listening to your favourite music.
Healthy food gives you energy. If you keep your pantry and fridge stocked with healthy foods, it’ll be much easier to have healthy meals and snacks.
When it comes to sleep, aim for a regular bedtime routine and try to go to bed early. If you’re in the early months with your baby, it’s a good idea to nap whenever you can.
Looking after your wellbeing: dealing with stress, anxiety and anger
It’s natural to feel anxious or stressed sometimes. After all, raising children is an important and challenging job.
For example, both anxiety and stress can come with everyday challenges like getting to school and work on time. And you might sometimes have to navigate bigger challenges like financial issues, health concerns, relationship issues and so on.
Anger is also a natural emotion. For example, it’s common to lose patience and feel angry when you’re trying to balance work and family, or you don’t agree with your partner on household issues, or you’re having trouble with your child’s behaviour.
The key is how you manage anger in these situations. If you can calm yourself down, you’ll be better able to solve problems and manage conflict in your family.
Managing stress, anxiety and anger is good for you and your child, but sometimes it’s challenging. It might help to remember that it’s OK to make mistakes, forgive yourself and try to do better next time. Self-compassion helps you be kinder to yourself as you navigate the challenges of raising children. And this is good for everyone too.
Postnatal anxiety and depression in new parents
It’s natural to experience emotional changes in the weeks and months after your baby is born. For example, you might sometimes feel anxious or worried while caring for your baby.
But if negative emotional changes are interfering with your health, your relationships, or your ability to manage daily life, it could be a sign of postnatal anxiety or depression or another mental health condition.
If this sounds like you, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible. Talking with your GP, your child and family health nurse or another health professional is a good place to start.
If you’re feeling frustrated, overwhelmed or very angry or you feel you might hurt your child, put your child in a safe place – for example, a cot or bed. Take some time out until you feel calmer, or ask someone else to look after your child for a while. It’s OK to ask for help. If you’re having trouble coping, call your local Parentline.
Looking after yourself by getting support
Many services can help you as you navigate the challenges that come with raising children. You can also get free parenting advice in every state or territory of Australia by calling a parenting helpline.