The Importance of Parent Self-Care: Raising Teens with Sanity Intact

Parenting teens is an adventure unlike any other, and it comes with a unique set of challenges and rewards. Mood swings are an Olympic sport, “because I said so” becomes your favourite catchphrase, and discovering more about who your young person is can be amazing and terrifying all at once. During this time of life, it’s easy to forget one crucial thing: parent self-care.

Parents of teenagers are often juggling full and complex lives of their own, on top of raising adolescents and all the additional stresses and demands that entails. Between managing everyone’s social schedules, keeping the fridge stocked, and bills paid, all while insisting on having “family time,” it can be very easy as a parent to neglect looking after yourself.

In this post, we’ll delve into the world of parent self-care for those raising teens and explore why it’s not just important but essential.

Parent Self-Care: You Need to be Breathing to Help Others

Remember those pre-flight safety demonstrations where they tell you to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others? When parenting teenagers, the same principle is in play – and it’s not about being prepared to crash and burn.

The principle is that you can’t be an effective caregiver if you’re gasping for air yourself.

Self-care is not selfish; it’s self-preservation. It’s about replenishing your physical, mental, and emotional reserves so you can be there for your teenager and your family in general. When you prioritize self-care, you’re saying, “I matter too,” and you’re making sure you have the stamina to weather the teenage storms, from mood swings to late-night curfew negotiations.

When you don’t practice self-care and fail to look after yourself, it has a detrimental effect on your family. By neglecting your well-being, you increase levels of tension and stress within your family. And if there is one thing a family home with teenagers doesn’t need, it’s someone else contributing to the stress levels.

Burnt-out, bitter, and distracted parents rarely produce happy, calm, and grateful kids or peaceful homes. Your teenager doesn’t benefit from a version of you that is worn out and resentful due to a lack of parent self-care. Your teenager needs the best version of you that you can muster. Of course, there will be some days when the best version of you and the busy, stressed-out, donkey-on-the-edge version of you are not that far apart – that is because you are human. But, in general, your teenager is better off when you are being the best version of “you” that you can be.

The way to give yourself the best chance of being the best version of yourself is to take self-care seriously. Look after yourself so you can look after your kids. Get your oxygen mask on first, and then you can start worrying about the rest of the family!

Beyond Bubble Baths: Authentic Parent Self-Care

When you hear “self-care,” it can be easy to think of bubble baths and scented candles. While those might be delightful options to some, that is not an image that floats everyone’s boat. When we are talking about self-care, all we mean is looking after yourself (but self-care sounds cooler, so we use that.)

The beauty of self-care is its adaptability. It’s not a one-size-fits-all concept. It’s about finding what resonates with you and brings you a sense of renewal, rest, and re-creation (for some, that could be using alliteration.)

For you as a parent of teenagers, parent self-care might mean a brisk jog in the park, a journaling session to release your inner monologue, a night of laughter with friends (the kind that leaves your abs sore the next day), or finding time for regular meditation and prayer.

It might mean going on a hot date with your partner (where you splurge on dessert and have more than one drink), taking time every day to read another couple of chapters of your favourite paperback, walking on the beach, throwing in a line at your secret fishing spot, or tending to your rose garden.

It could involve seeking professional help to navigate the maze of emotions and thoughts that are making life difficult, a sneaky afternoon nap occasionally, or diving into a creative project that rekindles your passion.

Self-care is not a term reserved for spa treatments and pedicures. Parent self-care is doing whatever it takes to help you keep in touch with who you are and what you value. It is about committing to practices and routines that enable you to maintain your sanity, curiosity, and energy as a parent.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all; it’s about finding what works for you.

Guilt-Free Parenting: Well Almost…

Guilt and parenting go together like calories and ice cream. If there is one thing the modern parent doesn’t lack, it is reasons and prompts to feel guilty about how they are raising their teenager. Guilt often creeps in when parents consider taking time for themselves. You might think, “Shouldn’t I be dedicating every second to my teenager or family?” If you are thinking that, then we are here to help. The answer is NO!

Self-care isn’t a guilty pleasure; it’s a necessity. Self-care isn’t taking from your family; it’s giving yourself every opportunity to consistently show up, contribute, and be there for your family. When you prioritize self-care, you’re not neglecting your teenager; you’re boosting your ability to be present and supportive.

In fact, practicing self-care sends a clear message to your teenager—that self-compassion and self-respect are non-negotiable. It shows them that it’s perfectly acceptable to have needs and to meet them.

Me-Time: The Oxygen You Need

“Me-time” might feel like a distant memory from your pre-parenting days, but that does not mean you should consider it a luxury; it’s a necessity, especially when parenting teenagers. Amidst the whirlwind of teenage drama, the stress of work, packing lunches, and the ceaseless buzzing of smartphones, finding moments of solitude becomes crucial.

“Me-time” is not a selfish escape; it’s your oxygen mask. It’s those moments that enable you to breathe. It’s a chance to rediscover your individuality outside of the parent role. Whether you spend it reading a book, pursuing a hobby, or simply sitting in blissful silence, these moments of solitude recharge your spirit.

By incorporating “me-time” into your routine, you’re not neglecting your responsibilities; you’re enhancing your capacity to meet them. A well-rested and fulfilled parent is better equipped to engage in meaningful conversations, provide guidance, and offer a listening ear to your teenager. A well-rested parent is also more patient and less susceptible to having your buttons pushed.

So when thinking about parent self-care, embrace “me-time” as a lifeline, and remember, it’s not about quantity but quality.

Recharge Your Parenting Powers: The Vital Role of Sleep

In all the talk about parent self-care, there’s one crucial aspect that parents often overlook: rest. Yes, that’s right, folks, we need to talk about the magic of catching some Z’s. You remember sleep, it was that thing you used to do until midday when you were young and without kids.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Rest? With a job, housework, and teenagers to run around. Ha!” Trust me, I get it. But here’s the scoop: rest is the unsung hero of self-care, and it’s time we give it the recognition it deserves. Sleep doesn’t sound as exciting or indulgent as other forms of self-care, but it is as important as it is boring.

When you are sleep-deprived (and many adults are), you are starting your parenting day on the back foot – in fact, you are likely to struggle with most parts of your day when sleep-deprived. Quality sleep is your parenting elixir, your magical potion for handling back-chat, eye-rolls, and wet towels on the bathroom floor!

When you’ve had enough sleep, you’ve got more patience, you can handle meltdowns with zen-like calmness and are better able to avoid being a grouchy grumble bum. Plus, you’re less likely to mistake the sugar jar for the saltshaker during breakfast chaos.

Just to be clear, sleep isn’t just lying on the couch, binge-watching your favourite Netflix show (although a perfectly valid self-care option). Sleep is closing your eyes and disappearing into the cosy nothingness of proper slumber.

Parenting a teenager can make getting adequate sleep a challenge. Lying awake waiting for them to come home a couple of nights a week can create a sleep debt that you struggle to recover from. And as they get older, they go to bed later, so that can throw your sleep routine out the window – especially if you need to be up earlier than them to have any hope of getting everything done. Not to mention that the older you get, the lighter you sleep!

Don’t neglect your own evening routines and make sure you get to bed at a reasonable time. Be inventive (by “inventive,” we mean “sneaky”) and find opportunities in the week when no one else is around, and you can get a cheeky power nap. Embrace your inner cat, find a warm spot, and see how much better you feel after a quick 20-minute snooze.

Parent Self Care - Woman sleeping outside by latern

Image by Rolanda from Pixabay

Embrace Imperfection: Realistic Expectations in Parenting

We all want to be superparents, but let’s face it, even superheroes have their off days. It’s okay to admit that parenting isn’t always rainbows and unicorns; it’s messy, unpredictable, and filled with a healthy quota of disappointing moments. Parenting isn’t about perfection; it’s about doing your best while embracing the chaos.

Maintaining realistic expectations is a vital part of parent self-care. Realistic expectations mean understanding that you won’t have it all together all the time, and that’s perfectly fine. You’re not going to whip up gourmet dinners every night, your house might resemble a tornado zone from time to time, and your teenagers will have moments that make you question your life choices, but that’s okay.

When you set realistic expectations, you give yourself permission to be human. And when you can set realistic expectations for your teenager, you also give them permission to be human. All be it, humans who are changing rapidly and have not yet fully mastered managing their emotions, their thoughts, or the ability to speak in full sentences!

It isn’t fair to you or your teenager to expect they will never be vague or forgetful, or that their emotions will never get the best of them.

It is realistic to expect that there will be seasons in your adolescent’s life when they won’t communicate well.  Expect they will challenge you more.  And you need to expect days when they will have big mood swings on a seemingly hour-by-hour basis. You are parenting a teenager. Set your expectations accordingly.

So cut yourself and your teenager some slack, lower the bar from perfection to “doing our best,” and remember that imperfection is something that parents share with teenagers. Be gracious. You’ve got this!

Habitual Self-Care: Turning Survival into a Lifestyle

Parent self-care isn’t a one-time event; it’s a lifelong practice, like brushing your teeth or turning off all the lights left on by your kids. To reap its full benefits, turn it into a habit, like your daily cup of coffee (or let’s be real, your five daily cups of coffee).

Start small by dedicating specific moments for self-care in your daily or weekly routine. For many parents, finding the time to care for yourself can be more difficult than licking your elbow. But even if you are time-poor and tired, prioritize finding a little slice of me-time in your schedule; on your commute to work, just before bed, early in the mornings, etc. Every bit makes a difference!

Communicate your self-care needs with your partner and family. Ask them if they can help you carve out the space you need. By involving them, you not only gain support but also teach your teenager the importance of self-care for everyone in the family.

Finally, embrace self-care as an act of self-love and self-preservation. When you prioritize your well-being, you become a happier, healthier, and more resilient parent, capable of navigating the teenage rollercoaster with style and a mischievous smile.

Parent Self-Care quiet place for coffee

Photo by Kris Atomic on Unsplash

Parent Self-Care Matters

Remember, taking care of yourself isn’t just an option; it’s a necessity.

Embracing self-care isn’t about selfishness; it’s about ensuring that you have the physical, mental, and emotional reserves necessary to weather the teenage storms. Your teenager needs the best version of you, and that version is nurtured through self-care.

It’s not just bubble baths and candles; parent self-care is anything that rejuvenates your spirit, from jogging in the park to enjoying a good book. It’s your escape hatch to recharge and maintain your sanity, curiosity, and energy as a parent.

Don’t let guilt be the thief of your self-care; it’s not an indulgence, but rather, it’s a lifeline. Prioritizing self-care shows your teenager the importance of self-compassion and self-respect.

“Me-time” isn’t a luxury; it’s your oxygen. By carving out moments for yourself, you’re enhancing your capacity to be a better parent. Quality sleep is the unsung hero; it equips you to handle the parenting chaos with grace and patience.

Parenting is a beautiful mess, and imperfection is a badge of honour. Setting realistic expectations for yourself and your teenager is a vital ingredient to maintaining your parenting sanity.

Your self-care is not an indulgence; it’s essential for a happier, healthier, and more resilient parenting journey. Embrace it with love, for yourself and for the incredible teenager you’re guiding into adulthood.


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