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Parenting: Take care of yourself and avoid burnout
As a parent, your top priority is caring for the little one in your life. But it's also important to take time for yourself.
From watching your toddler become more independent to hearing him or her say, "I love you too," at the end of a day, parenting is filled with blessings.
But having time to yourself isn't one of them. In fact, the demands of being a parent can be so consuming that—unless you're careful—it's all too easy to neglect caring for yourself.
But if you're running on empty, you're not doing yourself—or your child—a favor. Look at it like this: How can you truly nurture your youngster if you yourself are emotionally or physically depleted?
To recharge, consider these tips from the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics and other leading medical groups:
Take breaks. Every mom and dad needs time off from parenting once in a while. So give yourself some downtime by hiring a babysitter. Or swap child care responsibilities with your partner, and take turns sleeping late on weekends. Visit a friend while your partner watches your youngster, and then return the favor. You get the idea.
If you're a single parent, don't be bashful about asking another adult to step in and relieve you. It could be a relative, friend or another solo parent. Show your appreciation by helping out your helper at a later time.
Relax a little at work too. If you're employed, take breaks at work. For example, spend a few minutes every now and then doing some deep breathing or relaxation exercises. You'll feel more refreshed when you return home. And you'll be better able to focus on your child. Short breaks can also make you more efficient on the job.
Move. Exercise may be the best recharger of all. If you have child care, exercise on your own. If not, do something active with your child. Take a walk, kick a soccer ball together or explore a park. You might also look for a fitness or community center that provides child care.
Help your child make friends. You don't need to entertain your child when he or she is happily playing with another youngster. Sure, you'll need to be nearby to supervise. But you'll also be able to relax a bit with a magazine, a favorite TV show or just some quiet time. So look for opportunities for your child to play with other children of a similar age. Parks, libraries and organized playgroups are all great places for youngsters to meet.
Have the whole family pitch in at home. Your child is now old enough to help put away toys or bring dirty plates to the sink after dinner. Yes, most of the work will still fall to the adults and any older siblings in your family. But you're teaching your child to be responsible. That will lighten your load—especially in the long run.