As parents, we like to feel that our kids come first. Our needs are less important, and, to be good parents, we need to sacrifice our needs for our kids. Our lives—and our wellness can be put on hold as we raise our kids. We are second, and our kids are first—always. However, if we continue living like this, we are setting ourselves—and our kids—up for failure.
Cannot Fight a Fire With a Rusty Fire Engine
Consider what would happen in an emergency if emergency services did not maintain a fire truck. Without properly caring for the equipment used to battle house fires, the fire company would not help anyone. Imagine a rusty, old fire engine leaking water from its tank as it sputters up to a house fire. Rescue ladders are missing rungs, hoses are full of holes, barely audible sirens struggle to persuade traffic to move. Would this help anyone?
Assuming that we need to put our needs aside to be best for our kids is similar to neglecting a fire truck. When the time comes for the people who depend upon us, we will be too depleted and rundown to be there for them. When we neglect ourselves and our self-care needs, we are not at our best for anyone else.
Acknowledging That We Are Human
Our kids might look at us like nothing ever gets to us. As if we are super-human and no longer feel anything. We, as parents, can handle anything that comes our way. We might have viewed our parents in this manner. Yet, as we grow older, we connect to our parents when we realize that they were not perfect, flawless beings. They had their regrets, failings, insecurities, and pain, just the same as we do. While we want to avoid letting our emotions get the best of us in the moment when dealing with problematic behavioral issues, we do not need to shut down entirely.
Though we want to appear strong and in control as parents, we do not need to stuff our emotions inside. We can acknowledge our frustration, anger, pain, and sadness on our own. We might need to take a break, step away from a situation to re-establish our equilibrium. Sometimes, we might react based on emotions, getting into screaming matches fueled with a desire to out-do our kids. However, our anxiety will not regulate anyone else’s emotions.
Find Your Center First
Managing our emotions first is key to helping our kids. Emotional regulation is not always something that can be completed “in the moment,” considering some of the shocking things we might discover about our kids. For example, if we find out that our kid just wrecked our car after driving drunk, how can we be expected to keep our cool?
Instead, keeping ourselves regulated is an ongoing process of self-care activities and expressing our vulnerabilities to those supporting us. If we keep our needs in the background, we will be like a spring trap, storing our anxiety to unload itself after the slightest trigger. When we make a habit and a practice of caring for ourselves first, we can keep ourselves healthy and able to help those around us.
The Counter-Intuitive Process of Putting Ourselves First
In a way, putting ourselves first to best help our kids and families might appear counter-intuitive. We might have been raised to believe that once we have kids, our needs no longer matter. We always come second to put our kids first. Instead, we acknowledge that we do have bad days, we do have needs, we do have a life, and to be there for our kids, we need to be there for ourselves first. No one can love others if they cannot show themselves love first.
Of course, we have to be reasonable and responsible. Putting ourselves first does not mean that we neglect our responsibilities and promises. Caring for ourselves to best support our families is all about finding balance. Balance includes reaching out for support and help when overwhelmed.
Finding Balance With Support and Resources
Often parents believe that they need to handle everything on their own. They think that they need to be perfect without help or guidance; they need to have all the answers. Otherwise, people may judge them as “bad parents.” We can find balance within ourselves. When parents of kids who struggle come together to express and acknowledge their fears, they can find a balance in their lives. They can find their centers, learn from one another, and only when we care for ourselves can we truly be there for our loved ones.
Managing our own emotions first is essential for keeping the balance within our homes, especially if our kids are struggling with problematic behaviors. We might be lead to believe that we need to be perfect as parents. We believe that we need to have all the answers ourselves and that our needs come second to our families. However, taking care of ourselves is not a selfish act. As humans, we can only give so much before reaching a breaking point. When we continually neglect our own needs, we find ourselves too rundown and stressed to be helpful to anyone. If you are the parent of a child who struggles, other parents have dealt with similar challenges. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center of Estes Park, Colorado, has created a Facebook group called “Parenting Teens That Struggle” for parents to connect and share with one another. If your child is dealing with problematic behaviors and other concerns, reach out today by calling (303) 443-3343.