Reflecting after two days spent at Legoland, it struck me that many parents focus entirely on their children, neglecting themselves in the process. Of course, your children are the most important people in your lives, but you matter, too.
So, my message to all you parents and carers out there is to consider yourselves, too. Not prioritising our own needs and desires at times can be problematic, giving the message to your offspring that they matter more than you or that it’s one rule for them and something entirely different for you.
Here are just a few areas where thinking of yourselves in addition to your children could apply:
I am as guilty of this as many people I saw at Legoland. I cake my girls in sun cream to prevent them from burning, yet I regularly neglect to put any on me. So, inevitably, I burn and suffer the consequences. Having gone through chemotherapy over ten years ago, I should realise more than others, perhaps, how vital this practice is for everyone.
What lesson am I teaching my children by saying that taking care of their skin matters but my own doesn’t? Am I telling them that if I die as a result of skin cancer, that is ok, but them getting it would be disastrous? This may seem OTT to some, but it’s actually something that no child wants to face; mortality is a difficult face to accept.
Perhaps my biggest bugbear is parents cycling without wearing a helmet yet ensuring their children do. The message some kids get from this is that older people have stronger skulls and are less likely to face serious injury if they were to fall of their bikes. Of course, we know that cycle helmets protect the skull and brain whatever the age of the person cycling. What would happen if you were involved in an accident? Your children are ok, but they witness your head being splatted onto the ground. Again, this may sound melodramatic, but it’s something you ought to consider. You wouldn’t strap your children in their car seat and drive without your seatbelt, would you? So why do this?
Encouraging your children to spend more time in the great outdoors than on devices can sometimes feel like a never-ending endeavour. Everyone knows that it’s vital to look after your body, and we try to instil healthy eating and exercise habits in our kids from a young age. However, how many of us actually engage in regular fitness activities? How many of us plan sessions into the weekly regime in addition to children’s extracurricular activities? While it’s great to have some time out and do a class away from your kids, it isn’t always that easy. It may be that you could run behind your children while they’re on a bike ride, for example, but there really is no excuse.
This final category that I want to cover is mental wellbeing, which is vital for both children and adults. We encourage our children to be open about their feelings, but we often bottle up our own. While we are ploughing most of our energy into our children’s happiness, satisfaction and enjoyment, more often than not, we neglect our own, forgetting the importance of me-time. Ensuring we do focus on our own mental wellbeing does not equate to being selfish; rather, it demonstrates to our children that their parents’ feelings matter, too, and that they cannot always be the centre of attention. That is not healthy for anyone.
Ultimately, we will find it difficult in some of the above areas to remember ourselves. However, it is vital that you at least try. Always consider the impact that your actions (or lack thereof) will have on your children.