How to Practice Self Care As a Parent

Making time for yourself can be difficult as a parent, and it’s easy to go days without giving yourself proper care. Yet, giving to yourself helps you give to others. First, set aside some time for yourself and stick to it. Do activities that prioritize your emotional and physical health. If you have problems being consistent, get an accountability partner or schedule a regular babysitter. And remember– it’s important to have moments to relax!


EditSetting Aside Time

  1. Make time for self-care. Make yourself a priority, even if it’s just a few moments each day. Your kids do need you, but you’ll be better able to respond if you’re feeling refreshed and capable. If you have a hard time prioritizing self-care, add it to your to-do list or find small windows of time to practice.[1]
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    • Determine to make self-care a priority by first seeing yourself and your peace of mind as a priority.
    • Find a way to keep a consistent schedule to help you stick to it. For example, attend a weekly yoga or meditation class that you can anticipate and set aside time to attend.
  2. Share tasks with your partner, if you have one. You may have a partner that takes part in childcare. If so, make sure each of you is doing their fair share of the work. Take responsibility for certain childcare duties and delegate others to your partner. That way, you’ll both get more down time.
  3. Wake up early (or stay up late). Those precious hours while your kids sleep are prime time to practice self-care. Decide a good time for your self-care and commit to keeping this a regular time just for you. Many people choose the early mornings because they wake up feeling motivated, while others choose to practice at night after a long day and relaxation is much needed. Whatever you choose, capitalize on those quiet moments.
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    • Choose self-care activities that are easily done at home.
  4. Create a ritual. Spend time each day with a calming ritual that is only yours. When you perform a ritual, you can look forward to it and become comfortable over time. For example, sip a cup of warm coffee or tea and journal or listen to calm music.
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    • Choose an activity you enjoy doing daily. You might take a daily walk, pet your dog, or meditate.
    • Have an activity that signals the beginning or end of each day that encourages you to be calm and relaxed.

EditTaking Care of Your Emotional Health

  1. Do things that make you feel good. Choose self-care activities that are fun and that you look forward to. Your activities should contribute to your quality of life and help you feel good. These practices should be soothing and leave you in a relaxed state. [2]
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    • For some people, it might be jogging or knitting. For others, it might be taking a bath or cleaning.
  2. Spend time with supportive people. Have a supportive network of friends and family who you can rely on to support you. Choose people who are good listeners and can help to lower your stress level, not add to it. Accept help when you need it and don’t be afraid to ask for it.[3]
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    • Try to make friends with other parents. They’ll understand many of the challenges you face, plus you can take turns watching each other’s kids. As a bonus, your kids will get extra playdates!
    • If you don’t have supportive friends and family near you, consider joining (or starting) a parent self-care support group.
  3. Practice relaxation. Find a healthy outlet for stress, such as a relaxation practice. Doing relaxing activities for 30 minutes each day can help stabilize moods and fight depression.[4] Relaxing activities should help your body and your mind to slow down.
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    • Some common forms of relaxation include meditating, listening to peaceful music, or reading a book.
  4. See a therapist. Seeing a therapist is an excellent first step to carving out time for yourself. They can help you acknowledge that it’s okay to make time for yourself or help you discover what’s getting in the way of prioritizing yourself. If you’re not sure how to care for yourself, a therapist can help you find meaningful ways to bring calm and healthy living into your life.[5]
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    • Find a therapist by calling your insurance provider or your local mental health clinic. You can also contact your physician or get a recommendation from a friend or family member.

EditCaring for Your Physical Health

  1. Exercise. Regular exercise is good for your body and your emotional health.[6] If you don’t have time to go to a gym, don’t worry. There are lots of at-home ways to exercise that require few items, like a mat or a set of free weights, and often it’s as easy as turning on your television. If your day is getting away from you and you want some exercise, try turning on some music and dancing with your kids, jumping on a trampoline, riding bikes, or taking a family walk around the park.[7]
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    • Incorporate exercise into your commute or daily errands. For example, park farther away from the store to get in some extra walking. When you need to get to the third floor of a building, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
    • Aim to get 30 minutes of exercise each day.
  2. Eat healthy foods. Take care of your body by nourishing it with nutritious foods. What you eat can affect how you feel, your mood, and your overall sense of wellbeing. Make a point to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and find good sources of protein and whole grains.[8]
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    • Get your whole family eating nutritiously by cooking and serving nutritious foods. Find some go-to dinners and make them frequently.
  3. Get enough sleep. There may be nights when getting enough sleep isn’t possible (like when you have a sick kid), but on the whole, prioritize your rest. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day and create a sleep routine.[9] Do this alongside your kids’ routine bedtime and waking time.
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    • If your child takes a nap, take a nap at the same time.
    • If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try avoiding phones, tablets, and televisions 1-2 hours before you go to sleep, as the light can be disruptive. Keep the room dark as you sleep and avoid big meals right before bedtime.
  4. Respond to your body’s needs. Be aware of what your body needs and respond. For example, if you’re sick, take a day off from work or school and rest. Stay on top of your care by getting regular checkups with your physician and taking preventative medical care.[10] If you’re hungry, get a snack or make a meal instead of putting it off.
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    • Taking care of your body allows the rest of your health to thrive. When you don’t take good care of your health, your mental and emotional states may suffer.
  5. Spend time outdoors. Go somewhere that allows you to appreciate nature. This might be a local park, hiking trail, or garden. Being in nature can increase positive feelings and make you feel revitalized.[11]
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    • Whether you choose to be in nature alone or bring your family along, it can help lift your mood and make you feel more connected.

EditStaying Consistent

  1. Be accountable. Have someone who can tell you to take time for yourself. Check in with each other about what you need.[12] They might notice that you’re feeling frazzled or that you’ve met a lot of your kids’ needs without meeting your own. Keep an eye out for each other and remind the other when they need a break,
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    • Your accountability partner may be a spouse, friend, sibling, or parent.
  2. Ignore interruptions. You might be tempted to keep your cell phone nearby or keep yourself accessible to your kids. As much as you can, ignore any distractions when you’re taking time for yourself. Silence your cell phone and turn off notifications.Close the door, put on headphones, and get as much privacy as you can.[13]
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    • This should be time just for you. Allow your focus to be on yourself without outside distractions like television or cell phones.
    • If you’re at home and your older kids are there, let them know that you’re taking time out and do not want them to interrupt you unless it’s an emergency. If you have young kids, relax during their nap or while they are at school.
  3. Employ a babysitter. If you have a hard time making time for yourself with your kids around, have a babysitter come regularly. If you can’t afford regular care, ask a friend or family member to watch your kids for an hour each week. This will allow you to take some time for yourself without worrying about the kids.
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    • Having a sibling or grandparent babysit has double benefits: down time for you, and family bonding for them!
  4. Model self-care for your children. If your children ask about your self-care or demand your attention when you’re trying to take a time-out, let them know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This will help them respect your practices. It can also help them recognize that it’s okay to take care of themselves and how that might look.[14]
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    • Talk about why it’s important to do self-care and allow them to start a practice of their own.

EditSources and Citations

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