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Self-care for Parents, from Parents

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

Self-care for Parents, from Parents


Self-care for Parents, from Parents

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It’s all too common for parents and carers to be superheroes in the lives of those they support, but then experience massive stress and burnout themselves. This can be particularly difficult as you might have fewer supports to turn to in times of hardship and want to be resilient in the face of your teen’s struggles. It’s totally normal and understandable to feel the pressure when you are looking after someone else, but it’s also so important in those moments to find ways to look after yourself too.


Unfortunately, a lot of self-care tips and strategies thrown around might feel inaccessible for busy parents and carers, so we have sourced some suggestions from parents at ReachOut for how they manage self-care while looking after their young people. 


Who are you, how many kids do you have and how old are they?


I’m a dad in the team at ReachOut. We’re in a blended family, all together there’s 5 kids between 19 and 5 years old!


I’m a mum from RO and have one daughter aged 21. I also have a stepson in his 30s who lived with us throughout adolescence. 


How can you squeeze in self-care and mindfulness during a busy schedule?

Dad: What’s worked for me is to break it down a bit. It’s always a challenge to carve out blocks of time in a busy work and family schedule, what works for me is to make the most of smaller moments. Taking the dog for a walk is an example of something that has to be done, but also a way I can build in a peaceful moment for myself, going into the bush, or at the park, and taking some time to chill myself. Trying to stop my mind for a bit, soak up the nature around me, making the most of even small moments like this can help a lot to separate from the stresses of the busy life.

Other things include the activities that make me feel good, like some exercise where I can; being social; finding small pockets of time to connect with my partner - things that are also important to have for well-being.


Mum: It is definitely a challenge when my schedule is full so I try not to overbook myself with chores, errands and household stuff.  That way I can always find some time to do something for myself, even if it is something small like walking the dog or having an early night with a book.  Planning special activities is also something I enjoy like booking a holiday or a get together with family or friends and it means I have something to look forward to.


When your young person needs you to be strong for them, how can you find ways to be resilient without burning yourself out?

Dad: Remembering that it’s my role to support my kids, but not do things for them helps to share the burden. I can do my part, but they also need to help themselves to build their own resilience, self worth, and independence. It also means I’m not always the target when things don’t always go right!
Reminding myself of the bigger picture is important, to not get stuck in the details or the moments of situations - it’s all part of a bigger process.
And a good lesson I learnt from my partner - don’t sweat the small stuff! Letting things go that aren’t that important is a useful way to keep relationships strong.


Mum: Often my support and remaining strong is not the only support my daughter has as she has a very close friend group. I feel I can provide the strength without burning out as when she is with friends I know she is receiving valuable support and strength from them so I don’t always have to feel the burden. Sometimes she prefers to lean on my partner if his style of parenting is what she needs at the time which also gives me some space.


Who can you turn to for support?

Dad: My partner is pretty great, and it’s important for us to have a similar approach to parenting so we don’t get into too much conflict about that. It’s also good to have other supports, as often you’re going through the same struggles with your partner so need some outside perspective. Just sharing stuff with others can help to get it off your chest so you can recharge, and prep yourself for the next round of life!

Mum: My partner is great to vent to and we share the parenting so can totally empathise with each other.  I also spend time with my sister who has 2 sons around the same age and we can have honest conversations if we are struggling with any certain parenting issues.  My daughter’s friend’s parents are also a supportive network particularly when they were in their teens getting into all sorts of mischief !


How do you cope when you see your young person struggling and feel responsible for their challenges, especially when there’s only so much you can do?

Dad: Yeah it’s hard to see them in pain - as a parent you just want to protect them from it, or take that pain away. But it’s important to support them through it rather than stepping in to save them, as this will help them build up their own strength and coping strategies. And it also stops you from getting caught up in it which can result in teens blaming you for the issues. Remember it’s a journey that we’re all on, it wasn’t that long ago that we ourselves were going through it, and mostly with a bit of guidance and support we got through it too. And remember to take time out for yourself (and your partner and other kids) too!


Mum: It’s very difficult not to feel responsible when all you really want is the very best for your child.  In her early days I used to jump in and save her and she became very reliant on me to come to her rescue.  At some point I saw how this really affected her own resilience and self-worth as she was not feeling the accomplishment and pride of taking control of her own life.  I did eventually take a more “hands off” approach to supporting her by doing a lot of listening and empowering her to make her own decisions and take action and accountability in her life.  This approach worked so much better and I saw her self esteem and confidence improve enormously.

If you are finding yourself struggling, consider contacting your GP who can start on the journey of finding you support. Other great resources include Beyond Blue, where you can talk to a counsellor via phone or webchat, or lifeline if you are in crisis.