Let’s face it: kids, no matter their age, bring a mountain of challenges along with them. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re trying to take care of yourself and each of your children. Without a plan to overcome overwhelm, you become a figure of instability for your kids, who are constantly watching and internalizing your words and actions. This can soon create a ripple effect and reveal itself in their behavior. So how do you take a proactive approach to being a positive example? First, acknowledge where you might be self-sabotaging.
Do you forget your priorities in pursuit of your goals? Your relationships at home need the most investment. Goals are not limited to the workplace – what are your goals for your family and for friendships? Take some time to think through the roles of these relationships and which decisions will help you move in the direction of those goals. This could look like designating specific “flex” time in your schedule to allow for more quality time with your kids or spouse.
Do you say yes to everything? Burnout becomes inevitable. Even kids get burned out (and often learn this through observation). Learn to say no to some activities, even if they are good opportunities, if it means sacrificing space and time to decompress at home. Talk to your kids about what they enjoy and don’t feel as if you’re committed for the long haul if they just want to give something a try. Time to simply be together won’t exist unless you are intentional about preserving it. Being together is better than the hustle. Think about the patterns you want your kids to have with their own family one day – something as simple as sitting down for dinner together might be one of the very things your children appreciate the most and desire to do in their own homes.
Create & Model Boundaries
Next, create and clearly communicate boundaries. Reggie Joiner, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Orange, explains that by nature, kids ask for two things, whether or not they verbalize it: 1) Do you love me? and 2) What are the boundaries? Reinforce the answers to both on a regular basis. Having boundaries will create a sense of security if they know your intention for them is their best, and they can also see you modeling boundaries for yourself.
Third, normalize failure by talking about it openly. Failure is a feeling – you may have felt like a failure, but that doesn’t make you a failure. What did you learn from the situation? Ask your kids the same. What did the experience that caused the feeling of failure help them to understand? How might this be helpful in the future? How could they help someone else who might feel the same way? To fail is to be human. We must drop the shame we often carry and have self-compassion. Repeatedly preach this both to yourself and to your kids. Be open with them and ask for their forgiveness as often as necessary. Make sure they know that their mom isn’t perfect. Often our best stories come out of hardships.
Above all, take one day and one season at a time. You can’t take back time, but you can take an honest look at your decisions, decide what’s most important, be quick to adapt, and move ahead in confidence. When you envision your best self in 10 years, be sure to include the most important people in your life alongside you.
If you enjoyed this article, listen to my guest appearance on the Parenting Our Future podcast.