One of my favorite things about working from home is that I’m fortunate enough to walk my kids to school every day. A few weeks back, during our daily walk to school, I ran into one of my fellow moms. We started chatting about life and our kids, and she started to tear up. She told me she felt like she was failing at being a good mom and felt guilty doing things just for herself and not just for her child. I was so moved, because any parent can relate to wanting to do everything in their power for their kids.
I hugged her and told her that these feelings are totally normal and that many parents feel guilt for spending time on themselves. But I also told her this: in order to be there for her child in the way she wanted to be, she needed to take care of herself too.
Our Thriving Kids course helps parents do just that. The course provides strategies and actionable Microsteps to help us put our own oxygen masks on first, so we can feel better physically and mentally and be fully present with our children.
One of the most important lessons I learned in the last two years is how precious our time is with our loved ones. Tomorrow is not always guaranteed and being present in the current moment is so important. For me, that means walking my kids to school and talking to them about their day, friends, or what they are excited for or maybe worried about.
I see too many parents glued to their phones with their kids shuffling next to them. Put that phone in your pocket and have a conversation with your kids; it’s amazing how much they will share and how much more refreshed you will feel. My husband and I try to do the same on our walks — we consciously put our phones away, chat, and enjoy the sounds and sights around us. During dinner time, we also have a no phone rule for adults (my kids still don’t have phones and we’re trying to keep that going as long as possible). While working from home, we are able to have family dinners most nights and go around the table sharing the best and worst part of our day, always in age order, so my daughter is excited to go first.
That doesn’t mean we have zero screen time. We set a time limit on the iPad, so it automatically stops working after one hour. When we watch TV, we try to do it together as a family for movie nights or watch shows that we all enjoy. My son and I love watching Survivor together and keep on guessing who will be next to be voted out. We will also set timers on Alexa to remind us when to turn off the TV. You don’t have to swear off screens forever to reduce screen time; you can start by taking very small steps to get closer to where you want to be.
Another thing that helps me so much is making sure I’m able to take care of myself — physically and mentally. I do this by taking walks and connecting with friends. I’m so lucky to have a supportive group of moms on my block, and my next door neighbor, Lindsey, is my go-to person for walks. We talk about our kids, families, and work. We try to go for 10 to 15 minutes most days and it provides us the much-needed personal connection from a fellow parent, exercise, and fresh air.
Bedtime is sometimes stressful in my house. But as Dr. Aaliya Yaqub, Thrive’s Chief Medical Officer, says in Thriving Kids, putting a ritual in place can make all the difference for kids and parents alike. Our ritual starts with the kids changing into pajamas and brushing their teeth. Then, the kids either pick out a book to read — sometimes they read to us, which is awesome — or sometimes we just talk. We lower the lights and put on a spa music station on Alexa for an hour to help ease everyone to sleep. My husband and I have a rotation: we each put one child to bed, and the next night we switch.
I even came up with a good night saying, which we have all memorized: “Good dreams, good dreams, come to [Name]. Make them smile and make them laugh. Only good and sweet, sweet dreams, come to my little one.” If we forget to do this, kids always remind us to do “good dreams, good dreams.” It’s part of the routine and makes them sleepy right away.
There are so many great pieces of advice and Microsteps within Thriving Kids. I’ve learned so much and I know you will, too!