By Debby Machold, MA, MSW, LCSW
Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco
Citywide Director of Behavioral Health Services
As parents and caregivers, we can often feel rushed for time or like we are struggling to manage competing priorities. This can lead us to put off activities that contribute to our own well-being, which can impair our ability to provide emotional support to our children.
By practicing these small but meaningful activities, parents and caregivers can contribute to their own wellness and the wellness of their children:
Step away from the 24-hour news cycles - Choosing when to log in to social media or turn on the TV/radio for the latest updates allows you to be in control, continue your daily activities, and engage with people around you (at a safe distance). By actively choosing when to get updated, instead of leaving news running in the background, you will decrease both anxiety and negative emotional response, while staying informed. You may also want to change settings for push alerts to avoid receiving multiple notifications for the same news update. With each alert, our bodies react physiologically, preparing us for the next crisis or next announcement of “bad news.” Stepping away allows us to decrease traumatic preparation and focus on what is in front of us.
Schedule time alone - While it can be a challenge, making just 5-10 minutes of time for yourself can improve how you feel. Giving yourself permission to take some alone time, without guilt, can re-energize you, build creativity, and remind you of the things for which you are grateful. Taking daily walks is more popular than ever.
Write in a gratitude journal - During these uncertain times, reminding ourselves what and who we are grateful for can change our overall perceptions of the world around us and help us feel better. By writing down just three things each day for which you are grateful, you can shift your focus, lift stress, and experience improved sleep quality.
Go outside - Getting outside—currently allowed under the shelter-in-place order as long as you are socially distancing—provides a different perspective. It clears the head, helps everyone feel less “trapped” inside, and is good for mind and body. This also allows overly-energized youth the opportunity to step away from electronics and run off some of their energy. Taking some time to touch and smell the natural world around you this spring will be great for the whole family! Here’s another opportunity to go for a walk—take the whole family this time!
Listen to music, dance, sing, or find other creative outlets - If your children are doing art projects or playing music and moving to the beat, join them. This is an opportunity to reconnect with your child and to focus on positive things instead of being stuck at home.
Have a “date” with your child - When given the opportunity to spend individual time with a parent, not talking about problems, youth appreciate the connection. We often take for granted that since we see each other every day, we are connected. As kids grow and their moods change, we frequently misinterpret their behaviors as not wanting to be around adults or family. Having a “date-night” with your child is an opportunity to talk about silly things, laugh, and reconnect. When was the last time you built a fort with your kids? This is a great time to build a fort!!!
Ultimately, you know what re-energizes you and you know whether that does or does not involve your children. While we sometimes need time alone for self-care, our wellness is often tied to feeling connected to our children and knowing what is happening in their minds and their lives. Try different approaches, and see which ones help you feel your best. Then, perhaps, write those down in your gratitude journal!
To share other good ideas about parental self-care or to learn more about our Behavioral Health Services at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Debby Machold is a 27-year behavioral health professional with 15 years experience at Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco.
The artwork used in this post was created by Columbia Park Clubhouse member Carlos, age 15.