Maybe you can relate—the time off with my family was enjoyable but it also feels good to have the holidays now behind us. Even my teenagers admitted that going back to school was somewhat welcome in terms of getting back to their regular routine and reconnecting with friends.
While I am not someone who makes New Year’s resolutions (mainly because I can’t seem to keep them), the start of the year is a time I like to take stock of aspects of my life, especially my role as a mother. Being a parent is both a pleasure and a challenge, all wrapped into one ongoing experience. I often encourage other parents at the Toddler Center to take this time to think about reframing your role as a parent or caregiver—your actions, words and intentions. This isn’t about being hard on yourself or adding more to your what you already do list.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: Embrace the New Year as an opportunity to reflect on your parental role and make subtle shifts or big changes so you can enjoy your toddler and being a parent more.
Be Good to Yourself. We are at our best as parents and caregivers when we take care of ourselves by letting go of being ‘perfect,’ lightening up on our own expectations of ourselves and our children and living more in the moment. When you are able to do more of this and also feel supported by your partner, spouse, friends and others, you will be able to give to your child in healthy and more loving and generous ways.
Connect With Your Partner. Renew your commitment to nurture your relationship with your spouse or partner. Look for ways to reach out and connect every day – this could be a phone call in the middle of the day, an unexpected ‘thinking of you’ text, a left note or card, watching a favorite TV show together or even a surprise night out. When we’re connected with our partners, parenting is easier. Hands down. And when you’re able to reframe mishaps by laughing together and recognizing the humor in the daily toddler challenges and stumbles, I assure you that parenting will feel lighter and more enjoyable.
Laugh Together. I recall when one of my boys was little and he was feeding himself yogurt. Before I knew it he was giddily covered in a strawberry mess—hands, face and arms. He was more interested in covering himself in his snack rather than eating it. I could have gotten upset (and believe me, my first inclination was to shriek) but instead I took a breath, smiled and we laughed at the messy scene together. I plopped him on the kitchen counter to wash him off in the sink. What could have been tears or shameful reprimands was instead a funny, shared moment together.
Listen to Your Child. We tend to talk a lot, ask questions and make multiple requests of our children. “Don’t throw that. Get down from there. I see you over there. Do you want milk or water? What did you do today at school? Are you happy?” Instead of asking strings of questions, or feeling that you need to answer all of theirs, take a pause and invite and listen to what your little one has to say on his or her own. Say less and see what your child comes up with instead. Once he’s finished, wait a beat or two before you respond. When children feel listened to (even when you cannot meet their requests or answer all of their inquiries), they feel respected, cared for and understood. This creates a solid base for building confidence, self-respect and reliance.
Let Be. The final re-frame I suggest to you for this New Year is to let your child BE whenever you can. However hands off you are (or are not), take an extra step back and let your child figure things out for herself. Your three-year-old can’t get the puzzle piece in? Give him a moment to figure it out rather than jumping in and showing her where it goes. It’s so easy for parents to direct, do for and control when what is most helpful and encouraging to our children is to watch and observe. Your child will thrive by simply feeling your presence and support while he connects the dots and finds the last puzzle piece on his own.
Have you made your own parenting resolutions? I’d love to know what they are and how they’re improving your relationship with your partner and your child.. Please leave a comment below or connect and share them with me on Facebook or Twitter.