6 Tips for How to Be Happy Parents
Parenting is hard work. These experts weigh in with advice for how to be a happy parent.
Being a parent brings so much happiness into your life, you wouldn't trade it for anything. However, being a parent also often means putting your kids' needs before your own -- and sometimes that means temporarily putting your happiness on the back burner. Parenting can sometimes be a stressful job, filled with hard work. Days consist of changing diapers, getting your little one to stop crying, hurrying to get to school or day care on time ,and wondering whether you'll ever get your child to bed.
Do you find yourself wondering how to be happy? Just realizing that your feelings of ennui, dissatisfaction and weariness are normal and completely okay may make you feel a little better. But you can feel a lot better and learn how to be happy by following these six simple steps. And being a happier parent means raising happier children.
- Tell Someone Your Feelings
Feeling unhappy, overwhelmed, exhausted? Talk with your spouse or partner, a counselor, a friend or a religious leader about it. "The minute we say what we feel, we become powerful," says Dr. Gail Gross, a nationally recognized family and child development expert and author. Having the self-awareness to know that there is a problem is the first step in overcoming it, so don't keep it a secret, shares Dr. Gross.
- Develop a Plan
"There are so many things we can do for ourselves by solving a problem," says Dr. Gross. Maybe you can hire a babysitter to come regularly so you get a break. Stay at home parents might want to get a part-time job or volunteer to change up their routine. Whatever you choose, Dr. Gross says that actively solving a problem, as opposed to just reacting to negative emotions, helps your mental state.
- Set Up Date Nights
Just because you and your partner are parents, that doesn't mean you can't still go out on dates. In fact, it's practically mandatory that you do to keep the relationship alive, according to the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Getting a babysitter so you can go out and spend time with each other makes your relationship more than one that's just about the kids. Go to a concert or to comedy show and just have fun.
Here are 5 Romantic Date Ideas for Parents to get you started.
- Get Together With Friends
"Social support is important to staying happy," says Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and author of "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do". It doesn't matter if it's only to grab a cup of coffee. "When people get to split from their parent identity, even for a couple of hours, it makes a significant difference in their lives," shares Allen Wagner, a Los Angeles marriage and family therapist. Connecting with a friend should prove to be an uplifting experience, even if your main topic of conversation is your children. Give your friends a call and hash out a couple hours you can get together.
- Focus on What You Have
It might sound trite at first, but take a minute or two to reflect on all you have that is positive in your life -- even if it's only the basics, like food, clothing and shelter. A little perspective can help make you feel grateful for what you have. Dr. Gross suggests keeping a gratitude journal that you can open and read when you're feeling blue.
"You can restore yourself through meditation," says Dr. Gross. Meditation, by getting rid of stress, can improve your emotional well-being. And this calmness and inner peace can last throughout your day, according to the Mayo Clinic. Morin agrees, saying, "Journaling, prayer or meditation can be really valuable in a world that's comprised of constant noise and frenzied activity."
And if meditation doesn't work for you and you find yourself extra anxious, try these 101 Things to Do When You're Stressed.
Being a parent can bring happiness in and of itself, if you can focus on the present without worrying about all that you need to do. Morin says, "Whether you're playing with your child or driving to the store, be mindful of your activity, and skyrocket your overall level of happiness."
Laura Agadoni is a parenting writer and mom whose articles appear in various publications such as Modern Mom, The Penny Hoarder, Tom's of Maine, Global Post and Livestrong.