Updated: Aug 17
Parenting can be brutal at times, and all of us need a break now and then. But self-care is only one piece of the parenting puzzle! When it comes to helping your kids grow in God's design for emotional health and sexuality, the other important pieces include:
Instruction: teaching your child God’s design for sex, preparing them for exposures that will inevitably happen, and explaining how to respond to temptation
Support: ensuring your child feels heard and understood, as well as affirmed in their biological gender
Mentoring: modeling to your child how to respond to emotional discomfort, peer pressure, and curiosity
Protection: doing all you can to ensure digital safety for your child but also safety from those who may intentionally or even unintentionally harm them
Your own continuing education: utilizing books, blogs, podcasts, online courses, and talking with other parents to help you improve your skills in all the areas listed above.
That’s a lot of pieces to worry about. That is why it is important for parents to be intentional about taking breaks for their own mental sanity. But what about when it’s time to get back to the kids?
Juggling isn't keeping every ball in the air at the same time
I remember many years ago when I was panicking over the overwhelming tasks of trying to do all of this while also working on my own personal growth, career, marriage, and spiritual life. A pastor was counseling me and gave me the following illustration:
He invited me to imagine each of these areas of my life as separate balls to be juggled. That is assuming I can juggle, which I cannot, but let’s pretend I can for a moment. A juggler does not try to keep every ball in the air at once, because that would be impossible. In fact, only one ball at a time is ever at the top of the juggling arc. He explained that, like a juggler, I should not try to keep all the balls in the air at the same time. Some balls have to take a lower priority in the juggling arc in order to make room for others to rise.
The same is true in parenting. You cannot, and should not, spend all of your parenting energy doing any of the items in the list above. Instead, let each have its turn rising to your full attention while letting others fall to a lower priority for a while. Give your full attention to each of these areas in turn, knowing you will get to the others soon enough.
Putting This in Practice
Record this list of balls to juggle: Instruction, support, mentoring, protection, my education, self-care. The order is not important; you can mix the list around however you like.
Start your focus on any item on the list. This might be the one you think you have done the least of recently. Plan when to do this—perhaps putting it on the calendar.
Select a time period to focus on this item. It could be as short as a day or as long as a month. You can change your mind but start with a general idea of how long you want your focus to be on this particular task.
When the time period is over, move on to the next item on your list and select a time period specific to that item. Don't assume you have to give every item on your list the same amount of focus time. It's fine if you do, but you might also decide to adjust the length of time per item.
Work through all of the items before returning to the first one on your list. It is certainly possible that you will need to jump to a different parental task “out of turn” to address a specific need or situation. But try your best to follow a specific order and not leave any of the items out.
Be intentional about planning breaks for yourself.
Parenting is About Relationships, not Formulas
I realize this may seem like a formula, but it's not! Good parenting is about thriving in relationship, not flawlessly following a formula. The purpose of this exercise is to help you feel less stressed about the number of tasks you have to do as a parent because you have developed a general plan to get to them all (eventually).
My hope is that learning this organizational skill may help you have more peace of mind in your parenting, knowing you have a plan to make sure you don’t forget something important.
Thank you for investing in your children!