As parents of teens or grown-up kids will tell you, enjoy your child’s young years as much as you can. Yes, we know that the days can be a grind (stomach bugs, poopy nappies and tantrums are no joke). But, one day, like most of us, you’ll look back and wish you could go back in time and hug your child as a baby again, or hold their hand for one last time.
Because, unfortunately, amongst the grind of day-to-day parenting, those special moments can get lost. When you’re tired from work, your toddler being pleased to see you might be taken for granted, or you won’t fully appreciate the picture they’ve drawn. For a while, those moments are the norm. But they won’t be forever. One day your child will be a teenager, who doesn’t want to hold your hand anymore (understandable, but still sad!), and is more keen to see their friends than you.
So, how can you make the most of being a dad amid the struggle?
Try and let go of the small stuff
Little people can be really hard work. There’s spaghetti bolognese on the floor, and paint on their arms from pre-school. They need a bath but they don’t want one. A screaming session ensues. How can you see the positives and make the most of your time together?
Firstly, deal with one issue at a time, calmly. Maybe removing the paint can become a game in the bath- how quick can they scrub it off with a sponge? And don’t sweat the small stuff- if you need to stick Peppa Pig on for five minutes while you deal with the stain on the carpet so be it.
Yes, these situations can be stressful but try not to overreact, and when faced with an issue take a deep breath before finding a solution. Tomorrow you won’t worry about the carpet stain or the bath tantrum, so try to take it in your stride today.
Put your phone down
If you’re distracted while parenting, you might be missing a lot. We’re not suggesting you can’t take a break and read the football news, but if you’re often delving into your phone then you might want to put it in another room.
Being present mentally is best for both your child and you. Not only can they see they’re worth your full attention, but you will also have put a major distraction to one side to enjoy time with your kids. With your email and pinging messages out of the way, you can enjoy making a den in your daughter’s bedroom, or watching your son play with his toy cars.
Those special moments you spend together are important to absorb, as this stage only lasts temporarily. Plus, quality 1-1 time increases the bond between you.
Breathe in, breathe out and be in the moment
If your brain tends to fly all over the place and you find it hard to enjoy what’s going on around you, you’re not alone. The stress of being a modern parent, juggling work, child care and life at home can be hard. From time to time, all parents will go through periods of feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and it can be hard to put your worries aside and enjoy time with your kids.
One way to feel less stressed and back in the moment is to try 4-7-8 breathing. This is a powerful tool which can bring you back to the moment within a minute or two, and help calm your mind. You can also try it anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
To do 4-7-8 breathing, start by taking a deep breath in for a count of 4. Hold the breath for a count of 7, and then release it to a count of 8.
4-7-8 breathing engages your body’s vagus nerve response, and tells your system to relax. Practising it daily provides you with a number of health benefits, helping your digestion and lowering your blood pressure.
Anyone who finds it hard to relax and enjoy the moment can find a release through 4-7-8 breathing, and as well as using it on an as-and-when basis, you can also practise it daily, first thing in the morning and last thing at night, to help your body’s overall anxiety control.