Three Tips for Staying Sane as a Parent

Three Tips for Staying Sane as a Parent

This guest post was adapted by Dr. Harley Rotbart from his new book, No Regrets Parenting – Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your Kids

It’s not always enjoyable to be with your kids. There, I’ve said it. Depending on their ages, kids can be physically taxing and emotionally trying. My “No Regrets Parenting” concept is all about capturing precious moments while you still can. So, how do you find the right prescription for wonderful and plentiful time with your kids, without overdosing?

Here are 3 tips for maintaining your balance:

1. Double-dip. Pick activities that you and the kids would enjoy without each other, then do them together. Here are a few examples:

  • girls on bicyclesBiking: Put the littlest ones in a trailer, the somewhat older ones on a trailer cycle that hooks onto your bike and lets your child pedal. Once your kids are old enough to bike next to you, then they get their own wheels. You get outdoor exercise, your kids get fresh air, and you get each other.
  • Charity: Do a charity walk together. You can form a team to get sponsors and you get to spend a day with them doing a healthy outdoor activity for a good cause. Or have a spring-cleaning day where everyone collects clothes and toys from the closets and under the beds to donate. Then go to the collection center together and show your kids the act of giving.
  • Jogging: Strollers made for keeping your kids close while you’re pounding the pavement are perfect for together times that relieve, rather than create, stress.
  • Language lessons: Learn a second language together by listening to tapes on long car rides or in the dentist’s waiting room.
  • Swimming: The pool feels great on a hot day whether you’re an adult or a kid. When the kids are old enough to play in the pool unsupervised, you can swim laps while they splash their friends.
  • Reading: Books are one of the best ways to reconcile different attention levels and interests.
  • Snow-shoveling and leaf raking: Depending on the age of your kids, you may be doing most of the shoveling and raking while they build a snowman or play in the piles of leaves. Of course, as the kids get older, feel free to assign them the harder parts of this partnership.

Mixed race student on the phone

2. Take advantage of their commitments. When the kids have activities that you can’t share, use that time to escape from parenting and indulge yourself. Your kids’ calendars will start to fill up with blocks of hours to which you’re not invited. These are vital growth opportunities for your kids—and for you! You’ve earned quality adult time and should feel no guilt taking that time for yourself when the kids are doing their thing. Sit in a coffee shop, go to the gym, watch your soap opera, take a bath, sneak in a rendezvous with your spouse. The more you enjoy your time away from the kids, the less you’ll feel burdened when you’re all together again.

3. Put yourself in “time out.” Don’t feel compelled to share every precious moment with the kids. When you’ve had enough, take a grown-up break and put the kids in front of the TV or take them to Grandma’s. Forcing yourself into nonstop togetherness with your kids will spoil them and may spoil your relationship with them. Absence, in limited quantities, can indeed make the heart grow fonder. Know when you need a breather, and take it. You’re not a bad parent because your kids are watching Mary Poppins for the fortieth time. This is especially important when your temper is about to flare, which it inevitably will do on occasion. Separate yourself from your kids until you’re ready to calmly and comfortably reconnect.


This post was originally posted on the now-defunct Mom’s Choice Matters blog.

About Dr. Harley Rotbart

Dr. Harley Rotbart is the author of the new book, No Regrets Parenting – Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your Kids (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012). Dr. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. For more about the book, and to read Dr. Rotbart’s No Regrets Parenting blog, please visit:

© Harley A. Rotbart, M.D., 2012




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