How Moms and Dads Cope With Summer Vacation
Dear Mom and Dad,
It’s time to take care of yourself. I promise that you, your kids, and your partner will be glad you do.
Inger Burnett-Zeigler, PhD
Psychologist, Northwestern Medicine
Pressures of Summer
Summer is heating up, and so are the pressures on parents to care for their kids and keep them engaged.
“In summers, parents can feel an incredible pressure to have all the hours of their child's day accounted for,” says Inger Burnett-Zeigler, PhD, a Northwestern Medicine psychologist. “And, that can bring about anxiety or pressure in the parent to make sure he/she feels like he or she is doing something productive with their child.”
While every family and situation is unique, there are common themes of stress and anxiety among those with the role of primary caregiver over summer months, she says.
The pattern can backfire and spiral downward.
“While you're trying to have your child be the most engaged and active as you possibly can, you end up spending less time with them as a parent and are less likely to engage the child in a positive way,” says Dr. Burnett-Zeigler. “That can then lead to more guilt.”
Try to figure out how can you can work in time for yourself every day. Take a few minutes to identify activites or things you enjoy, and then think about when and how you can make “me” time.
“One thing I really underscore with people whom I'm working with, no matter what their individual circumstances are, that there can be an urge to place the conversation on the kids and how you're taking care of the kids and everything that you're doing for the kids or your family,” says Dr. Burnett-Zeigler. “But, I really try to redirect that conversation around, ‘How are you taking care of yourself? How are you as an individual feeling?’”
It could be an hour or two after the kids have gone to bed. It could be a few minutes to relax with your partner. Do volunteer work. Help others. Just a few minutes a few times a week can make all the difference, she says.
“I like to talk with people that no matter what your structure is, there is a way to carve out time in the day to have a moment to be with yourself, to do something that's pleasurable for you,” says Dr. Burnett-Zeigler. “If a person is feeling or experiencing a higher degree of stress and anxiety, then normally we all do as parents, that might be an indication or a time for reflection on what should I be doing differently?”
Do You Really Have To?
Worrying about the well-being of your child often coverts into worrying about getting everything done – taking care of kids, work, social and volunteer obligations, partnerships, cleaning, laundry, yard work and more.
“I pose the simple question, ‘Do you actually have to do all of those things?’” says Dr. Burnett-Zeigler. “People are often shocked by the question and realize there are many things and many activities they really don’t have to do every day.”
It’s okay to enlist the help of others – be it a cleaning service once a week for bathrooms and mopping, or a friend or relative to watch the kids for a few hours while you go for a haircut or out on a date.
Do What You Love
“Make sure to carve out time to do something that brings you joy,” says Dr. Burnett Zeigler. “I really try and underscore that it can be something so small – a walk at lunch, an hour in the evening for a cup of coffee, a manicure-pedicure.”
Whatever it is, it doesn't have to be time consuming or expensive. Take care of yourself with something you want to do, and do it without shame to do that.
“Not only is it okay, it's good for you and the people that you're taking care of to take care of yourself in this way,” says Dr. Burnett-Zeigler. “Your health, your mental well-being is important too.”
Interested in connecting more to the Northwestern Medicine community? Sign up for
the Healthy Tips E-Newsletter for
everything from health and wellness ideas to patient breakthroughs to academic and medical
advancements. Because what makes us better, makes you better.