New Year’s Resolutions: Parenting Edition

With only 41 days into the new year, you have done one of two things with your new year’s resolutions: stuck with them or got rid of them. Parenting resolutions tend to be things that can help individuals become better parents. You want to hug more and yell less. You want to have more family time and say “don’t” a little less. You would like for your children to eat more kale. However, juggling your responsibilities of being a parent, a student, co-parent and/or a partner makes keeping resolutions—even really good ones—hard.

I’m here to tell you that if you stuck with them or did not keep up with them, “It’s ok,” and “Tell that inner type-A personality to calm down.” Sometimes, the children won’t be in bed by 8 p.m., or your partner duct taped the kids to the wall because they couldn’t find a babysitter. Life of a student parent is unpredictable and hard when you are trying to balance a full-time course load and full-time parental duties.

Typically, this is the portion of the blog where the author gives you a list of their own parenting resolutions, but this author is giving you only one resolution: Give yourself a break, and appreciate the small wins. That’s it. Parenting resolutions tends to be about doing something more or something less because you feel guilty or remorseful. Parenting is more complicated than that, and change is hard. There is more to change than making the decision to change.

In order to create change, you need to acknowledge and understand the causes of the problem or behavior. Next, you need to create an effective strategy and stick with it until it becomes a habit. This process can involve endless amounts of research and books on child development to come up with these strategies. This takes time, effort, and energy. How can you do this in addition to being overwhelmed and exhausted as a student parent? Trying to be the perfect parent by learning and applying these strategies while balancing other responsibilities is challenging and nearly impossible.

So, give yourself a break. Take one challenge at a time, and celebrate the small wins. If you get the kids to eat a bite of vegetables, give yourself a pat on the back. When you tackle one obstacle at a time, they tend to have a lasting positive impact on our kids. You can help them have higher self-esteem, gain confidence, and teach them self-control so that the yelling decreases as you figure out the best way to communicate with your children.

Change is a layered, non-linear, maybe even cyclical process, so take a moment to breathe. Start with your parental instincts, acknowledge your talents, and improve your skills one step at a time—not all at once. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to figure it all out immediately or in one go. We can ask for advice or google search “my child doesn’t burp as often as other kids” or “I accidentally ate baby poop, am I going to die?”

Parenting is a lifelong process that allows us to learn about ourselves and our children during different stages of our lives and through different life events. In the words of an awesome therapist, “be gentle with yourself.” Take it one day at a time or one moment at a time, and lean into the unexpected. It can be a beautiful thing without the pressure.