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11 Self-Care Tips When You’re Raising Kids and Caring for Your Parents at the Same Time



Raising kids is a full-time job. When you become a caregiver for your parents, you’re essentially taking on another job. There’s also the mental and emotional load to consider — welcoming one life into the world while preparing for another to depart stirs many complex feelings. This is why the best tips for supporting your children and parents at the same time revolve around self-care.


1. Believe in Your Parenting Decisions

You have something in common with most parents if you constantly second-guess your parenting decisions. Raising kids is complicated — it’s normal to be unsure. However, adding caregiving duties into the mix amplifies those feelings. You have to make tough decisions about who gets your attention, time and energy. Sometimes, those choices feel wrong.


No “right” choice exists when you have to decide between things like attending your child’s recital or staying home to tend to your parents. Learn to let the uncertainty go by practicing mindfulness. Believing in your decisions — even if they seem wrong in hindsight — can help you deal with the stress of your situation. 


2. Leave Room for Treats When Budgeting

Leaving some wiggle room in the budget when you spend about $10,000 per year caring for your children and parents might feel wrong, but it isn’t. Don’t feel guilty getting that name-brand coffee you really like or splurging on a treat every once in a while. The only way to fill your family’s cup is to start with a glass half full — meaning you must feel fulfilled, too. 


3. Let Yourself Feel Negative Emotions

Parenting is challenging enough as it is — the tantrums, dirty diapers, messy rooms and sleepless nights are enough to drive anyone up the wall. Instead of grinning and bearing it, let yourself be upset. Allow yourself to complain, get sad or be bewildered. You must feel negative emotions to process and release them. 


Right now, you’re probably frazzled and possibly grieving — and you might not realize it because your responsibilities are pulling you in too many directions. Don’t be a martyr, believing you must do it without complaining. Emotions, even negative ones, are natural. By accepting them, you allow them to pass.


4. Give Yourself Time to Recharge

Your first instinct is probably to put your family first. While being selfless feels necessary in the moment, you’ll eventually begin running on empty. One of the best tips for supporting your children and parents at the same time is to rest. You need to give yourself time to recharge to be the best parent you can be.


Time to recharge doesn’t have to mean you spend the entire day at the spa or a golf course — as nice as that would be. It can be something as simple as going for a walk. Walking outdoors is a natural stress reliever and mood booster. The oxygen-rich air, greenery and movement release endorphins, improving your cognitive performance and sense of well-being.


5. Ask for and Accept Help from Others 

Unlike child-free caregivers, you can’t put yourself on autopilot until your situation changes. At this stage of parenthood, you are nurturing and fostering autonomy. In other words, you must be mentally and emotionally present for your children. Shouldering this huge responsibility can feel overwhelming, so asking for help is sometimes necessary.


If you have a partner, family member or trusted neighbor who can step in, ask for their help. If you’re the only reliable caregiver in your life, seek a professional. Having unbiased professional help can alleviate some of the built-up tension between you, your children and your parents. They'll know exactly what to do since they have years — maybe decades — of experience. 


6. Strive for Balance, Not Perfection

Perfect parents don’t exist. So why do you juggle so much expecting to never drop the ball? One of the best tips for supporting your children and parents at the same time is to strive for balance, not perfection. Accept things as they are, knowing a forgotten appointment, occasional microwave dinners and unsuccessful bedtime routines are a part of parenting.


7. Give Your Future Self a Hand

Lend your future self a hand by budgeting time to be proactive. Clear your schedule, create a distraction-free environment and make it clear to your family that this time is yours. One proven parenting tip is to prepare dishes like casseroles, stews or runzas in bulk and freeze them. This way, you can cross grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking off your to-do list. 


Ingredients like blueberries, spinach and nuts are excellent choices because they’re nutrient, vitamin and antioxidant-dense. They boost your brain’s production of serotonin, promoting relaxation and stress reduction. They can even strengthen your immune system — which comes in handy when the flu inevitably goes around your child’s school or daycare. 


8. Model Empathy, Patience and Respect

During the nurturing stage of parenthood, your actions build your child’s worldview. When they grow older, they pay attention to everything you do and model those behaviors. When caring for your parents, demonstrating empathy, patience and respect as often as possible shows them how to act when their emotions feel too big. 


If your children are too young to understand logic, practice emotional regulation exercises like deep breathing, dancing or walking. If they’re old enough to understand, take the time to walk them through the issue. This way, when they get upset or feel impatient, they have go-to behaviors they’ll instinctively fall back on. Your future self will thank you.


9. Set Daily Quiet Time for Yourself 

Kids are loud no matter their age, whether they’re crying, whining, playing or fighting. Of course, you also have your parents in your ear making requests or pointing out what they’d do differently if they were you. One of the best tips for supporting your children and parents at the same time is to get away from it all for a moment. 


Research shows even one night of noise exposure prompts your body to produce stress hormones, raising your risk of health issues. Visit a quiet space — whether that’s your bathroom or the park across the street — daily so you can sit without being tugged on or talked to. The silence will relax your body and mind, rejuvenating you for the day ahead. 


10. Take Time to Work Through Tantrums

Managing your kids’ tantrums when you’re busy and behind on your to-do list might make you feel like you’re at the end of your rope. Remember, their feelings are just as big as yours, but they don’t know how to regulate them yet. Taking the time to calm or redirect them may not feel like self-care, but it grants you peace of mind and keeps you from walking away frazzled. 


11. Find an Outlet for Your Emotions 

There aren’t many people in your situation. In fact, only 27% of people in their 30s and 54% of those in their 40s are a part of the sandwich generation — the term for adults who raise their children while caring for their aging parents. When you don’t have many people you can relate to, addressing your swirling emotions and thoughts can feel unachievable. 


Regardless of whether you have a friend or family member who can relate, you need an outlet. After all, people like you spend 77.4 hours a month providing care on top of parenting. Consider visiting a therapist or journaling to express your thoughts. This way, you address them instead of holding on to and internalizing them. This approach is healthier for you and your family.


You’re Doing Better than You Think You Are

Many of the best tips for supporting your children and parents at the same time revolve around taking care of yourself first. What you’re doing is fantastic and should be applauded, but you must remember that the line between being selfless and self-sacrificing is thin. If your family is happy and loved, you’re doing better than you think.

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