Making yourself a priority

• When your children are young, start building their independence so they learn to to give you some space. Start by spending one minute in a separate room or part of the house—or less if you have to. Add a little more time each day until you work up to what feels like a reasonable break.

• Let your kids know when you need a few minutes to yourself. Validate their need for your attention and tell them specifically when you’ll be available: “I really want to hear about this. I’ll be able to listen a whole lot better in ten minutes (or when the timer goes off or when this show is over or when the big hand is on the six).”

• If your kids are around while you’re taking time to yourself, tell them what they’re allowed to do and where they’re allowed to be while you’re in the next room (or your bedroom or the tub, for example). If necessary, make arrangements with an older child in the neighborhood to come over to watch your kids for a few minutes.

• Start a baby-sitting coop with another parent (or two or three other parents) in your community. Plan to take their kids for a couple hours a week to give them some free time in exchange for your kids staying with them to get a few hours to yourself.

• Hire a sitter. If money is a problem, volunteer a small portion of the time you take for yourself to run an errand for the person watching your children.

• If you’ve got a parenting partner, request a commitment from him or her to spend time with the kids without you being there, preferably on a regular basis (like every Tuesday from 7:00 until 10:00).

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to taking time for yourself is guilt! Leaving your children in competent hands so that you can get away gives you a chance to “replenish the well.” Take care of yourself.

Excerpted from The Parent’s Little Book of Lists: Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Parenting, by Dr. Jane Bluestein (Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1997).

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