So many parents struggle with meeting the expectations of the perfect families posted on Pinterest and Facebook. In today’s world of dual working parents, many of us struggle to create that “perfect” environment for our families. We fear that our children will be harmed if do not create the perfect home with everything just right all of the time. There is no such thing as a perfect home. In reality, children are more harmed by parents being stressed about making everything perfect.
According to brain research, when parents are stressed, it causes their children’s cortisol levels to increase, (Essex et al. 2002). High levels of cortisol in early childhood may impact a child’s ability to handle stress in adulthood. So, take a deep breath and relax! The fact that you are reading this, means you want what is best for your family. They need quality time hanging out with you. Put the screens down, and just play with them. I can hear you saying, okay, I turned off the screen, now what? It is easy, let them lead! Break out the Legos, dolls or whatever your child’s favorite toy is, ask open ended questions, and follow their lead. Turn on music and have a dance party! Play dress-up. Bake cookies. (The refrigerated kind, not the ones that take 3 hours to make.) Play a board game, yes, they still exist! Be silly, the sillier the better. Use shaving cream to clean the bathroom counters with your hands. The book, Playful Parenting, by Lawrence G. Cohen, provides additional ideas for having more fun with your children.
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We are often told that parenting is our most important job. It is a job that does not have a training manual. No one does it perfectly. Have fun! Having children allows you to be a kid again. I give you permission!
Essex, M., Klein, M., Cho, E., & Kalin, N. (2002). Maternal stress beginning in infancy may sensitize children to later stress exposure: Effects on cortisol and behavior. Biological Psychiatry, 52(8), 776-784.