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Advice for the pooped parent

  • 1998 10 Oct
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Advice for the pooped parent
It takes energy to be a parent. When you are really tired, even the smallest tasks can appear to be impossible. If you are like many people, you have a difficult time accomplishing all that you have to do while getting the rest you need. And if you have teens in the house it seems that they drain all the energy you have left.

The purpose of conserving energy and avoiding burnout is to move closer to your ideals for parenting: having more time to spend with your child in a positive way.

Learn to conserve our energy:

  1. Prioritize your time. Build "fudge factors" into your schedule; that way, if something takes longer than you expect, you don't feel anxious about the rest of your commitments for the day. Try not to pack too many emotionally taxing projects into one day or one week. Don't take on new projects when you know another family member has new projects or activities to deal with. Balance your schedule - and your family's - as much as you can.

  2. Choose one thing every day to say "no" to. Saying no is difficult, especially when you want to do it. You are not saying no to be rigid or mean, you are saying no to remind yourself that a lot of little yeses add up to one exhausted adult. Saying no will make you much happier when it is time to say yes. You will also teach those around you that you are not a soft touch for things they could easily do themselves.

  3. Let your teen-ager know how much energy you have for his/her needs. Picture yourself making this announcement to your family: "I've got a really busy week coming up. If I'm going to get through it without being impossible to live with, I have to conserve my energy." Can you say this to your family? Remember, teens are trainable. If you want your teen-ager to be a more responsible and responsive partner, you will have to tell him/her what you can and cannot do for him/her.

  4. Do not surrender your energy to the urgent. Children often use the last-minute strategy on their parents ("I have to know right away!"). Last-minute decisions take more energy than thoughtful ones. True, some decisions do not need a great deal of thought, but it is a good idea to have ground rules with your teen-ager allowing some time and thought for every decision. Most decisions can wait. If you get railroaded by a sudden plea to get involved with something that cannot wait, you will not only spend energy unexpectedly, but you will also resent your teen-ager for having put you through the experience. If you develop a " 20-minute-thinking-time-habit," your teen will learn to bring requests to you with at least 20 minutes to spare.

  5. If you find yourself spinning your wheels, stop. One of the best ways to save energy is to quit spending it in ways that do not get you anywhere. If you are constantly having the same argument with your teen, and nothing ever gets solved, give it up. It may be an on-going battle about cleaning the bedroom, or talking about respect or lack of cooperation. Stop pouring your energy into a black hole. The break will do everyone good.

From The Influential Parent: How to Be the Person Your Teen Really Needs by David Damico, copyright (c) 1997. Used by permission of Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, Ill., 1-800-742-9782.

David Damico, who holds a master's degree in pastoral counseling, has a heart for teens and great empathy for parents. He provides workshops and seminars on topics related to personal growth and parenting. His books, including his earlier work The Faces of Rage, grow from his counseling experience.