By Vicki Panaccione
"Running on empty
Running into the sun
But I'm running behind"
- Jackson Browne
Some times I feel that I could play this song all day long in my office, as I meet with one exhausted, depleted parent after another. These are the dedicated parents who almost single-handedly are keeping the medical community in business.
These are the parents who take their kids to the doctors for checkups, sore throats, broken bones, cavities, braces, acne, and on and on.
These are the same parents who do lots of other things to try to keep their children healthy. They provide good nutrition to teach healthy eating habits. They take care of their children's grooming by getting them haircuts, teeth cleanings and new clothes.
They see to it that their children get plenty of sleep, while also encouraging them to go out and play, get exercise, fresh air and social interaction.
Most of us will agree that we are those kinds of parents. We would also agree that all these things are extremely important aspects of a healthy, happy life. Right?
So, might you also agree that you tend to forget about these aspects for yourself?
What happens when we become adults?
How come all of these important ways of taking care of ourselves become practically non-existent?
Why are practices of health, nutrition, prevention, grooming and fun relegated to the young?
When was the last time you had a checkup, haircut, a good night's sleep, fresh air and time with friends? Why is it we don't even go to the doctor when we are sick?
Now, I know that part of the answer has to do with time, priorities and finances. Parents tend to feel that it is more important to take care of their children than it is to take care of themselves.
However, that couldn't be farther from the truth!
What kind of message do you think we send our children when we neglect ourselves?
Are we really setting the example that we want our children to learn? And are we doing them and ourselves a favor?
I don't think so.
I think that taking care of your self is crucial for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it sends a clear message that you are important, that you are not simply someone who takes care of others, but someone who also takes care of herself.
Secondly, taking care of yourself sets the example for your children to eat well, exercise, get enough rest, take care of their appearance, etc. This is the model that your children will learn from.
And finally, taking care of yourself helps you refuel.
If you do not take care of yourself, there is the very real risk of running out of fuel. Running on empty leads to impatience, sickness, and totally depletion.
On the other hand, the more you take care of yourself, the more energy, patience and joy you will have available to take care of your children and enjoy being a parent.
So, what can you do to refuel?
If there are medical concerns, see a doctor. If you are feeling isolated, see a friend. Stressed? Get a massage, take a bubble bath, walk on the beach or go to a yoga class. Neglected? Get a haircut, manicure, buy some new clothes or bring home some fresh flowers.
Take time to refuel. "Running on Empty" is a very depressing song. How about trying for:
My, oh my, what awonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine heading my way
- Al Williams
Clinical psychologist, Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D., has a specialized practice in Melbourne, working exclusively with children, adolescents and families. For the past 25 years, she has enjoyed a renowned reputation with the media, educational and medical communities as an expert in parent/child relationships.
"Dr. Vicki" is an international speaker and workshop facilitator whose seminars are dedicated to helping parents bring joy and fulfillment to their relationship with their children.
She is the author of Discovering Your Child: Parent Guide, and the weekly online newsletter, "CaringConnections." She is the proud mother of Alex, a student at Emory University, and lives in Indian Harbour Beach with her husband, Jack.
To contact Dr. Vicki regarding her workshops, seminars or publications, call (321)-722-9001 or visit www.askdrvicki.com.