Self-care for parents

Dad holding smiling young baby

You have seen family selfies all over social media — photos of celebrations, milestones, or simply good times. Family selfies are a great way to share the joyful, rewarding sides of parenting. But where do you go to share other sides to parenting — feelings of stress, guilt, anger or being overwhelmed?

You might not see these emotions expressed on social media. But it may help to know that it’s common for parents to feel stressed, guilty or overwhelmed.

  • Most parents agree that being a parent is tiring or stressful — at least some of the time.
  • Parents also feel rushed, which can add to feelings of stress and of tiredness.
  • Many parents believe they spend too little time with their children. This can lead to feelings of guilt.

Let’s face it. It’s demanding to be a parent — whether your child is in diapers or driving. But there are things you can do to help make less-than-camera-ready emotions a little easier to manage.

Zoom in on how you’re feeling

You probably know your child has a cold before the first tissue leaves the box. But as a parent, you may not recognize when you are stressed, overwhelmed or anxious. These symptoms are harder to recognize, but can include:

  • headaches
  • having trouble sleeping
  • feeling tired, sad, or nervous
  • being easily angered

Parenting is rewarding, but it can also be challenging. It’s important that you take time to practice self-care.

Get yourself back in focus

As a parent, sometimes you need to be reminded that it’s OK to do things just for you. But taking time for yourself and your needs is important. You can think of it this way. When you practice self-care, it's your time to work on self-improvement — not just for you, but also for your child or family.

You may already know the basic building-blocks of self-care. These are activities that can help you live healthy and well.

  • Find time for exercise (even a walk around the block) and choose healthy foods.
  • Maintain your friendships and pursue your hobbies.
  • Get some fresh air and take time away from electronics.
  • Find time for spirituality or simply time to explore your own thoughts through a practice such as mindfulness or meditation.

Practicing self-care is exactly that; a practice. It will take regular and routine time and effort. But the good news is that you will likely feel benefits every time you practice — even if it's just feeling more energized or less stressed.

Turn the lens back to you

Mindfulness and meditation are growing in popularity around the world. These are simple practices that help you quiet your mind and focus on your internal body and self. They are also excellent ways to relieve stress, tiredness, or feeling overwhelmed.

Fortunately, practicing mindfulness or meditation doesn’t require special equipment, lots of time or a special talent. You can squeeze it in any time you can find a few focused minutes without distraction. Perhaps it's ten quiet minutes after your kids go to bed or a few minutes in the middle of your work day. You can even practice it while your toddler is enjoying their favorite TV show. The best part is that mindfulness or meditation isn't meant to replace a chaotic family life, it's designed to fit right into it. You just need to start the practice to find out when it's most beneficial to you.



Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. September 2018.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. 

Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.