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Why Rest Makes You a Better Parent

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Part 2

In my last blog I emphasized how critical rest is to effective parenting. And I mean rest for YOU, mom, and dad, not just your child. When we cultivate a place for rest in our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual being – we are more patient, more in control of our thoughts and actions, more purposeful in what we say and do, and we create a stable and peaceful environment around us.

When we learn to do this and practice it regularly, the result is an atmosphere in our home where our children feel safe, they feel affirmed and seen, they know home is a place where they can be real and open about what they’re going through – home is their haven. And with the chaos in our culture today, isn’t that what all of us parents want?

So, in this blog, we’ll talk about learning to give ourselves the last two: physical and spiritual rest.  These four concepts, I believe, are part of the foundational structure for us becoming strong and steady individuals – and therefore – strong and steady parents. 

Physical State

Physically resting may mean a few different things to you. Maybe it’s putting your feet up for a while after a long day or getting a catnap in (parents of littles, I see you!).  It could be putting on your favorite TV show or scrolling on your phone in peace. While each of these things may seem like you’re physically resting, you may not actually be experiencing true rest.

“The mere absence of physical or mental activity doesn’t necessarily mean you are truly resting. Mindless scrolling or binge-watching can be as energetically depleting as working hard toward a deadline or grinding out a challenging workout.” – SheDefined

Getting yourself to a place of physical rest doesn’t just mean things you do with your body. We are intricately designed by God to have our mental, emotional, and spiritual states linked to our physical state. That means we must make changes in our mind to subsequently allow our body to rest. Make sense? Here are some things for you to try this week:

Learn to say no

Sometimes, you’ve just said yes to too much. You agreed to attend a social engagement that you don’t have the energy for. You said yes to another task at work that you don’t really have capacity for. If we aren’t careful, we end up living without any boundaries!

When we spread ourselves too thin, we wind up physically exhausted first and mentally and emotionally exhausted second. All these things are connected! It’s okay to say no, it’s okay to reschedule and it’s okay to put your health first. Being honest with what you can handle (and not what others may think) is the first step to finding some rest.

Give yourself some rules

Believe it or not, resting doesn’t mean a total lack of a plan. When you don’t have any parameters to “rest” within you can actually cause yourself stress! If you find yourself with a little bit of free time, you may convince yourself that it’s the perfect time to clean out the garage or tidy up your pantry – neither of which are truly restful. Productive and helpful? Sure. But not restful.

You must be the drill sergeant in your mind, watching your thoughts and tendencies carefully so you don’t stray into other activities. Create rules for your “rest” time so you can enjoy it. Here are some mental rules you can speak over yourself:

Rule #1:

This rest time is for something I truly, deeply enjoy that recharges me. NOT tasks around the house or work.

Rule #2:

I’m allowed to rest. It’s not something I have to earn. Rest is as much an integral part of a healthy life as work and caring for my family.

Rule #3:

Guilt has no place in my rest.

Tip: Try implementing some “rules” for your kids! If you notice them feeling overwhelmed or they seem to be acting out more than usual, share with them how Mom and Dad both have rules on how they calm down and rest when they are having big emotions. Ask them what “rules” they would like to make for themselves and make it into a fun, thoughtful activity. You can even make it a family art party where everyone writes down their own rules for their “rest” time and puts it up in their room to remember. Kids thrive within boundaries, so help them decide what boundaries are important to them!

Prioritize sleep

I had to throw at least one very tangible, physical practice in here. Now, everyone’s situation with sleep is different – I understand and acknowledge that. You can’t help if your kids are keeping you up or waking in the middle of the night and interrupting what little sleep you get.

HOWEVER, I am a firm believer in making intentional choices that help you be a better, healthier, happier parent – and prioritizing sleep is one step to achieving that.

Think about your sleep schedule this past week. What time did you go to bed? Were you scrambling to clean the house, finish that task or workout after the kids were in bed? None of these are bad, but if it is keeping you up past 11pm or 1 am each night you’re simply going to be exhausted! An exhausted parent is less happy, more irritable, has a shorter fuse and less patience for everyone around them. That’s a fact.

But guess what? You have permission to go to bed earlier. It’s true! YOU are the one keeping yourself up and you are the one who can choose to prioritize your sleep. Just try to go to bed an hour earlier for the next week and see what happens. I think you’ll be surprised!

Spiritual State

Resting within your spirit is a very personal thing. It requires vulnerability and honesty with yourself, acknowledging the things that you’d rather ignore. It’s a practice that does involve work and I understand why many of us shrink from it. We don’t like to be uncomfortable or sit in silence and examine our own thoughts.

Friends, this is where the beauty of a relationship with God takes center stage. We were never meant to carry all these mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual burdens on our own!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

Read those verses again. Take a deep breath and slowly let the tension you’ve been holding bleed out. You were never meant to carry this burden. You don’t have to do this alone. You are loved and you are supported by the One who created the heavens and the earth. You’re allowed to rest in Him.  

This may be a new concept for you, and it may seem a little scary. That’s okay! I’ve learned that when I stop fighting it and spend time with God, I find exactly what I’ve been needing: peace, encouragement, and rest. True rest.

There’s a reason I left talking about the spiritual state until the end, because I believe it’s the most important one. You could be doing all the exercises for your mental and emotional health and getting good sleep every night and still struggle to find peace because your soul is restless.

I’ve found that when I’m overcome with worry, anxiety, frustration, and anger, it’s because my spirit hasn’t been spending time with God. This is not just a piece of my day that I must fit in around my other priorities. It is THE priority that must come first for everything else to move in peace around me and within me. I’d argue that our spiritual state dictates our mental, emotional, and physical states more than anything else.

So, how do you bring your spiritual state to a place of true rest?

Prayer

Before you say you haven’t got time , let me redefine prayer. Prayer is simply talking to and with God. Share your thoughts and your day with Him. Tell Him when you’re frustrated and you need patience. Tell Him when you’re happy and say thank you for the blessings He provides and even (and most especially) when things are hard, and you can’t find joy. All of this is prayer.

Involve Him in your day and watch as the good seems to grow and the bad seems to shrink. Note: If you’re new to prayer, this is the perfect place to start. As you grow in your walk with God and become more comfortable and familiar speaking with Him, your prayer life will deepen and evolve. It’s a truly wonderful thing!

Tip: This understanding and practice of prayer is an amazing place to start with your kids! You can teach them just how much God loves them and how He is always ready to talk and listen to them! He cares so much about the feelings and ideas they have, and He wants to be involved in their day. You can show them how to think about Jesus when things are good, bad, sad, and frustrating. He knows what those feelings are like, and He can help us work through them! Emphasize that this is something Mom and Dad do as well and share why it helps you.

Community

Being part of a like-minded community walking with God is crucial to your spiritual health. We were not created to live solitary lives that are solely focused on ourselves.

With kids, that’s virtually impossible – but isolating tendencies can still creep in as a parent. Do you have close friends or family that you spend time with regularly? Is that something you don’t have but long for? That pull on your heart and soul is implemented by God because we are stronger together!

Moms, getting into community is a little easier for you simply because there are so many options these days. There are MOPS groups aplenty, church-led women’s studies, bonding through kids’ extra-curricular activities and being on school boards. I know finding time to be intentional with community may seem like a joke, but you are allowed to make space and time for healthy connection.

If you’re married or co-parenting, share with your partner that you need x amount of time a week/month so you can get together with some friends.

If you’re a single mom, reach out to family and friends if they are nearby and set up a babysitting schedule to give each other some time to be out with community.

If these aren’t options for you, set up playdates whenever you can. You may not get dedicated quiet time with your friends during this season, but you can be around another mom or parent who understands the life stage you’re in and that is just as valuable for your spirit!

Dads, male community still seems to be a difficult thing to find naturally. Unless you’re plugged into your church or you have a sports league, you’re already a part of, finding good, healthy, and encouraging male connection can seem like an uphill battle. You may feel like the idea of community is a more feminine need, but you need community just as much, if not more than women do.

Why is this? In general, men have been taught to be totally self-reliant.  Men can “figure things out on their own”, and don’t need to confide in male friends or family.

This is one of the biggest lies that men today have been taught. When you are surrounded by a healthy community of men, you are stronger!

Connect with other dads you know through work, church, or your kids’ sporting events. Get together for beer, golf – whatever it is you enjoy doing. You also need and deserve time to recharge and be uplifted in your friendships!

If you made it this far, congratulations! I felt like this topic deserved some deep diving. Learning how to experience and implement true rest in your life as a parent is going to benefit you for the rest of your days.

The practices you make time for now will become habits and those habits will set you up for more peace-filled parenting days than crazy, chaotic ones. You can’t control everything that’s going to happen, but you can equip yourself to handle whatever situation comes your way.

I hope these two blogs have given you hope that achieving rest as a parent is possible. I want to see you succeed in your parenting journey and I want you to know that I am here for you, cheering you on.

I have several courses that will help you on your parenting journey.  If you want to build a strong relational connection established on true rest with your children as you raise them from toddlers to adulthood, check out my Simple Discipline that Works course, on pre-order now. Effective discipline starts in the mindset of the parent.

You are making choices now that will give you a better parenting experience AND give your kids a great example to follow.  They will learn that peace in any situation is possible because they saw Mom and Dad do it. That’s one of the greatest gifts you could ever give.

 

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