Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy your children
It can be a struggle to enjoy your little children when you’re feeling overwhelmed. A season of illness, a new baby, a husband who travels, school starting, or any disruption can start of cycle of overwhelming feelings.
When we’re overwhelmed and exhausted, it becomes really hard to think clearly; and when we’re overwhelmed and not thinking clearly, we can’t give our children our best.
In those days of overwhelm, we stop seeing the joy in life. Then the children start behaving in reaction to your negative emotions, and a terrible cycle develops. To help you, I’m going to give some concrete ideas on how to stop the overwhelming whirlpool that is sucking the joy out of life.
Create a daily routine to enjoy your children
To start, I want to emphasize that it’s really important to keep a consistent daily and weekly routine for your children. Having a routine provides expectations and boundaries in the day and that gives them security.
Children thrive in secure environments. They like to know what to expect and when to expect it. We all do! It’s what gives that feeling of relief and satisfaction when coming home from a long trip, even though the trip was probably a fun vacation. Aim for a consistent daily routine.
On your own with your children?
Does your husband travel for work or does he have an erratic work schedule? Mine did for many years, so I understand how hard it is not to have someone to depend on. Those years were hard. You may find yourself wondering how to enjoy your children.
I was alone with kids all day and night. I had little children, a lot of them, and I had to come up with systems and strategies to cope. That’s what I write about here and in my book. It’s what I fill the Free Resource Library with.
I had a deep desire to create a beautiful life for my children, and that took thoughtful effort. I didn’t do everything perfect and I learned a lot of hard lessons, but I did the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time.
Hopefully, you’ll find something here that will add to your knowledge bank so you can create better days for you and your family.
I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed with the following strategies, just add one idea at a time. Once you have it established and consistent, add another idea. Just taking small steps to re-learn how to enjoy your children.
Create good habits with your children
- Have a consistent bedtime routine that starts at the exact same time every evening. Give the children a 10 minute heads-up before it starts. Bathe or wash-up, pajamas, brush teeth, drink, then story time and a song. Pray with them. Give hugs and kisses, say good night. Important: do the exact same bedtime routine every night.
- Bedtime stories: one picture book that they choose and one Bible story. Not an endless stack of books, just two stories.
- Have a consistent morning routine for the children. Have breakfast at a certain time. Say “Good morning” to each one with a happy voice and give each one a hug. Nobody wants to wake up to a barking voice or “Hey, get up and get moving.” Greet them with a smile and cheer, even if they wake up grumpy.
Structure your days
Structured days are a great step towards learning how to enjoy your children
- Have regular meal and snack times of healthy foods. Feed them every 2-3 hours. Thank God before each meal/snack. Say a short and sweet prayer, a memorized prayer, or a song prayer. Hungry children will have behavior problems, so will moms. Remember to eat regularly, every 2-3 hours.
- Every morning have a teaching time when you choose a book and activity to do together. Make it fun! Take pictures of your fun to remember later.
- Have a naptime / Quiet Hour every afternoon right after lunch Table Chores. Snuggle on the couch and read one or two stories before naptime.
- Have a Read Aloud Time every day, choose a chapter book that would be interesting to them. They can play quietly while you read, color, or snuggle but ask them to be quiet while you read. Stop occasionally and ask them to say back what you read or retell the story. This helps build their listening skills which will help with so many other areas of life.
- Give them free play every day: but not a free-for-all the whole day. Make sure your children have open ended imaginative toys. Melissa and Doug, Montessori, and the like. Remove all noise makers unless they add significant value (this is for your sanity). There are great options that create imaginative play that grows their minds and keeps them busy with stimulating activity for long periods of time.
- Every day play outside: in your yard, go to a park, and/or go for a nature walk. Do something outside for at least one hour every day. You can split it between morning and afternoon. Show them the beauty of creation. Get a bird guide, a tree guide, etc. There is a beautiful world to explore, start showing it to them. There is science behind all the benefits of being in nature for children and adults.
- Put a time in your day for playing with puzzles or art. Or Sit Time where each child goes to a specific spot with a stack of age appropriate books for a certain amount of age appropriate minutes. Use a specific playlist for these times of day. Playlists invoke a mood, quiet music for quiet times like puzzles and art. Cheery up-beat music for Afternoon Chore Time.
- Evening: play games, play outside, read stories, take a walk. Live deliberately, if Dad is there in the evening, do something enjoyable to build that connection.
- Give children table chores. I.e. Put dishes in the dishwasher, wipe the table, sweep under the table. Thank them for their help, give praise. We all eat, chores give purpose and value to both the food prep and the effort it takes to create meals. Make them an event and have your children help. Even little children can help; in fact, preschoolers are great helpers in the kitchen!
- Have a toy pick-up before lunch. It should take 10 minutes or less. If it takes longer then there are too many toys out. Use a 10 minute music playlist, the same one every day, for toy pick-up. You could also use a kitchen timer but a playlist is more pleasant. Choose cheerful songs. You’ll have to help them and show them how to pick-up. Teach them also to put a toy away when they are finished playing with it. Having certain locations for certain toys helps them learn orderliness. “Everything has a place, everything in its place.”
- Hold a daily Afternoon Chore Time: basic cleaning chores. Get a small broom and dust pan, a feather duster, dish pans or small baskets for toting clean laundry. Invite your children into your work. Give them praise and say thank you! Give them hugs.
- Assign a kitchen helper for each day. When you are working in the kitchen, have that child assist. Get a child sized spoon, a chef hat, make it fun.
Be Intentional about your attitude
- Name five things you love about each child. Write it on a list. Read it every day. Look for positive aspects about each child and tell them, encourage them. “You were so kind when you ______” and a hug is a more beneficial approach than scolding them for unkind behavior.
- Teach them to love each other. “We are a family, we love each other, we take care of each other, we help each other.” Show them what that means, demonstrate it, talk about it. “You saw that _____ needed help and you helped her! Good job loving your sister!” Don’t allow them to treat anyone in the family as a burden. Set the example, “Oh, the baby is crying, let’s help him!”
- Don’t allow name calling from anyone. Always use encouraging words that build up.
- Pray for each child specifically. For their day and night, their future, their faith, their spouse who is your future son or daughter-in-law, their struggles, everything. Pray all the time for your children. God is always with you and his mercies are everlasting. He gives wisdom to those who ask, so ask him all the time for wisdom in loving and caring for your children. The joy of the Lord is your strength!
Take care of yourself.
- Get healthy, eat the colors of the rainbow, cut out sugar, drink water, walk or exercise every day. All those things will boost your endorphins.
- Smile. Put a pencil in your mouth so that your face has to smile. There is evidence that forcing the face muscles to smile actually causes real smiles and changes your mood to be more positive. There’s science behind it.️
- Pay attention to your inputs: music, shows, books, people. Choose positive and encouraging inputs. Don’t feed yourself with negativity and expect to get anything but negative results. Look for it and add to it. Unfollow accounts that are negative or snarky. They might be funny in the moment but they bring you down in subtle ways.
- Most importantly: pray without ceasing. Pray about everything. God is with you always. God loves you! Read the Bible and get to know him better.
If you need help
If you feel like you might harm yourself or others, get help. There is no shame in that. Call a hotline, tell a friend or your husband, your medical provider, just get help. Your kids need you, the world needs what you have to offer. There are hormones that can become unbalanced and addressing that issue can make all the difference. You might need to address issues in your past that are affecting you and your ability to parent right now, talk to a professional counselor about it. Ask God for wisdom in how to seek help.
You can regain enjoyment of your children.
There is nothing like a mother’s love. The Mama Bear effect is real. Tap into that Mama Bear within and work on creating a beautiful life for you and your children. Seek out inspirational activities that will build connection, involve your children in your work, do fun activities with them, and explore the world with them. You can learn how to enjoy your children again. Look for the joy, ask God to show it to you. You can do it.