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Question

Is it OK to need a break from my kids?

Amanda "Bird" Hoffert Gilmartin, MD, FAAP

Answer

This is a question every parent has asked themselves at some point!

Parenting is hard. You give all you've got to love your kids and make sure they're safe and thriving. You may not be sleeping well. You haven't had time to yourself. You miss being with other adults.

The daily pressures of juggling work, kids and everything else can feel like too much. You might feel even more tired and stressed out.

Why it's good to take time for yourself

Taking time for yourself is not only good for you, but also good for your kids. It's a lot easier to support them when you're refreshed after a little mental and physical break. There is no shame, failure or lack of love in needing time for yourself. We care for others best when we have taken care of ourselves as much as possible.

Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Spend time with a friend in person or on the phone

  • Take a walk

  • Try meditation or breathing exercises

  • Run out for a favorite treat

  • Schedule an activity with someone you love

If time is short, even a simple 15 minutes to take a shower or read a book when your kids are in a safe place or with another caregiver is helpful.

Always be safe.

Leaving kids alone, even if they're asleep and you have a baby monitor, isn't safe. Some states have a law about the age a child can safely be home alone. Even if your state doesn't, most children younger than 12 are not safe to be by themselves without an adult. Here are some tips to help you decide if your older child can be safely home alone.

Find a babysitter or ask a trusted friend or family member to care for your kids. Whether it's for 15 minutes or a couple hours, someone responsible should always be present with your kids. If you're on vacation, check with your hotel about a list of local babysitting services.

But what if I can't afford to hire a babysitter?

If you have family, friends or neighbors who also have kids, you could work out caring for each other's kids from time to time. Ask at your daycare, preschool or school for resources. There might be someone in your faith community who would volunteer to help.

How do I know if the person caring for my kids will be OK?

It's important to know and trust the people who care for your kids. If something doesn't feel right, trust yourself as a parent and don't leave your child with that person. Make a list of one to three trusted people you can call on to help. That way when you really need help or are stressed, you already know who to call. Remember, you're not alone, and you can lean on others to help!

Make time for fun things

Besides getting out and having time to yourself, doing things you enjoy together with your kids is good for them and you.

  • Taking a walk with your baby in their stroller

  • Reading, coloring, building blocks

  • Playing a board game or outside game

  • Preparing a meal and eating together

  • Doing a craft together

Connect with other parents

Joining a parent's group through your faith community, neighborhood organization, gym or community center is another way to make time for fun. Many are free to join and provide a connection to other parents.

Remember

All parents need time for themselves. When you take care of your own mental and physical health, your kids benefit too. If you ever feel like being a parent is too much, it's OK to ask for help. You can also talk with your pediatrician who can connect you with more resources.

More information

Amanda "Bird" Hoffert Gilmartin, MD, FAAP

Amanda "Bird" Hoffert Gilmartin, MD, FAAP is an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado with a dual appointment in general pediatrics and the Kempe Center, where she serves as the Assistant Clinical Medical Director of the Child Health Clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado. She is the Medical Director for the Children's Hospital Colorado foster care clinic - Kids In Care Settings (KICS). Dr. Gilmartin also serves on the executive committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Child Abuse and Neglect. In 2019, she received the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Child Abuse and Neglect award for Outstanding Service to Maltreated Children.

Last Updated
2/3/2023
Source
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright @ 2023)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

 

This resource is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC or the U.S. Government.
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