With everything we have to do in a day, the last thing we parents need is more items to add to our to-do lists. But wait! These 10 to-dos will leave you feeling better for having done them and happily ready to tackle whatever else life throws your way. So let’s take a collective deep breath and give ourselves a pat on the back for having gotten the kids settled into a new school year—or even a new sleep routine!—and enjoy the feeling of checking off each of these to-dos.
1. Smile when your child enters the room. Simple advice, from a wise friend, that yields amazing results. Rather than being critical or questioning our children, smiling at them sets an entirely different mood, one that’s more conducive to conversation and connection.
2. Trust your instincts. Resist one-size-fits-all parenting advice and trust your gut instead.
3. Put down your phone. Be where you are. Talk (and text) less; listen more.
4. Spend one-on-one time with each child. Whether you have four children or one. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s worthwhile. You’ll see—or be reminded of—a side of your kids that you might otherwise miss.
5. Eat dinner together. Better yet, cook it that way, too. Not only does eating together lead to better eating habits, but it nourishes our minds and spirits, too.
6. Always give you kids the benefit of the doubt. Be their ally. Let them know you believe in them and show them that what they feel, say, think and do matters.
7. Count your blessings: your kid, whoever is helping you raise them, your friends, your family, food on the table, a bed to sleep in. Take time to consider all you’re grateful for: from the quiet in the morning before everyone wakes up to the feeling of your child’s hand in yours.
8. Play with your kids more. Not only does it lower stress—yours and theirs—but it also unleashes kids’ creativity while helping develop their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Better still is playing together outside in nature.
9. Spend time with people who love spending time with their children—and yours. Create a community that celebrates and supports the important job of raising kids. And then invite others in. Share meals, outings, babysitting, rides, resources, wisdom, laughter, tears, expertise, feelings, worries, ideas, and camping trips, among other things.
10. Appreciate the moments. Even on the most crazy days, there are highlights: when all the packed lunches end up with the right kid, at the right school’ when you get a shower and, bonus, five extra minutes to sit with your kids at breakfast. Celebrate the small stuff. And slow down enough to enjoy the time you have together.