Write me: rebecca@positive-parents.org
Today, I welcome Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD of parenthappy.org to share her post with us.

Children are naturally full of innocence, joy, exuberance, and wonder. Just spending time with them can be tremendously healing. They can help us recover the playful parts of ourselves, enjoy the moment, and see the world through fresh eyes. However, there are certain things that keep us from fully enjoying our children.
Trying to pack in too much
In today’s super-stretched culture of achievement, we sometimes pack in too much and end up getting annoyed when our children can’t keep up the pace. Too many work hours, house projects, parties, preschools, basketball classes, ballet recitals, hockey games, and piano lessons can leave us wilted or high-strung. We might take children to Target, the park, and their sister’s play at school in a single morning, which invites power struggles and not-so-perfect behaviors. The slower we go and the fewer transitions we have with children, the more we tend to enjoy them.
Not feeling happy ourselves
After having a baby, lives of both mothers and fathers change completely. Free time, work, and friendships look vastly different. There tends to be a crisis period in which parents grieve the loss of their “old life” and search for new ways to make themselves happy. Research suggests that having a baby can also significantly stress a partnership. As parents negotiate changes in chores, workloads, childcare, and recreation, conflicts arise. If we take proactive steps, such as journaling, going to counseling, talking to friends, engaging in self-care, and communicating, we can move toward wellness. It’s hard to enjoy children when we’re in a funk ourselves.
Lack of awareness of developmental issues
Children’s developmental phases might include: it’s all about me; I’m trying to be my own person so don’t tell me what to do; I’m going to test out my powerful self; mine!; I’m going to determine the boundaries of this place; and I want to do things on my own terms. Children have developmental difficulty sharing until at least age 2 or 2 ½ but really until 5, and true empathy does not mature in children until age 6. It’s great to condition and encourage children to share and be empathic before then, but we may not always be completely successful. When we shift our expectations of how children “should be” behaving, we can create room to be more understanding, patient, and content with them.
Smart distractions
The invention of the smart phone and other intelligent devices has made it easier to bring our work, email, social media, news, grocery shopping, weather forecast, job search, sports videos, and exercise software to the park, playroom, rocking chair, dinner table, and bleachers on the sides of kids’ sports games. Distractions like a smart phone can pull us away from our kids, and they can also cause us to not enjoy our kids as much. With an itchy beeping, tinkling, jiggling, tweeting, dinging, alarming device glued to our fingertips, it can be hard to throw the football around at the park, build with Legos, or cover our eyes for a game of peekaboo. With the world in our pockets, it can be hard to focus on or appreciate the people in front of us.
Not honoring the first five years as a unique, temporary time in life
It’s likely that never again will you be as needed and as in demand by your family as you are when your kids are 0 to 5 years old. As you give baths, change diapers, feed the baby, toilet train, wake up all night, play, read books, and give children more attention than you’ve ever given anyone, you may feel like your family life is pulling you away from the rest of your life. Your house may be messy, your grass long, and your emails unanswered. Remembering that this is a very temporary, very unique time in life can alleviate some of the unsettling feelings associated with changes regarding work, friends, family, or leisure pursuits.
In the blink of an eye, children grow up. Consciously savoring adorable, happy, and playful momentsensures we won’t regret our children’s early, most formative years.
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Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, mom to three, is an individual and marriage counselor for new parents in Chicago’s western suburbs. Follow her blog at www.parenthappy.orgor on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/www.parenthappy.org