Positive parenting: ‘fit your own oxygen mask first’

Anisa Lewis of Positive Parenting and Coaching draws on 20+ years in education – and 14 as a parent herself – makes the point that you can’t look after your children’s wellbeing if you’re neglecting your own.

image of Anisa Lewis

It's not every day that we can glean a pearl of parenting wisdom from the announcements we hear on a plane... but 'fit your own oxygen mask first' really is an important message we can take from the airlines. To help others, we need to help ourselves first.

The point is that in parenting, like other aspects of life, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Sometimes it’s OK to put yourself first – in fact, it can be better for everyone.

5 ways for parents to consider their own wellbeing… for the good of the whole family 

Prioritise Sleep

Rest and sleep are the first things to go when we are overwhelmed, stressed and trying to fit everything into our day, including getting some alone time. To make sleep a priority, set yourself up with an enriching bedtime routine that's consistent and predictable. Going to bed at a similar time each night, keeping phones and tablets out of the bedroom and including something calming such as a meditation all help the body to realise it's time for sleep. As parents we can’t always control the sleep of those around us, but what we can control is our own approach to sleep. You and the whole family will reap the rewards.

Appreciate the simple things

We always seem to be on our way from one thing to the next – but it’s good to stop along the way and appreciate the everyday stuff. Try focusing on the things you’re grateful for. These could be as simple as having a warm home and running water or taking a nice walk with the dog. Doing this will help you to put some of the things you’re finding challenging – whether related to parenting or not – into context.

Seek joy

Work out what brings you joy. What do you think about in quiet moments, what makes you jealous when you see others doing it? Brainstorm ideas: being out in nature, learning a language, visiting a museum or art gallery, reading, an exercise or sporting club, learning a skill, crafting, or laying down in a darkened room! Once you've identified it, how can you incorporate this into your week?

In the same vein, what makes you laugh or happy? Is it playing with your kids or date night with your partner? Be intentional and do it.

What you prioritise grows, so make yourself a priority and commit to make it happen.

Pockets of Time

Look at your day, week, where are the pockets of time that could be used?

Allocate time to your commitments, including sleep, phone use, kids’ activities, work, and what you need to get done in the week. Are all 24 hours in your day taken up with ‘stuff’ or is there wiggle room?

Diarise it

Simple as that! Look at your diary for the week and book a date with yourself, whether it be a bath, a catch-up with a friend or a sporting commitment. Mark it in a different colour so it stands out and gives you something to look forward to. Make it a non-negotiable as you would with a doctor’s appointment. Then, barring an emergency, it IS going to happen.


Whether it's yoga or walking, skiing, or running, exercise is about moving your body daily to help your overall wellbeing.

For self-care to work, it needs to be made a priority. What are you going to do to fit your own oxygen mask first? One idea is to set a 21-day challenge, decide on one thing that will make you feel like you have put yourself first, and start, do it every day, no matter what and see how you feel as a result. At the end of the 21 days, I promise, you will thank yourself.

So don’t be reluctant to take some time out for yourself. Phone a friend, put aside a little time for personal development, listen to music… or even, dare I say it, do nothing at all! Positive parenting means looking after yourself, too.

Articles on mental wellbeing

Discover helpful information and advice.