How to Honor Your Need for Space When You Have Littles

Welcome to the 2nd month of “Ask Flora”, where you can ask your parenting questions (for ages 2-10), to Flora McCormick, Licensed Counselor & creator of the Sustainable Parenting Mentorship.

Q. How do you assert your need for space when you have littles?

1st of all, I want to take a moment to say good for you, for acknowledging and honoring your needs during these parenting years.  I find many parents struggle with feeling “selfish” if they name their own wants and needs, yet giving 100% every day can leave us feeling empty.  In 2018 a survey of 2,000 parents found the average parent gets only 32 min. to themselves every day. Between feeding and picking up littles who are unstable walkers, or calming upsets, many moms express feeling “touched out” or burnt out at the end of the day. 

Here are some ways I recommend setting boundaries on physical & emotional space:

  1. Teach the “Interrupting Hand”, so they can get your attention without clinging, hanging or climbing on you: 

“Here’s how you can interrupt me if you need something. Put your hand on my shoulder and I will put my hand on top of yours.  Then, when I am able to pause, I’ll help you.  Let’s practice.” *as mentioned in the Feb. issue, it’s helpful to teach, then practice, then praise when they use that tool.

2.  Set boundaries (guilt-free!)

It’s good for your child to give friends, teachers, and others personal space, right? Why not let that list include (and start with) you?!  The parent-child relationship is a great space to practice things like, “You ask for a hug, instead of bursting right onto someone”, “You can ask a friend to play, instead of yanking his arm or pulling at his clothes,” etc. Teach it, practice it, praise when they do it.

3. Practice growing their ability to self-entertain

If they are just bidding for your attention constantly, and you have been feeling like it’s your job to keep them happy/entertained… it’s not.  It’s not your job to HAVE to watch ever ride down the slide, or play with them all day.  In order to grow their ability to play on their own, set expectations in advance: “I’m gonna sit here and talk to my friend. Find ways to play here that won’t need moms help.” At home, be intentional about setting up your child in a safe space, allowing them time to practice playing on their own.


Click here to view the full magazine article Montana Parent.

To get more sanity-saving strategies for parenting young kids, join Flora’s Free Facebook Group: Sustainable Parenting.  Questions for the next issue or wins/questions from this issue can be submitted to A special thank you to those who submitted our 1st questions!

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