Children’s Literature: The Key to Stress-Free Parenting
Written By; Samantha Munoz
Being a parent is the single most stressful, inspiring, draining, motivating, intense, and awesome thing I have ever experienced in my life. It is my duty as a parent to be my daughter’s first teacher, to be there in her formative years and to shape her to be who she is meant to be. Can we pause for a minute and talk about the pressure that goes along with that? My goodness – I don’t know how many times I have thought to myself, “what if I mess this up?”. What if I am not a great parent or teacher? What if I say or do the wrong things? And heaven forbid I think about something other than my daughter at any point during the day – right? If I’m not there teaching her 100% of the time, who will be?
These questions and the questioning of myself and my abilities led me down a dark and self-destructive path as a new mother. I wondered about my worth and my skill as a parent. I doubted myself when I normally was so confident. This parenting thing was no walk in the park, and it certainly did not come with any A-Z formula to follow for perfect, angelic, and smart children. Nope, I had to figure this one out on my own and have all the pressure on me (and my spouse) to be the sole teachers to my daughter – or so I thought.
Let me take a step back and introduce myself.
My name is Sam, and I am a children’s literature enthusiast who was once a totally stressed out mom (as you might have realized by now). I have been through the toughest of times as a new parent – and some days I can still get sucked into the darkness – but I have found a solution to help take some of the burden of parenting off of my shoulders and bring me peace. The solution? Kid’s books!
I wrote a book called The Intentional Bookshelf where I go through all the steps to curating a collection of books that reflect your child’s unique self and in turn help you be a better, less stressed parent. When we are intentional about the literature we introduce to our children, we are letting the stories help us teach. That means the stress of being the sole teacher to our children doesn’t have to really be all on our shoulders. We can let the books take some of the load.
We have curated our own personal library for our daughter – we have infused our family values, interests and selves into her bookshelf. When she picks up a book and reads it, there is a purpose to it. I want to get specific about how this helps me as a parent:
1. I can’t be there 100% of the time, but the books act as my parenting proxy.
I work full time, and on the top of that, I am currently a solo parent (my husband is away – we are a military family). I love what I do and I appreciate that I am finally comfortable letting myself be happy and fulfilled instead of feeling like I have to give everything just because I am a mother. Without literature that incorporates the things I really want to teach my daughter, I do not know how I would be able to do it all and still be able to look myself in the mirror. Since I have thought so carefully about what her bookshelf will include, I can trust them and let them work their magic in teaching her. The books are my aid.
2. Stories are concrete examples of abstract concepts.
Often times abstract ideas are difficult to explain to children in a way they understand. Let’s take the example of cheating. The easiest way to explain to a child what cheating is and why it is wrong is to provide an anecdote – be it personal or fictional. Depending on the situation, it can be difficult to come up with these anecdotes on the fly, or at all. However, a book supplies a story and relatable characters for your child to not only be interested in now but to remember in the future. If they are introduced to a story about cheating and understand the real repercussions the character faced, they might be less inclined to cheat. They can relate to the character, instead of just hearing mom or dad say “cheating is wrong”. It gives something tangible to hold on to.
3. We connect on a daily basis at an intimate level.
Our bedtime reading sessions are sacred. Whether I am solo parenting or my husband is home, whoever is in the house is involved. These are moments for us to relax as a family, to engage in a story together, to snuggle and to be present and mindful. Sometimes our nightly reading sessions will only last a few minutes but occasionally we will read through several books.
When you are a busy family with work, errands or activities, having this special time together is so important and knowing it is “scheduled” in every night can really help combat those feelings of unworthiness as a parent when they come creeping in. You’re really present with your child, sitting cheek to cheek reading together – that’s expert parenting to me! I like to think that I’d rather be with my daughter 20% of the day, but give her 100% of my attention than spend 100% of my day with her and only give her 20% of my attention during that time.
I urge you, please do not believe you and your spouse (or just you!) have to parent empty handed or that you have to give up a piece of yourself to be the “perfect parent”. Children’s books are insanely insightful and valuable and when you take the time upfront to curate an intentional bookshelf, it will give you peace of mind knowing your child is in good hands when they are reading.
If you want help right now creating your own #intentionalbookshelf, join my list and take the free Curate Your Core Library Quiz to receive 5 unique book recommendations that align with your specific intentions.
Samantha Munoz is a mother, wife, engineer, bibliophile and avid coffee drinker. She is also the expert kid’s lit curator at Addison Reads and author of The Intentional Bookshelf. Sam writes children’s book reviews to guide parents as they search for the perfect books for their little ones. She also helps moms and dads build a library with a purpose. Once a seriously overwhelmed and stressed out parent herself, Sam turns to children’s literature for the answers to all of her parenting dilemmas. She lives in sunny San Diego, California but loves when it rains because it gives her an excuse to stay inside and read with her daughter! You can find Samantha’s blog at addisonreads.com. “The List” (where you can get the quiz): addisonreads.com/email and if you’d like to purchase a copy of The Intentional Bookshelf, you can do so here.