We all know that self-care is important for us as adults, but it is also important for our children. It is critical that we model ways for children and teenagers to learn how to take care of themselves. Self-care for all ages can help us be more introspective and make us aware of our own emotional and physical needs. This can help all of us be more prepared for what life throws at us. Even the smallest acts of self-care can improve relationships, decrease stress and increase overall health and wellness.
Kids are tiny sponges that soak up everything we do as adults. We can teach them healthy ways to care for themselves but we can also teach them unhealthy ways that we handle stress. We can all be teaching and modeling healthy self-care habits for any age. When we teach our children about self-care at a young age, this will teach them that their mental and physical health is important. Remember that our kids often learn more from what we do rather than what we say.
Self-care is unique to the individual and what works for one person may not work for the next person. You can model what taking care of yourself looks like for your children. Remember to start small with kids. Think about a task that may cause frustration for your little one. When you are exploring self care for littles, just keep in mind their age and developmental level. If they are having a hard time at a task, try taking a break and modify the steps so that they feel less overwhelmed than before.
The benefits of this practice are two-fold. You get to teach your children how to identify their own physical and emotional needs. You are also practicing self-care for yourself and we all need some extra care. You are creating a foundation for success for your children that will benefit them well into adulthood. Your child will be able to become more independent and learn how to take care of themselves.
Teach basic skills. Think about areas such as diet and hygiene. When you feed your child healthy foods, giving them a bath and brushing teeth, you are developing a foundation of healthy habits.
Below I have some self care activities that you and your child can try together. I did some research to get some ideas from children aged 4 and up regarding ways that they like to take care of themselves. These are great activities to do together and create connections between you and your child all the while taking care of yourself as well.
Don’t be afraid to be silly and have fun. Activities like coloring, painting, and playing are less likely to feel like work and they create emotional outlets and foster connection. Music and dance can have positive effects on your child’s development and self-awareness. Music is a great self-care activity and has been known to improve mood and promote well-being. Consider using background music to improve a frustrated or anxious child to improve overall mood.
Children want us all to put our phones away and play. Playing together fuels imagination, creativity, problem solving skills and well-being. Give yourself permission to play. These activities don’t necessarily have to be structured but you do need to have fun.
Create quiet family time. A few moments of singing favorite songs, reading a bedtime story or hearing about your child’s day before bedtime can create connection. When you prioritize this slow down time, it helps to create lasting, healthy habits.
Use mindfulness to be present in the moment. Every time we come home, we have the opportunity to shift our mental focus in a positive way. Remind yourself to leave what happened at work in the past and be present in the current moment now. Your middle and high school children may think you are being weird but you are modeling healthy self-care strategies and hopefully they will follow suit.
You can practice what is called a 3-step compassion break. This is something that you can model for your children. The first part is to acknowledge when something has been stressful. The second part is to acknowledge that stressful situations are part of life and other people experience this as well. Lastly, ask yourself, “What can I do right now to be kind to myself?” When your child sees you go through this and talk about it, you are setting them up for success to follow in your footsteps.
There is no wrong way or right way to perform self-care. You have to find what works for you and your family. All families are different and enjoy different forms of self-care. The earlier that you can start teaching these habits, the easier it will be to incorporate them into their daily lives. Practicing self-care will help you manage whatever stressors life throws your way.