Every evening when I was a career girl, before I had kids, I’d get home from work and change into my “meanies.” That’s the quirky word I use for my sweats and soft socks. Ahhhh, to strip off the remains of the day for instant comfort. Then I’d glide into the kitchen to rustle up dinner, sip a glass of cool wine. Self-care 101 for a working girl starts here: getting home and peeling away the stress of the day. And why shouldn’t kids do the same thing? Aren’t their lives worthy of a little rejuvenation, too?
Self-care has always been an adult issue, albeit an elusive one. “Take care of YOU!” a friend may say, but what does that mean? And how can you teach it to your children so they too can carve out that precious space for their own well-being?
teaching self care to kids
Just like adult lives have been hijacked by the impact of screen time, so have the kids’. As adult lives have become busier and complicated, so have kid lives. Today, with all of the rampant news about fragile mental health and kid stress, you can reach out to teach your children about self-care and how to create healthy habits that will see them into adulthood.
The truth is, self-care is important for growing, developing kids. In its best form, self care is identifying one’s physical needs and taking care of them before emotions take over and make matters worse.
care for the body
Self-care begins with your physical health and you can encourage that in your kids. You can encourage exercising in fun ways like playing in the park, taking walks, swimming or even going to the gym together. Emphasize how important it is to take care of your body from a young age. Kids can:
— Blow their nose
— Wash their hands often to off set germs
— Dress and undress with personal tastes in mind
— Brush hair and teeth
— Drink plenty of water
— Choose healthy snacks and prepare them
balancing screen time with down time
We all love our screen time, but it can also seep into our minds as though it is the only source of entertainment. This draining quality of media can impact your child’s happiness and stress levels, so it’s OK for you to talk about it out loud and name it: “Oh, I have spent so much time on Facebook and everybody’s lives look so great! I know they have problems, too!” Is a message the kids need to hear — the “perfection” found on social media, on Instagram posts and more — is an illusion they need to recognize.
Also, it’s important to teach kids to have fun away from a screen. Such as:
— Start a new activity (did you know kids ages 10 and older can learn to dive in Middle Tennessee?!)
— Playing a board game with the family
— Baking or cooking something
— Watching movies together (it’s a screen, but it’s a story!)
— Reading a book of their choosing
— Drawing, painting, listening to music, dancing
— Building something, such as a fort
— Camping away from cell-phone service
parents communication is key
Kids love the security of a routine, and knowing what to expect plus consistency. Knowing what’s going on around them can limit their anxiety and make day-to-day transitions easier. Be sure you inform your kids about what’s happening in their lives in plenty of time. For instance, if your child has a dentist appointment on Wednesday, remind him about it on Monday so he has it in his mind. There’s nothing worse for kids than having appointments sprung on them without preparations, so parents play a part in helping in this area.
encourage self care with your messaging
How your child chooses to care for himself will be unique, but you can encourage his efforts by noticing the strides he’s taking. Have conversations now about the best ways your child can care for himself, including how to take a break if he feels he needs one and how to express what’s going on in his mind if he’s upset. Help your kids to create healthy habits oriented around their well-being and they will be more inclined to stick with them as they grow older.
5 self-care habits for kids
• Deep breathing: Breathe in through the nose then blow out through the mouth. (Contestants who are nervous do this all of the time on shows like “America’s Got Talent,” — point that out to your kids.
• Get silly, divert the tough stuff: When a child is going through tough emotions, help him learn to reset by asking himself a totally off the cuff question like, “What color is the sky?” or “What did you have for lunch?” This simple exercise can bring him calmness and a feeling of resetting.
• Take a rest: Just like adults, when a kid has been dealing with a lot (test stress, friendship issues, family matters), a little down time can help. Maybe it’s 10 minutes in a room by himself. Maybe it’s coloring at the kitchen table. Whatever it is, teach your child it’s OK to do what he needs to do if he feels overwhelmed.
• Teach affirmations: Our minds are powerful and they can tell us negative thoughts based upon what’s happening around us. Same for kids. Teach your child to tell himself positive things such as, “I am a good decision-maker,” or, “It’s hard, but I can handle it,” or, “I am smart and kind and helpful.”
Teaching kids self-care strategies can help them to be mindful of their emotional and physical health. And in teaching them, you are reminding yourself, too. It’s goodness all around!