The benefits of self-care are well documented, both anecdotally and in scientific research. And while most of us are familiar with the concept, it’s less common to talk about self-care for kids. But that’s a shame. Because at the end of the day, it’s no less important.
Self-care is something we may need to proactively instil in our children. Many children naturally gravitate towards activities they love and get enjoyment from. However, they don’t necessarily understand why this matters. Explaining the importance of practices such as mindfulness and checking in with our own feelings will equip them with important life skills as they grow into adulthood.
So, how can we teach self-care to our kids?
What is self-care for kids?
Let’s start with the basics. Self-care is a broad term that covers mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and social practices that help you to support your own physical and mental health. In a nutshell, self-care encompasses all the activities we choose to participate in with the intention of enhancing our own wellbeing.
Of course, this looks different for different people. For example, for you it could mean a long, solitary walk in nature, while for someone else it might be sharing feelings with friends. And while then general drivers are the same for kids, the practice will certainly look different as well.
Self-care for kids might be jumping on the trampoline, drawing in a journal or having a playdate. Of course it will also include the important basics, such as limiting screen time, getting enough exercise, sleep and nutrient rich food, setting boundaries and connecting with others. But even though as parents and adults we see the value in those, a lot of kids won’t necessarily.
And that’s why it’s important that we teach self-care to our kids.
Why is self-care for kids important?
We know that practising self-care can have fantastic benefits. It helps manage stress and increase energy, reduces the symptoms of anxiety and boosts productivity. It can also increase self-confidence, positivity and happiness, which has a great impact on mental health and a young person’s ability to identify and regulate their emotions.
These life skills are incredibly helpful for anyone navigating the ups and downs of life at any age. But having these healthy habits and practices in place from a young age will better prepare our children – the adults of the future – to deal with whatever life throws their way.
Childhood is full of challenges and change. Finding one’s way through the massive emotional, mental and physical milestones of growing up can be far smoother when our children are armed with emotional intelligence, mental resilience and a positive outlook.
How to teach self-care to kids
Children of any age can learn about the importance of self-care. Start by just talking about it. Make it a part of your regular family conversations.
You can teach your child about the wide range of emotions and how they can check in with themselves to identify how they are feeling in that moment and what they may need. You can schedule self-care windows for your child. Specific times to check in. This then becomes an expected part of their day or week, and become a strong habit.
As with most new skills, modelling the desired behaviour to your child may be even more important than talking about it. Make sure you practise what you preach and engage in self-care activities for yourself. If you struggle to set time aside to cater for your own needs, remember that by helping yourself, you are helping your child.
Self-care ideas for kids
Some ideas to get started are:
· Enjoy a family discussion around the dinner table, where each person talks about the best parts of their day and what they are grateful for, as well as something they are looking forward to.
· Uninhibited arts and crafts time, where they are given access to a wide range of materials and are free to create whatever they like. This is about the process, not the end result.
· Sensory play can be great for mindfulness. Set up a tub of water, playdough, slime, shaving cream, rainbow rice, coloured spaghetti or magnetic sand and let them focus on being in the moment.
· Put on their favourite music and dance freely.
· Enjoy a walk in nature together.
· Pour them a warm bubble bath.
· Practise ‘slow down time’, during which you could both read a book, listen to a kid-friendly meditation, complete a mental body scan, practise deep breathing or simply put down a rug and stare at the clouds or stars.
· Blow bubbles together.
· Let your child choose some positive affirmations that resonate with them.
· Make an emotions chart or flip book together so you can practise identifying different emotions and brainstorm ways to self-regulate.
· Create a ‘calm corner’, where you can keep soft toys, cosy blankets or fidget toys, for when any family member’s emotions are about to spill over. Model using it to help teach your child about self-regulation. · Find a kid-friendly yoga or stretching class on YouTube.
· Schedule time to engage in family activities to strengthen the connection and sense of belonging felt by your child.
Remember that self-care for kids may look different to how you would practise it. So it’s a great idea to let your child engage in a wide range of activities to see what fills their cup.
We’re here to help
We’re here to help your kids… and you, with self-care and more. If you think it might help to have a chat to a Young Minds clinician, find out more here.
Please call us on (07) 3857 0074 to book an appointment with one of our clinicians. Or send us an Appointment Request via this website and we’ll contact you as soon as possible to book a suitable time for you.
Author: Di O’Malley – Founder and Managing Director of Young Minds Health and Development Network, and Counselling Psychologist.