Self care has become an expected phrase in everyday conversation and for good reason: Our lives are becoming even more busy and complicated by screens and social media, and bogged down by a lot of work responsibilities. Because of that, self care has become more and more important. But what about our kids? As we think about the impacts of screen time on our adult lives, it’s important to consider the effects of screen time on children. Additionally, as we become more busy, there’s a natural impact that those cluttered schedules have on our kids. That’s why it’s also important to teach your children about self care and how they can create healthy habits that will see them into adulthood.
Explaining Self Care to Kids
Self care is just as important as academics for growing, developing kids. When taught correctly, self care will help kids identify their physical needs and begin to take care of them, before emotions can ever get in the way.
Oftentimes when parents are in a hurry (and if they’re a parent, they likely are), they do tasks for a child. When this happens, children aren’t taught to think independently, problem solve or assess what their needs are.
So, if a child comes to you and asks for help, first ask yourself if this is a task they can realistically accomplish on their own. If it is, encourage them to tackle it first on their own by saying:
I believe in you and that you can do this by yourself. I’ll be here if you get stuck, but try it first on your own.
Here are ways to put that into practice.
Teach Kids to Take Care of Their Bodies
One of the most important aspects of self care is taking care of your physical health. The same applies for children. There are a lot of ways to encourage healthy habits for children, such as:
- Exercising in fun ways like playing in the park or playing catch
- Deep breathing, going for a long walk or doing stretches together
There are also smaller tasks that a child can accomplish on their own that will make them feel empowered to take care of their bodies, like:
- Blowing their own nose
- Washing their hands
- Dressing and undressing
- Brushing their own hair
- Brushing their own teeth
- Getting their drink themselves
- Helping with food or snack preparation
Teach Kids About Fun That Isn’t on a Screen
Yes, kids love their cartoons, super heroes or favorite video game. But the truth is, kids can start to rely on what’s on the screen as their central source of entertainment. This could negatively impact their happiness and stress levels in the long run.
It’s important to teach kids how to have fun away from a screen. Take a few ideas from these activities that teach kids about self care:
- Have a dance party
- Have a pillow fight
- Play a game that your kids make up the rules for
- Go for a family bike ride
- Go for a walk or hike
- Bake cookies
- Draw or paint
- Tell jokes to each other
- Blow bubbles
- Play at a park
- Play make believe
- Build a fort
Develop a Healthy Family Routine
Routine is incredibly important for developing children. They give kids a sense of security, and having tasks or events they can predict throughout the day will limit anxiety and make day-to-day transitions easier.
As you look for ways to teach your children about self care, look for ways to develop a healthy family routine. Build in a “slow down” time into each day. The slow down time can be a time where the family is device-free, where the TV isn’t on and everyone is either reading a book, drawing, playing a quiet game or practicing meditation. These calm activities can help wire a child’s brain for mindfulness.
Even creating structure around meal times can dramatically help your child understand the importance of giving themselves time for healthy essentials. Have a set time for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and work to keep those meals as distraction free as possible.
Find What Works for You and Your Family
Every child and family unit is different. While there’s no exact formula for self care for you or your child, it’s important to start having conversations now about the best ways your child can take care of their mental and physical health. If you’re able to help them create those habits now, they’ll be more inclined to stick with those habits when they’re adults.
As always, we’re here to help. If you want to talk with our pediatrician about ways to teach your children about self care, simply call for an appointment.