How many times have you been told that self-care is essential for your well-being? A lot. Probably a million times just in 2020! Now how many times have you talked to your daughter about self-care?
It’s pretty easy to neglect that, because…aren’t kids naturally pretty self-centered? Isn’t everything we do because they asked us to do something for them? They are the sun to our Copernicus, right?
But childhood mental, behavioral, and mood disorders are on the rise in the U.S. children and youth. I’m only in my early 30’s, and the stuff kids experience today is completely different than what I did. The pressures of perfectionism on girls is strong, but we can help them! When we remember that self-care isn’t “selfish”-care and is a core part of our well-being, of course it makes sense that we teach kids about it!
I don’t think it has to be super hard to teach our kids the basics of self-care. This won’t be a sit-down lesson you give them (though you could have more frank discussions with older children about the why), but a natural part of raising them and their development. We can help them learn how to take care of themselves and get proper rest physically, emotionally, and mentally through our interactions with them and the culture we create in our families.
It doesn’t have to be hard, but it does need to be intentional and consistent on your part. So here are some easy ways to teach your kids about self-care.
Shop for food and cook together
This does not have to be a big deal, but it’s so important for kids to learn! Let them help you pick what fruit or vegetables you buy. Talk about eating the rainbow and how different colors of food helps them grow strong (Kids Eat in Color has a great post about this that we use allll the time). My kids get excited about eating food they picked and are more willing to try new foods after we’ve identified how it helps their bodies.
Have you ever witnessed a kid in play therapy? They make stuff up all the time. It’s kind of the point. The kid will create a story that typically relates to something going on in their own life, whether or not they realize it. As they tell the story and come up with some kind of resolution, they’re working through their own issues/traumas. It’s pretty fascinating. So when you play make-believe with your kid, let her be in charge.
Did you know that laughter should be a major part of self-care? It has physical and mental benefits for us and our children. While we were on our last vacation, we realized that we forgot to bring books for bedtime. We have a couple memorized of course, but we started taking turns making up our own stories. My 5 year old told a long story, with every sentence ending in “and guess what?” before she started a new one. Even our 3 year old told a crazy story that had us all laughing at the silliness. And joke-telling is a big part of our household. My kids make up jokes all the time that make zero sense and have no punchline, but they know they’re telling a joke and will start laughing at the end immediately, making everyone else laugh too. I 10/10 recommend finding ways to laugh together without the use of a screen.
“Dear diary…” I will never stop praising the power of journaling! In addition to and even more important than the academic benefits, it allows kids the chance to process some of their feelings, write things they’re not ready to say out loud yet, and be imaginative.
There are a couple ways you can do this together. You can either both write in your own journals at the same time next to each other on the couch, or you can find a parent and child guided journal where you write in the same journal knowing the other person can read it. Those are fun because it builds your bond in the process! Journals like the Loom Connection Journal and Just Between Us are great for this! On January 2nd this year we started a daily family gratitude journal where we each write in one thing we’re grateful for every night. It has been so sweet and funny to hear the things we’re grateful for and is a great reminder to look for the good each day.
If you haven’t turned on Cosmic Kids Yoga, were you even a parent in 2020? We have done so many of those videos this year and they’ve been a lifesaver! I love that she has videos for young and older kids, so everyone can do it at their level. Whether you do her videos or find others, yoga and meditation are great ways to help kids learn to calm their minds, focus, and de-stress.
It’s amazing what blowing bubbles can do for a tantrum. This can be a precursor to meditation for young kids. When we’re anxious or scared, we take really shallow breaths from our chest. It’s not an awesome feeling. Blowing bubbles helps kids (and us, try it) learn to deep breathe from our diaphragm, which reduces stress and cortisol levels. Take some time to teach your kids how to blow big, deep bubbles when they’re in a great mood, so that when they need the help calming down, they’ll have practice!
Did you know that simply being outside lowers stress, cortisol levels, and heart rate? You can do physically active things (yay endorphins!) like hike, bike, walk, swim, or you can put up a hammock or lay down a blanket and read books together or pick out animals in the clouds. For our vacation that we just returned from, we specifically wanted to go somewhere we could spend as much time as possible outside. We had a great week in Idaho Falls and Yellowstone! The majority of our time was outside in nature and it was good for the soul. Big skies, open fields, geysers–it felt like we had so much room to breathe! When we got back, there was such a calm feeling in our home for a lot longer than I expected!
Help your kids see how music affects their moods. In the mornings, we frequently listen to the classical station on the way to daycare. FYI we call it unicorn music because we imagine unicorns flying around gracefully to it. We also frequently listen to the Frozen 2 or The Greatest Showman soundtracks because we can belt those suckers out and it is fun! When someone is upset, we sing primary songs from church to cheer us up. At home, we put on a lot of music we can dance to. Again, no sit-down lessons needed, just say something like, “Ok, we need to get pumped up, what songs do we want to dance to?” and have a dance party!
Create a screen-free night routine
Science clearly shows that screens at night screw up sleep, and kids need sleep! Various studies show that it’s best to put screen away 30-90 minutes before bed. So with your daughter, come up with a new evening schedule! You could even incorporate some of the self-care suggestions above! And don’t just make the schedule with her and tell her good luck, show her by example and put your screens away too!
Serve others together
We feel good when we help others. That doesn’t mean you have to spend every day on a service project, there are many little ways you can serve others. Come up with a list together of how you’d like to offer service. It can include those smaller gestures like opening doors for people, helping a new neighbor move in, or more formal service projects, like things the school puts on or ones you can find in your community at JustServe.
Always remember that self-care is not a one-and-done situation, for you our your daughter. These are habits that you can teach her by your words and actions, that create a culture of self-care in your home. As we teach them young to be aware of their mental, emotional, and physical health, we are setting them up for a lifetime of peace and a sense of their self-worth.
If you do some of these things, please share and tag me at #aspiringtogether or @matildaandjo!