A healthy self-care practice is key to maintaining mental and physical health. Children need guidance, as well as an example to follow when it comes to practicing self-care. Teach children as young as toddler age, simple self-care practices to benefit them their whole lives.
How to teach your kids to practice self-care at home
Here are a few simple ways you can help your kids practice self-care at home.
Set a good example of self-care
The first step in helping your children practice healthy self-care is to set a good example yourself and to discuss this with your child.
- Exercise: Take a walk, start in a yoga practice, hit the gym. When you do, say to your child: I do yoga because it’s good for my heart health and it helps me relieve anxiety at the end of a hard day. By discussing the what and the why, you show them good outlets for body care and stress relief.
- Get good sleep: It’s so easy to push ourselves to the brink for the sake of achievement, but good mental and physical health should also be considered an achievement, and sleep is a big part of that. Go to bed after finishing daily tasks.
- Discuss your emotions: Talking through your emotions and your kids’ emotions is an important part of a self-care practice. If your child has had a hard day at school, discuss it openly with them, asking questions like, Why was today harder than others? How can we deal with this frustration or anger in a healthy way? And then coach them in beneficial ways of expressing themselves, like exercise, art, or conversation.
If they want to participate in your self-care practices with you—like yoga, meditation, exercise, cooking, art, etc.—let them! But make sure you take your time. Adults can simply do things more quickly than children can, so make sure you go at their speed.
Set morning and evening routines
Set simple, regular morning routines that your child can complete themselves. Teaching these practices can be as easy as I do, we do, you do. Older toddlers will need more assistance, so you may stay in the “we do” stage until they are more autonomous.
Set a healthy morning routine: get up with plenty of time to spare so the family isn’t rushing. Prepare breakfast together (even if that’s a simple bowl of cereal and fruit), make lunches, brush teeth, wash faces, brush hair, and discuss schedules. You could also take time to talk about things you’re looking forward to that day to begin the day on a positive note.
At night, make sure rooms are picked up and organized (this will save you stress in the morning). Turn off screens at least an hour before bed to mitigate their stimulating effects. Save time in the morning by picking out school clothes the night before. After teeth brushing, and baths, wind down the day with a story or a book.
Spend time together
Doing fun things as a family is not only a great way to bond, there is research that suggests that laughter can lower stress levels. Playing games, drawing or painting, running around in the yard or at a park, playing make-believe, exploring a museum, or reading together are all inexpensive or even free things you can do with your child that helps form valuable bonds and foster good mental health.
In a world that encourages us to perform, spending leisure time together is a way to show your child that it’s important to prioritize time as a family and time for fun.
Encourage healthy autonomy
Encouraging older children to exercise healthy autonomy is a great way to help them develop and maintain solid self-care practices. Autonomy is a good and natural part of a child’s growth, and can be encouraged by allowing your children to experiment with how they spend their time (as long as it’s not dangerous and doesn’t conflict with school priorities or family values).
For example, you might say to a very young child, What would you like to do this afternoon? and offer them a few healthy choices: go to the park, read a book, play a game. By giving them productive options to choose from, you teach them how to construct a healthy menu of leisure activities.
Author bio: Matilda lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she writes about great homes, health, and wellness. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, hiking, and walking her dogs.