Teaching Children Self-care

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‘Self-care’ is so much more than a hot trend or phrase social media influencers talk about.

Self-care is all about taking care of yourself and is one of the most important parts of managing your wellbeing. It involves not only necessary day-to-day activities but also things that give back to you and fill up your cup. Many adults and parents can view self-care negatively. That it is a selfish to do and that they should always be putting others and their children before their own needs.

But the reality is that no one is able to care for others until they look after themselves. As the saying goes – ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’. Self-care should be viewed as a necessity and not an indulgence. Setting aside time for self-care supports healthier and thriving lives.

Do children really need to self-care?

There is a myth that self-care is something that just adults should do. However, good self-care is necessary for children as well. Children are often just as busy as adults. From learning at school, family time, socialising, and extra curricular activities on multiple days a week, kids need to be able to have down time and recharge their batteries. Teaching children to care for, and give back to themselves, is an important part of healthy development. 

Serious mother and smiled daughter are writing in the notebook in bright room

What happens when they don’t?

Supporting your child’s self-care practices from a young age can help children manage life’s stressors while also teaching them protective coping strategies in times of anxiety, depression and overwhelm. Teaching children that they are worthy of looking after themselves is also an important component to a child’s self-esteem development.

Having boundaries – such as being able to express yourself and say no to things that take away too much from you – are also important aspects of self-care. It is important for children to learn how to implement boundaries in order to have successful and healthy friendships and relationships as they get older.

The earlier children began practicing self-care on a regular basis, the easier it is for these behaviours to become normal and expected parts of their lives. Self-care practices can also help support the maintenance of a child’s healthy mind and body.

How can parent’s support their child’s self-care?

Here are some practical strategies to help your child implement self-care practices:

  • Encourage their creativity – Children love to create. It’s part of being a kid! From drawing, to finger painting and building sandcastles. Encourage your child to express themselves through art and craft. Supporting creativity in children is a great way to encourage self-care for kids.
  • Teach them boundaries – Learning to say no is hard enough for many adults. However, being able to say no to people when what they want makes children feel uncomfortable or uneasy is an important lesson in having boundaries. Children shouldn’t say yes to things that leave behind feelings of anxiety, stress or discomfort.
Less work and more play!
  • Less work and more play – Play is the art of emotion expression for children. Play is also a great way for them to be able to self-regulate their feelings and self-care. Encourage children to play with whatever suits them and feels comfortable.
  • Move their bodies – exercise is an important part of physical self-care and encourages a child to take care of their body and mind. All children have different interests and skills when it comes to moving their body. Whether it is joining a sports team, going for a walk on the beach, or putting on some music and creating a dance.
  • Be a role model – Parents are children’s biggest teachers. Everything they do teaches children lessons and changes the way they develop. Children are sponges and see everything parents and caregivers do. Be the role model that teaches them how to self-care and make their wellbeing a priority.

Self-care for Kids Children’s Book

Self-care for Kids is Australia’s first children’s book dedicated to teaching children about self-care. The book is aimed at children aged five to 12 years and teaches children about what self-care is, how to practice it and why. The inspiration behind ‘Self-care for Kids’ came from Alexandra discovering that not many children knew what self-care was. Given that many adults report feeling guilty about giving back to themselves, Alexandra felt that being able to teach children at a young age about self-care was really important. Self-care for Kids can be used as a resource by parents, teachers, and allied health professionals to teach children that they are worthy of looking after themselves.

About

Alexandra is a clinical psychologist on the Gold Coast who works in private practice and within the school community. Alexandra is passionate about working with children and families to help parents better support children’s emotional needs.