Self-care is something that even adults struggle to practice, despite knowing the benefits it provides. Understanding when and how to include self-care into your routine is especially difficult for children who have yet been exposed to information surrounding mental health and the importance of promoting it. In order to raise your child to make self-care a priority during adolescence and through adulthood, begin drawing their awareness to it early on.
Self-care is a behavior that works to help physical, emotional, or mental health. The type of self-care used ultimately comes down to a person’s unique needs and can be done on both personal or community levels. Some common self-care practices include spending quality time with family, engaging in a sport or hobby, or simply making a point to get more sleep. Helping your child find the best fit will make sustaining a routine more enjoyable.
Make the Opportunity a Bonding Experience
Introduce the conversation through a self-care activity that you and your child can do together. This could be practicing meditation for mindfulness or alleviating stress through a quiet walk. Open up a dialogue explaining why that particular activity is one of self-care. Discuss how the activity promotes feelings they experience due to their specific mental health concerns. Providing your child with a concrete explanation of how this activity can fit into their life will encourage them to make it a priority.
Explore the options
Self-care is both easy and intimidating. The wide variety of behaviors to choose makes the practice accessible, giving your child options to fill their routine with. Too many options across both personal and community spaces, however, can also lead to your child becoming overwhelmed and perceiving self-care as something stressful.
Set aside time to teach your child about the different options available for self-care. Practices that have physical benefits for mental health could include making hygiene a priority or eating a vegetable with every meal. Emotional benefits can be done through meditation or journaling. In order to practice self-care across a community level, you could enroll your child in an extracurricular such as a sports team or arts program. Weed through a brainstormed list and select a handful of self-care practices to put in their daily routine. Aim to include a combination that are not only realistic within their life, but also equally improve the emotional, physical, and mental health components.
Put it into action
Imagining routines for your child is helpful to connect the educational and practical aspects of self-care. Make a plan to put the selected routine into action, mapping out the time and days throughout the week that each one will take place. A great self-care routine is one practiced consistently. If they are unable to stick to it they won’t receive the mental health benefits.
Do a committed run through of the selected routine and check in by the end of the week. Gear the discussion towards what practices they did or did not enjoy, and return to the list to swap out activities. Continue running through the improved schedule for several weeks more, before doing a month check in. For this discussion, focus on whether the chosen routine had any beneficial impact on your child’s mental health.
Approaching the concept of self-care through both an informative and practical approach will set the stage for your child to turn the practice into habit. It may take several months of supervised guidance to get into the habit of following a self-care routine but once the activities settle in, your child will become equipped with a coping tool they can carry with them throughout their life.