Life can get hectic, and remembering to take care of ourselves can easily fall to the bottom of the priority list. We have offered a few blogs to help parents with Self-Care for themselves, be it Prioritizing Self-Care in the Summer Months, or 10 Self-Care Tips for Moms. However, self-care routines are just as important for children. The earlier your child learns self-care, the more likely they are to maintain those good habits into adulthood.
Practicing self-care routines at a young age can reduce the risk of developing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.Ashleigh Louis, Ph.D., LMFT, Psychotherapist and Yoga Instructor (Laguna Beach, CA)
What are self care skills?
For children, self-care skills are the everyday tasks that help children participate in life activities, such as dressing, eating, and cleaning teeth. While adults support young children with these, it is expected that as children mature, they develop independence in these. When self care skills are difficult, this can limit other life experiences, be it difficulty with sleep overs at a friend’s, going on school/preschool excursions, or eating and toileting on their own at birthday parties.
Self-care habits are also things they can practice regularly, which provide stress relief and body-mind-spirit wellness. From painting and running to journalling and meditation, you can make it your mission to find a self-care habit your child can get excited about.
What can be done to improve self care skills?
- Visual schedule of the steps involved
- Reward chart for independent completion of tasks (or attempt at, in the early stages).
- Small steps: Breaking down self-care skills into smaller steps and supporting the child through each step so that, in time, they can do more for themselves.
- Routine: Use the same routine or strategy each time you complete the same task to help them learn it faster.
- Consistency: Be consistent with the words and signs used to assist the child, and keep instructions short and simple.
- Allow enough time: Ensure that there is enough time available for the child to participate in self care activities without feeling rushed (e.g. practice dressing on the weekend to start with before then doing it before rushing to preschool or school).
What activities can help improve self care skills?
Here are 10 activities to help you support your child in developing their own self-care routine:
- Family Time: Regular daily routines that emphasize consistent wake up, eating, homework, bedtime, play, and chore schedules will provide the structure they need to understand and predict their world.
- Slow Down Time: One of the overlooked elements of family routines for children, is building in “slow down” time (eg., yoga, deep breathing). Regular, built-in “slow down” time during the day allows children to learn how to make mindful choices.
- Small parts of activities: Practice doing a small part of a task each day as it is easier to learn new skills in smaller sections.
- Nature Time: Taking this time outside in nature has been found to specifically reduce depression. Carve out time in the week to go on a hike or walk around the neighborhood.
- Observation: Have your child to observe other family members performing everyday self care skills.
- Sleep: Sleep is one of the most crucial ingredients for learning, performance and mental health and good sleep starts with a consistent and early bedtime. For tips, see our earlier blog on Sleep Hygiene for children.
- Role play: Self care tasks such as eating, dressing or brushing teeth with teddy bears. Doing it on others can help learning it before then doing it on yourself.
- Expressing Feelings: Identifying and expressing feelings is a learned skill. Teach feeling words, discuss the emotions of characters in your child’s favorite stories, and encourage journalling. These strategies reduce stress, help them build relationships, and help them understand their feelings.
- Timers to indicate how long they must tolerate an activity they may not enjoy, such as teeth cleaning.
- Taking care of others: Altruistic emotions are associated with better health and well-being, and build family connection. Allow the child to brush your hair or teeth first, before brushing their own. Go out and volunteer as a family, be it delivering a meal to a neighbour or writing a kind note for a friend or teacher.