Tips on Self-Care for Children
Self-care for children is essential. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s a basic need of being human! By teaching your child simple acts of self-care and including nurturing routines into your family life, you can show that taking care of ourselves, and each other, is important.
- Take belly breaths. Don’t underestimate the power of a deep breath to reset. When you sense that your child needs a break, pretend that you’re holding a bowl of soup. Ask them to breathe in through their nose like they’re smelling a yummy soup, and then ask them to blow through their mouth to cool the soup off. This self-regulation strategy is something they can do on their own, wherever they are!
- Get silly. When a child is having a tough time or experiencing big emotions, ask silly questions to help them reset. Asking a concrete question they know the answer to help re-route their thinking. Ask questions like: What color is the sky? What did you have for breakfast? Where is your shoe? Even if they answer incorrectly, you’re helping their brain and body calm down and get back into the zone. Encourage your child that when they have big feelings, they can pay attention to the room around them and name five things they see as a way to “reset” their brains.
- Drink more water: People need water. Empowering kids to stay hydrated is a simple way to teach them a self-care habit to last a lifetime. If they’re tall enough, encourage them to refill their own water bottles.
- Be proactive: When you start to see signs your child might be stressed, or if you know there is a big change coming, or if they’ve had a particularly challenging day, give them a special mission to complete. Perhaps it’s cleaning up the blocks for a younger child, or asking an older child to carry books into another room. This helps them see that it’s okay to take a break and in fact, getting their bodies moving is a form of self-care. Slightly older kids may find a good reset in helping feed a pet or get the mail.
- Incorporate rest: Even the most extroverted child needs time to rest on their own. Think creatively about your child’s unique personality, age, and interest to brainstorm small pockets of rest in their daily routine. Perhaps it’s a time with books in their bedroom, or a ten-minute coloring break at the kitchen table. If siblings share a room, consider creating a special time in the day where one can play quietly alone.
- Get the wiggles out: Sometimes we just need to move our bodies. Not only does it get our blood pumping, but it can be a great mood balancer, too. Try a one-minute dance break or challenge your child to 15 jumping jacks.
- Write (or color) it out: Consider giving older kids a journal to write in or provide a drawing pad to younger children. Dedicating time (We’re going to spend 10 minutes taking a break to draw or write!) and space like the kitchen table shows kids that getting our thoughts and feelings out matters. Freewriting and drawing without any constraints is a wonderful form of self-care, too, for kids and grown-ups alike.
- Take a break: When a child is having a hard time, taking a break is very helpful for dealing with frustration and overwhelming emotions. If needed, tell them that it is okay to take a moment. Normalize breaks as a way of keeping ourselves healthy. Having a designated break spot to go to is helpful. And as they get older, the goal is that they’ll be able to name when they need to take a break.
- Have a healthy snack: Remember to grab healthy snacks for when they are hungry. Taking time to enjoy a healthy snack helps your child think about how emotions look and feel.
- Get clean: It’s amazing how an impromptu bath can provide rest for young and old alike. Depending on their age, they may like extra bubbles, a bath bomb, bath crayons or paints, or extra toys. Caring for your body is important!
- Try affirmations: Breathe in and breathe out a positive phrase or empowering mantra. When your child breathes in, have them repeat something like: I am creative and kind. On their exhale, they can say, I can make good decisions. Have them repeat this a few times. If a child is feeling anxious about going to school, create an easy phrase they can silently recite as they breathe in and out like Learning is fun; my parents will pick me up soon. Older children can brainstorm their own self-care affirmations to memorize or perhaps write on a sticky note and place somewhere where they can take a break to read it, like on a bathroom mirror or bedroom door.
Equipping kids with self-care strategies is empowering them to be mindful of their emotional, mental, and physical health.