To become a well-rounded and self-sufficient adult, it is imperative that we become comfortable managing stress and taking care of ourselves first. But why should this notion be merely limited to adulthood?
In fact, it can be argued that self-care is valued more during childhood and adolescence. While self-care can be learned throughout life, it is vital that we introduce and encourage healthy practices to our kids as early as possible.
I hardly need say that the easiest way to do so is to lead by example.
When my son finished his 12th grade and was writing innumerable entrance exams to maximize his chances of getting into a good course, I’d accompany him to far-off exam venues. There, I’d meet other mothers who would wait out the three hours. We would get talking and each one would share how her child never ate on time, never had time to go outdoors or even participate in family functions because they were too busy studying. And this, from the time they were in 9th or 10th grade when they joined a coaching class.
We faced enough flak about our son not attending a coaching class and choosing to study on his own–which basically meant life as usual. But those conversations got me thinking–these kids would get into a professional course, work hard. Then get a high-flying job, work hard. Then get married and have kids, and work hard. And life would just pass them by. They’d end up looking 60 when they’re 30 and chant “no time”
That’s not a good life.
So… teach your kids to practice self-care early.
Here are five ways to help your child practice self-care:
To be able to fully comprehend various emotions children must learn to understand their feelings. Being able to identify emotions and different signs from your body is essential. Knowing how to recognize irregularities and when to ask for help will do wonders for one’s mental health. In turn, the discussion of mental health will become easier to have, even at a young age. There are health resources for people of all ages that explain various mental health concerns so not only can you educate yourself, but you can use appropriate materials to educate your child as well. The reality of the matter is, 50% of all lifetime cases of chronic mental illness begin by the age of 14. So it is vital that we break any stigma surrounding mental health, and eliminate the idea that it is not as valued in society as physical health. In doing so, we will demonstrate to our children that there is no shame in taking care of our mental health as it is just as vital as maintaining physical health.
People tend to internalize emotions which in turn can transform into stress. This is especially true in children who have a difficult time expressing their raw emotions. One of the best outlets we can teach our children to use to alleviate stress is through exercise. With many proven benefits, such as reducing stress and tension, exercise in any form can have a positive impact on our health. According to the American Psychological Association, exercise gives the body a chance to practice dealing with stress, “It forces the body’s physiological systems – all of which are involved in the stress response – to communicate much more closely than usual.”
Find an activity that the entire family can participate in. It can be as simple as going for a daily walk or bike ride. It will show your children how easy it is to incorporate exercise into a regular part of your routine. Consequently, it will make them more likely to join in without it feeling like a chore or an undesirable routine requirement. If you practice meditation, include your child.
Limit Screen Time
With mass media and technology at our fingertips constantly, it can be a more challenging task to follow through with. While instant access to the internet and social media has its perks, it can be detrimental to how our children develop and rely on technology.
According to an article on Psycom.net, “too much time spent scrolling through social media can result in symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.” Engaging in human interaction is vital in how we develop our social skills. Social media can develop a constant need for approval and satisfaction from peers and affect one’s self-esteem. Unless we reinforce that human interaction should happen “off the screen” and in person, we’ll be raising a generation of individuals who don’t possess proper socialization skills. This rings true into adulthood as well. Having time to disconnect and clear your mind from your every day work and interactions will give you time to rest and recuperate. Don’t forget to continue to lead by example and set a time limit when it comes to screen time.
Having a creative outlet that is private and a safe place for expression will allow our children to get in tune with their truest self. Encourage activities such as reading, writing, drawing, painting, and even listening to music–all excellent means of emotional release. When we cannot use our words, expressing emotion through creative outlets can relieve stress and foster connections. A child can connect and relate to characters in a story, empathize with a story being told through song, or even calm themselves through focusing on a drawing. This can be used as a good avenue to disconnect from technological devices and embrace time in the moment.
Spend Time in Nature
If you and your children are not spending enough time in nature and tend to be stuck indoors or glued to your devices, you could develop Nature Deficit Disorder. It is never too late to get back to nature and nurture your mind and body. Too much time indoors can play havoc with our health—causing physical and emotional distress. It can also lead to anxiety, depression and obesity, especially in kids—who become less focused at school. Connecting with nature can be as simple as a walk in the park, or if you live near the beach, a walk on the beach enjoying the waves and digging your feet into the sand.
There! Just five ways to get your child started with self-care!
Do you practice self-care? How?