By now, self-care is such a common buzzword it's almost a cliche, and chances are, you can rattle off a jam-packed list of the ways you've learned to tend to your emotional well-being: self-care activities like journaling, deep breathing, taking time away from social media, and hey, even a little well-placed bowl of ice cream likely keep you feeling like your best self even in the most stressful of times—you know, like during a global pandemic. But have you thought about extending the healthy habits you've mastered with self-care to each of your family members?
Experts agree that practicing a self-care routine at a young age can reduce the risk of developing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. And then there's the question of habits: science shows us that it is considerably more difficult to create a brand-new habit than it is to maintain one. That means if you enter into adulthood armed with a set of life skills that involve good self-care, your overall wellness stands a chance of being as familiar to you as your breathing. (Which you likely already implement as a parent: what better self-care tip is there than to take a deep breath before responding to the sixth question in a row from your kiddo?)
One difference to note: there's a real "indulgence" side to self-care as an adult that is sometimes needed precisely because our lives lose so much play as we grow. But that doesn't mean that self-care for your young children or teenagers should mean disappearing into video games (or that bowl of ice cream we mentioned earlier). Instead, think of the different categories you separate your own self-care into, and apply them to patterns and routines that make sense for your little ones. The bottom line is: every person needs alone time, and every person needs downtime, no matter their age.
The best way to encourage your kids to develop self-care practices is to model them yourself. (This provides two benefits: your kids see you doing something they want to take part in, and you get the care you are providing yourself.) Remind older children to take breaks for mental health in between their busy schedules. Start younger children in on adapting a growth mindset from an early age.
Self-Care to Combat Screen Time: Get Outside
Just the way physical activity and time spent in nature helps you relax after too much screen time, the same will be true for your children. Try to set a daily goal of outside minutes, even if you live in a cold climate. Invest in good outdoor gear so that every day includes a few minutes—studies show even 15 minutes can make a difference.
Whether it's a bike ride, a routine family hike, or a chance to dance off the stressors of every day life together, moving and being outside can do wonders for boosting happiness and self-esteem, not to mention helping your physical health, too. Consider Think Outside Boxes to help your kiddos find the joy in exploring and learning about nature—and cut down on that weekly screen time. Designed by outdoor-loving parents, the year-long curriculum can supplement your kiddos' school learning, ages 7 through mid-teens.
Practice Self-Care through Crafts & Cooking
Another great way to encourage your kiddos to use their hands is to make something of their own, whether a craft or a fresh batch of cookies. We Craft Box, for example, features a themed story and coordinated crafts, and exists to help busy families "unplug from the screen and connect through creativity."
If you prefer your crafts to be edible, look into the Young Chefs' Club box from America's Test Kitchen Kids. The subscription box, whose mission is "to build a new generation of empowered cooks, engaged eaters, and curious experimenters," offers educational projects that range from 15 minutes to a few hours, and is also organized by monthly theme. Imagine if, instead of waiting for the latest video game release or iPhone model, you could get your children excited about the next opportunity to create something with their hands!
Lean on Learning to Help Children Practice Self-Care
As an adult, you know that self-care activities aren't all about bubble baths or the second glass of wine—sometimes self-care can be about investing in yourself now so that future you is in a better place. Keep that principle in mind and apply it to the childhood version: That's exactly what school and learning do for your children, prepare them to be in a better place as adults. And after all, what's more relaxing than curling up with a good book?
The Reading Bug Box, personalized for children by an independent bookstore team, can help parents encourage a finicky reader or encourage an avid one. There are many reasons why reading is arguably the best self-care—why not cultivate a lifelong love for it in your young children and teenagers now?
And while your kiddos are learning and empathizing, why not look into Superpower Academy? Combining STEM with social and emotional Learning, Superpower Academy provides monthly "Secret Missions" with hands-on maker projects, comic books, and stories of real heroes to promote a growth mindset, mindfulness, and skills like dealing with emotions, confidence, and empathy.
One final note? No matter which route you choose, remember that your own strategies for self-care may be different than those that work best for your little ones—and that's just fine. As long as everyone is embarking on self-care activities, everyone will have strategies to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic and daily routines that lead to a little more self-awareness every day.