May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
There has been much discussion during the pandemic, about the importance of self-care for adults. We have all been experiencing a level of societal stress, which has wreaked havoc on our mental, physical, social and emotional health. When you take a flight, you hear the flight crew give safety instructions on oxygen masks, and it is great advice…put your oxygen mask on first, so that you are then fully capable to help your children, and others, with their masks. Taking care of one’s self is critical to our wellbeing. Self-care is the art of checking in and recognizing when it is time for you to step back and replenish. The best self-care is always built into your daily routine.
As a society we are learning the importance of taking breaks from work, parenting, the news, social media, and other life stresses.
We are recognizing how impactful breaks are to our wellbeing…but what about our kids? Just as we feel out of balance and overwhelmed at times, kids have a wide range of emotions as well. We often tell our kids to “Calm down,” “Stop crying,” “Just focus and finish your homework.” Most parents will agree this advice doesn’t often work and may sometimes escalate the child’s emotions. Here is where self-care for kids becomes a teaching opportunity!
Start by using these techniques yourself. Modeling these techniques, and trying them as a family, will increase your success.
Begin by talking to your kids (all ages) about how to recognize when they need a break. Explain that this is normal – even adults need to learn how to recognize their own feelings. Help your child put their feelings into words (frustrated, tired, hungry, worried, confused, scared etc.).
- Explain that as these feelings start to increase, there are activities they can do to help their bodies calm down and better cope with the challenges at hand (homework, cleaning their room, dealing with friend issues, talking to their trusted adult about something serious, etc.).
a. Here are some simple examples:
I. Step outside for 5 minutes of fresh air.
II. Push against the wall (similar to stretching your calves)
III. Drink a glass of water very slowly – focusing on each sip and swallow.
IV. Look around the room for 5 items of a certain color.
V. Practice belly breathing for 3 breathes
VI. Stand like a tree, feet grounded, knees slightly bent, eyes gently closed. Do this for 2 to 3 minutes.
VII. Walk barefoot in grass.
These activities can be done as individual exercises, so children learn how to self-regulate and calm themselves. These exercises take time and practice, and it may be beneficial to start doing these activities together with your child in the beginning.
Other types of self-care that can be built into a kid’s daily routine:
- Play music and dance!
- Take a shower or bath. Water is soothing!
- Don’t have time for a shower? Run your child’s hands under water. For younger kids – fill the sink with some water and toys for 10 minutes of water play.
- Incorporate outdoor time in everyone’s day. Encourage bike riding, walks around the neighborhood, visiting the local park or trails.
- Build in time doing things that nurture the family. Have kids help prepare meals, plan a weekend outing, or help around the house.
- Quiet time (No screens)…perhaps a time to get creative with drawing, coloring, reading a book, art projects, or even a nap. (Perhaps the nap will be more appreciated by the adults! LOL)
Providing self-care tools to our children and our selves are a gift for a lifetime. Let us know what technique you try and how well it works.