We teach our kids how to brush their teeth, to safely cross roads and the importance of healthy eating, self-care for kids is about broadening the focus to include practices that boost our children’s emotional and mental wellbeing. We all want to raise compassionate, resilient kids and we achieve this by empowering them with their own self-care toolkit, helping them navigate challenging situations and difficult emotions such as anger, anxiety, and sadness. As parents, it can be hard to find the time for self-care and often we feel guilty about it. Rather than seeing self-care as something that needs to be solo, something special, somewhere away from home, let’s take a look at the ways we can nourish ourselves together as a family! The beautiful win win is that by engaging in self-care we are modelling for our kids how to mindfully tend to their health, and this is a skill that will sustain them for the rest of their days.
What is self-care?
While self-care is a buzzword right now and we all appreciate its value, as a concept it’s often misunderstood. There are good reasons for this confusion! What one person finds soothing might not resonate for another and even our own needs change over time. It’s not a one size fits all approach and we all need a broad toolkit from which to draw. To keep it as simple as possible, I define self-care as health care. It is nourishment for the head, the heart and the body. And in case there’s any uncertainty about what constitutes a true act of self-care, there’s a second part to my definition: self-care nourishes you in this moment AND nurtures who you are becoming, your future self if you like. This will stop self-care from turning into self-sabotage… for example, is a second large glass of red self-care? Ask your future self and it becomes crystal clear.
What is self-care for kids?
It is about teaching your kids life-giving habits. We do this by actively involving them in family self-care practices and by modelling healthy behaviour and skills for them. We need to get self-care proactively on the radar by talking about it and by guiding them to use soothing tools when they’re facing a difficult life experience or emotion.
Why do we need it?
We all need self-care to help us cope when life gets tough, to recover from difficult experiences, to boost our resilience in the face of future challenges, and to give us access to our best self. Well nourished people tend to be kinder and more resourceful in response to life’s demands and engaging in self-care together is deeply bonding, boosting the health and harmony of the family unit.
How do we do it?
Having a framework helps bring self-care to life. I created the Vitality Wheel to connect us with something nourishing in the moment. Take a look at the wheel and you’ll see eight different ways that we can look after ourselves. The spokes of the wheel are not designed to be distinct and you’ll see that an activity like taking a walk in the woods could fall in several categories. The whole point of it is to help you identify something nourishing and accessible in the moment, because in my experience, when we’re feeling frazzled, fatigued and full up, it is hard to put your finger on it!
Use the Vitality Wheel for inspiration, thinking of all the activities, rituals and practices that resonate for you and your family, and jot them down on the wheel. We have ours hanging up on our kitchen wall and whenever tempers are flaring or boredom hits we take a look at it to help us choose what to do to create a shift. Make your own poster with the Vitality Wheel spokes: Eat and Move, Sleep, Relax and Breathe, Connect, Happiness Treasure Box (all your favourite mood boosting activities and skills like gratitude, kindness and savouring), Goals and Accomplishments, Values and Strengths (teach your kids that there are many ways to shine!), Nature, and Coping Skills (like mindfulness and growth mindset).
Make your own toolkit:
Another way to help your kids cope is to build bespoke toolkits in response to challenges they are facing. If your little one is old enough to write, they could start a self-care journal and keep their toolkits there. For younger ones, reminding them that these feelings are normal and giving them different things to try can help dial down anxiety. Think along the lines of ‘what to do when you can’t get to sleep’ or ‘what to do when you miss someone’. Have fun brainstorming options together!
5 quick ways to fill your collective cup!
Please don’t think of self-care as yet ANOTHER thing to add to our already heaving ‘to do’ list. There are lots of ways we can imbue everyday life with a little tenderness!
1. Music – pop on some tunes to lift the spirit or classical to soothe.
2. Move your Body – the quickest way to change your mind is to move your body. A single yoga pose will do or head out in Nature’s Beauty together and blow out the cobwebs.
3. Scent – Transform your mood in an instant by using scent – room sprays, candles, pillow spray. My kids love my Neom Organics stash as much as I do.
4. Breathe – when you breathe better, you feel better. Take some mountain breaths together. Stand tall like a mountain, arms down by your sides. As you breathe in, take your arms out wide to the side, reach them up overhead and look up. As you breathe out, lower your arms back down by your sides and look forwards. 6 reps and it’ll change how you all feel and you’ll have a giggle together in the process.
5. Savour together. This is my all-time favourite self-care tip! Savouring is the ability to suck the life out of a pleasurable moment. So when something joyful is unfolding, give it your full attention, with all your senses and share it! You can savour the past too by reminiscing about a happy memory or you can savour the future by happily anticipating something you have to look forward to. Your kids will love building the savouring muscle with you and it is such a powerful mood alchemist!
I hope you enjoy using the Vitality Wheel as inspiration and that your toolkits serve you all well! When we see self-care as something that we can engage in together, it becomes so much more accessible. I hope it also helps to blow mum guilt away, safe in the knowledge that when you nourish yourself you are more likely to be the mum that you aspire to be AND you are teaching your kids the vital skills of caring for themselves.
Beaming you love,
Suzy Reading is a mother of two, a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, and Health Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges. Suzy is a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine, the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics and is a founding member of the ‘Nourish’ app. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster, is out now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Self-Care-Revolution-habits-practices-flourish/dp/1912023202.
Her second book ‘Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness & Self-Care for Children and Parents’ will be out on April 4, 2019, shortly followed by ‘The Little Book of Self-Care’ on July 2nd.
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