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5 Ways to Teach Your Children Self-Care
Self-care is something adults may think of as investing a little time in yourself — maybe a book by the fireplace after the kids are in bed or getting a sitter for an hour every Friday to get your nails done. And those adults are right!
With kids, though, it’s so much more than that. In addition to what an adult would typically consider self-care, for a child self-care means being able to be independent, dress themselves and keep up with hygiene. These are essential tasks and it’s easy to get lost in the buttoning buttons and tying shoes of it all to be effective teachers. By simply remembering your child is just that — a child — you can alter your methods for success. Here are five ways to do it.
Slow It Down
The tasks you are trying to teach your child are likely things you’ve been doing for at least two decades. Most of them are second nature and don’t require any thought, so teaching your child how to do these things can be challenging.
Don’t take anything for granted. Always remember that you also had to be taught to do these things once – just like you are teaching them now.
As a fun exercise, try to see the task from their point of view and then slow it down. Take brushing your teeth as an example. Brushing your teeth requires that you hold the toothbrush tightly and upright at a 45 degree angle. Then you have to open the toothpaste, squeeze a small amount of it onto your toothbrush, and put the toothpaste back down. Then you have to turn the toothbrush, put it into your mouth and start brushing. It may seem simple and like a no brainer to a parent, but it’s pretty complicated for your little ones to successful remember and execute all of these steps.
You can easily apply this approach to any task you are teaching – take the task and slow it down. Say each step to them while showing them just what to do.
Help Only as Needed
You may be tempted to just go ahead and do the task for your child. We’ve all been there. It’s hard being patient while it takes your child a what seems like twenty-minutes to get from toothbrush out to brushing their teeth. This can be even worse, of course, when you are in a rush to get out the door in the morning or your child is struggling. Don’t give in and do it for them, though, or they won’t learn.
Since you’ve broken it down step-by-step, only help them with the part they are having trouble with. If they successfully get their toothbrush ready for toothpaste and open the toothpaste without issues, but keep knocking the brush over as they apply the paste, help them by applying the toothpaste while they hold the brush. In a few days, help them by holding the brush while they squeeze the toothpaste. Once they’ve mastered that, help them steady their hand and squeeze the toothpaste on the brush until finally, likely by the end of the week, they are doing it all on their own with a smile.
Not knowing how to do an important task can cause your child to feel defeated, especially if they feel pressure from you to learn the task. They will go into the task thinking there is no way they will be able to complete it successfully and give up before giving it a good effort.
This, of course, is all part of childhood. You can still help to make them feel successful on a daily basis. Instead of making them face the thing that makes them feel defeated, like tying their shoes, replace the object with something they can do for a while. Velcro shoes or other pull-on style without laces will let them put their shoes on each morning and feel accomplished.
You can still work with your child to master tying their shoes, but they don’t need to be reminded every time they want to put their shoes on and take them off that they aren’t good enough.
Look for other ways you can encourage independence and small changes you can employ to make daily processes easier for your child. This will do a lot for their attitude and sense of self-worth so they can approach a problem confidently and focus on how to execute the solution.
When in Doubt, Just Play
Instead of spending all of your time with your child working on buttoning buttons, tying shoes or other self-care tasks, think of ways to bring play into it so they learn the foundational skills they need to carry out the task.
Look for creative ways to work on the building blocks needed to successfully self-care. The pincer grasp is needed for a lot of self-care skills and it can be hard for some children to master. Let your child play with eye droppers to move water from one container into another or give them healthy finger foods they can eat without help.
You can also find a variety of activities online to help your child work on self-care skills needed in their daily life. When you disguise these important tasks as play, the pressure is off, and your child can have fun while working on these important skills at the same time.
Lead by Example
Your child’s happiness is an essential part of their self-care and is largely provided by you in the early years. But as they get older, you need to help your child identify what makes them happy and brings them joy. Try new activities and talk about what your child thought about them.
It’s also important to remember self-care for your child is necessary for them to become independent adults, but don’t get so focused on these tasks that you forget your own self-care. The public enemy number one of self-care is addiction, and statistics show that your actions impact your children more than you think. So if you struggle with alcohol, your child is four times more likely to develop their own issues and addictions in the future. Lead by example and kick bad habits that get in the way of good self-care.
By learning how to effectively help your child learn self-care skills, you can make sure you and your child don’t get frustrated in the process. Don’t get too bogged down in the skills that you forget to have fun with your child — and always remember, if you or your child is struggling with something, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
About the author:
Jennifer Landis is a writer, blogger, foodie, yogi, runner, and mama. She loves drinking tea, Doctor Who, and dark chocolate. You can find more from Jennifer at her blog, Mindfulness Mama, or on Twitter @JenniferELandis.