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Educational Helps | 4 Minutes

Educational Helps: Teaching Kids Self-Care

Lexi Detweiler Written by Lexi Detweiler
Educational Helps: Teaching Kids Self-Care

It’s been a year since our lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic and we’ve succumbed to a new normal. We spend a lot more time at home. We haven’t worn "real pants” in who knows how long. We don’t wear makeup or style our hair unless we have a Zoom meeting. We eat, work, exercise, and school at home, which means more house cleaning (but interestingly fewer showers). We are exhausted. But we aren’t the only ones. 

Being a parent is demanding, it’s true. And you deserve alone time to read a book, exercise, or even shower. But we often forget that children need to practice self-care, too. The other day I realized that my 2-year-old daughter has spent half of her life in this state of uncertainty the pandemic has caused. That means one year of masks in public, limiting social interactions, no homeschool group meetups, no sharing toys or snacks with friends. We might not see it now, but studies are already showing an increase in anxiety, irritability, clinginess, and depression among children.

Developing a self-care routine for your child and allowing them to be a part of building it can help immensely. This can be as simple as brushing their teeth and getting dressed as soon as they wake up, even if you aren’t going anywhere. Once your child has mastered this habit, add on another and another until you’ve built a routine together that works for your family. Predictability is a stabilizing force for children and it has been disrupted by COVID-19. Building a routine full of healthy habits can counteract that and give your child a sense of security even when the world around them is unpredictable. 

Below are some ideas for what to add to your routine. These don’t need to be daily or even weekly. They might only happen once a month, but each act is a building block toward self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-care.

  1. Identify and Express Emotions. Young children have a difficult time identifying their emotions, so instead they throw tantrums or lash out. Living during a pandemic is uncharted waters for all of us. We don’t know what’s going to happen or how we should feel. Be honest with your kids (age appropriately) about how you are feeling and why things are the way they are. Try this simple exercise: while reading a book with your child, talk about how a character might be feeling and why they reacted the way they did. There are other ways to talk to your child about emotions, but they all depend on an open line of communication between you and your child.
  2. Express Creativity. Isn’t this why we homeschool? To allow our children to blossom into who they are. I recently saw a quote by the author Jess Lair who said, “Your children are not things to be molded, but people to be unfolded.” So give them a paintbrush, an instrument, a box of legos and let them have it. Art therapy has been proven to reduce the adverse effects of physiological and psychological outcomes.
  3. Get Outside. I know, I say this all the time. My kids even roll their eyes when I tell them to go play outside in the below-freezing weather. But there’s something about fresh air that puts everyone in a good mood, not to mention soaking up some Vitamin D can help reduce the severity of COVID-19.
  4. Playtime without Grown-ups. Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, urges for self-directed play without the interference of adults. He lists many benefits, among which are allowing children to handle their emotions during play because it is a source of happiness. Schedule playdates with friends in your pod, give you child-free time in their rooms. My kids even play dolls with their cousin via Facetime. 
  5. Teach Healthy Habits. Children learn best from you by what you do not by what you say. Model healthy eating and exercise habits. Include them in meal planning and cooking. Not only will it get them excited about eating healthy foods, they might be able to take some meal prep off of your hands. 

Build in Down Time. Everyone has their own way to decompress. It might be reading, coloring, meditating or journaling. Despite needing down-time to unwind and find peace, we rush from one task to the next. When building a routine with your child, be sure to include downtime. Read the Bible together, journal, or color. Integrating slow down-time can help children be more mindful of their choices throughout the day and allow them to relieve stress.