The Inspired Child
By Sandy Kauten
Of all of my jobs as a parent, I consider my role as an encourager of self-care to be one of the most important. The world will always provide children with challenges. No one can progress through life and grow in character without experiencing setbacks and disappointments. Teaching our kids to practice self-care no matter what else happens is crucial to teaching them how to be peaceful and non-reactive, not only within themselves but also in interactions with others.
We often voice our concerns about bullying or entitled behavior but rarely do we discuss practices that might help nip behaviors in the bud that we don’t want to see in our kids. Children accustomed to turning within and self-soothing can detach from unmanageable people, places and situations more easily than kids who habitually react or automatically compete. This doesn’t mean they won’t have any challenges in life, but it does mean that they can navigate them more calmly and with more clarity.
Modeling self-caring behavior for our children is important when kids are younger, so these habits will be in place once kids reach the sometimes-challenging tween and teen years. No matter what ages your children, practicing calming techniques and passing them along to your kids helps you raise more mindful citizens in an occasionally chaotic world.
Stop. Children who are calm can walk away or withdraw from situations that make them feel hurt or uncomfortable. Teach kids to understand signals from their bodies that indicate it’s time to step back, walk away, or simply stop moving forward on a path that does not feel constructive. Help kids understand that stopping is always an empowering option.
Tune in. Designate no-screen times in your home. At our house, devices stay off until after noon every morning. Make sure kids understand the connection between turning off devices and tuning in to themselves and others. Why not establish one electronics-free family night at home each week to illustrate the point?
Reflect. Make sure kids have adequate alone time without screens involved to make time for self-reflection. Reading is permissible, as is any type of self-expression as long as all electronic devices remain off. Boredom may come first, and that’s okay. Teach kids how to move through it and find their way back to feeling self-content.
Nap. Have your kids ever caught you napping? If so, that’s great! You should nap if you get a poor night’s sleep or feel run-down. And when you do, you model the habit of listening to your body for your kids. Naps are for crabby kids of all ages. Just make sure your children know this, too.
Float. The bathtub is my daughter’s go-to self-care space. She might shower or bathe or just soak, and she knows she’ll always feel great afterwards. Whatever your child’s self-soothing habit, support it as much as possible and give them space to enjoy it for themselves.
Go outside. Being in nature is grounding and energizing. If you don’t believe me, lay on the ground for ten minutes when you feel exhausted and see how you feel afterwards. Of course, this trick won’t work for every time of year, so be sure to keep the appropriate outdoor gear on hand for spontaneous adventures.
Play. Anything old-fashioned is a good choice. Look to everything you did when you were a child for ideas. Build a fort, play a board game, deal some cards, have a pillow fight, challenge a child to a game of checkers or chess. Do your kids know how to play solitaire with real cards? Teach them now.
Create. We keep our craft supplies in plastic drawers and bins in the corner of the laundry room so we can break them out any time. Or you might designate one kitchen cabinet for craft supplies. Rotate the supplies by season for variety if this inspires more use. Have family meetings with goal-setting games using your supplies. Color with your kids. You can find grown-up images to color on the Internet.
Imagine. You were a kid once. What helped you tap into your imagination? Writing? Doodling? Playing music? Watching snowflakes or rain falling outside your window? Make sure everyone in the family has an imagination practice and lead the way by making sure they see you practicing yours.
Let go. At the foundation of health is the habit of turning over our will, not to other people, but to a positive universal force we trust. If you teach your kids anything, let it be how to do their best and then surrender to the results. They won't always win. They won't always get picked. They won't always be the most popular. But they can always go home afterwards, take a nice long bath or shower, and reflect on the next best choice to make.
Author, journalist and writing coach Christina Katz is a self-care expert, who wrote the book, The Art Of Making Time For Yourself. Even so, she still needs a regular refresher on all of these reminders.