Self-care is important for everyone, regardless of age. Even if your child doesn’t experience much stress, teaching them self-care skills now allows them to have effective coping mechanisms set up now for their future. It helps them establish healthy habits early in life, and sets them up for success by allowing their body and mind to perform at their best.

That being said, you may not be very familiar with self-care yourself. It’s something that has only recently come into the wider cultural conversation, so you may have the perception of self-care being indulgent. While treating yourself to an ice cream cone with your kids occasionally is one way you can practice self-care, it’s not really about that. It’s about engaging in activities that treat the whole person, from the most basic, such as brushing your teeth, to more complex, such as participating in a spiritual community. It’s caring for your own well-being by engaging in healthy and meaningful activities that encourage expression, connection, grow, and security.

With that in mind, here are some tips for teaching your child self-care:

Care for Your Body

Your child’s body will be their home for the rest of their life, so it’s important to teach them to take care of it. There are many ways you can encourage your child to care for their bodies. Participate in fun physical activity with them, whether its shooting hoops or Jazzercise. Also demonstrate physical activities that relieve stress, such as going for long walks or yoga. Encourage healthy eating habits by having them help you cook healthy foods for your family, and teach them to honor their own hunger cues; skip the “there are kids starving in Africa” line when they don’t finish their plates.

Have Fun

Laughter is important for stress relief. Encourage your child to do fun activities that will let them let loose and enjoy a good giggle. Play a funny game, draw with sidewalk chalk, watch a comedy, have a pillow fight, or any activity that is fun for you both. The important part is to be present during these moments so you can fully share this experience with your child. Being silly and laughing together are wonderful ways to connect with others, and lets your child discover what they really like doing, which will help them care for themselves throughout life.

Spend Time Outside

Spending time outside can be one of the most powerful self-care tools. Fresh air and sunshine aren’t only good for the body; they’re good for the soul and mind. Being in the great outdoors can offer a calming experience and can help rebalance and recharge you. Teach your child the value of outdoor play by going to the park, taking a hike, or simply spending time together in the backyard. If you’re down for more of an adventure, take them camping, or take a road trip to a national park. This kind of experience is meaningful for your child and can help you achieve a long-lasting connection.

Help Your Community

Studies have found that behaving in an altruistic way leads to greater feelings of well-being, as well as better health and longevity. Simply put, it feels good to do good. In addition to the self-care benefits, this teaches your child the value of kindness. You can help your community through a variety of volunteer opportunities, whether that’s donating clothes or toys, helping out at a homeless shelter, or working with a favorite local charity. Brainstorm with your child what the best way to give back would be.

Talk About Feelings

An important part of self-care is recognizing and respecting your emotions. Help your child take care of themselves by giving them a vocabulary for their emotions from an early age. When your child expresses an emotion, name it for them; for example, “you seem angry that your friend took your toy away from you.” Then, talk to them about appropriate ways to express those feelings, using yourself as an example. You might say, “When I get angry, I walk away and take three deep breaths before I do anything else.” The more you can model dealing with your emotions in a healthy way, the better. Resist the urge to punish them for having “bad” emotions; instead, work with them to process what they’re feeling.

If you’re looking for child care in Glastonbury, we would love to help you. Contact Foundations for Learning to tour our child care center!