I am blessed to be part of a community that advocates for self-care. Finding ways to take care of ourselves spiritually, emotionally, physically, & mentally is a common topic of conversation amongst those we are closest too. It hasn’t always been this way, it’s a way of life I forged and cultivated to help myself as a woman coming out of an abusive relationship and newly in recovery. It became evident that if I did not take care and honor myself then I would end up back in the place I worked so hard to get away from. My daughter has seen my evolution and said to me one day that an adult told her that she was selfish for telling them that she was uncomfortable with something they were saying around her. This was the exact opposite message she gets in our home so she was confused and didn’t understand why she got two very different messages. How are we supposed to teach our children ways to honor themselves when someone else is telling them it’s wrong?
Being forever on the hunt for information on how to practice self-care I came across the article, “Anxiety, Depression, & Self Abandonment” by Dr. Margaret Paul
(Link to article here: https://artoflivingretreatcenter.org/blog/anxiety-depression-self-abandonment/). Her article lists out beautifully triggers we mentally react to in ways that dishonor who we are as adults. As an adult who, like many of us, has had a challenging childhood I know life is much easier if we teach these tools to children. What would your childhood, adolescents, and young adulthood have been like if you learned how to practice self-care early on? So how do we do that?
We know, no matter how proactive we are as parents, that your child will encounter someone who will try to make them think less of themselves. This is just a fact of our society. I know, I hate it too. But there will always be that friend, teacher, bully, or even another parent who will knock your child’s sense of self down to meet theirs. It may be out of anger, self-loathing, confusion, or just plain spite. What we need to teach our children is that, even though they may have their misguided reasons, there is never a reason for them to tolerate this. Teaching them that hurt people hurt people and that it has nothing at all to do with them. This helps to take a bit of the sting out and helps them understand that if someone is being mean to them it’s a direct reflection of that person.
One of the rules in our house is that everyone has the right to feel safe, supported, and respected in any situation. ANY situation. And if you are ever in a situation where you are not feeling those things then it’s probably the wrong situation for you to be in. This is especially important to teach our tween kiddos because of the immense pressure to fit in can set off a pattern of shutting off their “feelings” to go along with something that doesn’t feel right. Boy and girls both need to learn that their feelings are real and valid. Kids want to do good and be good, so let’s start giving them opportunities to catch them doing the right thing! Let’s find ways to make kindness to others and themselves cool...which leads me to my next point....
Another thing we do in our house when we are feeling not so good about ourselves is to do something kind for someone else. Sometimes we will make “self-care gifts” of various needed items and drive around and give them out to people in need. Sometimes we will go buy a handful of gift cards for food and give them out. And sometimes we will just write a bunch of things we like about someone on post-it notes and stick them all over the house for the person to see. The point is, helping others give us a sense of purpose and focus. It helps to show that we can turn our mood around, not by buying the latest toy or gadget for ourselves, but by doing something kind for someone else. And it usually has a ripple effect because the receiver will pay it forward and do something nice for someone else. Win, win!
Teaching children how to trust their intuition is another part of self-care. I explain that that icky feeling you get inside is your gut telling you that something that is going on isn’t fitting right with you. It may be the environment, the situation, or the people or person involved but something is “off”. Let them know that their body is signaling them to leave and to listen!
What do you do to help your child learn self-care? How do you teach them to honor and advocate for themselves? I’d love to hear! Connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and let’s chat!