Self-care is something we do intentionally to sustain our physical, mental or emotional well-being, and as parents it can be hard to find time to do. As it turns out, learning to take care of ourselves from an early age can set the precedent for making it a priority in adulthood. Learning self-care in our childhood isn’t just to set ourselves up for healthy habits, it’s also to manage developmental stressors that can affect mental health throughout life.

Whether your child is 8 or 18, regular acts of self-care will promote a productive environment of positive strategies for good health. Here are 4 self-care ideas that can be easily integrated into everyday life to improve your child’s mental health.

self-care habits

1. Encourage Openness

It’s important for children to not only be comfortable with sharing their emotions, but to know how to as well. Start the conversation with your child by letting them know that you are someone who cares and will listen without judgement if they want to share their thoughts and feelings. If your child is reserved by nature and likewise has difficulty openly discussing touchy topics such as mental health, provide accessible mental health resources that illustrate other’s experiences with regulating their mental state. It’s great for children to grow awareness of their sense of self and well-being on a relatable scale.

2. Form Healthy Habits

Teaching children how to tweak small details in their daily routine is a great way to concurrently improve their physical health as well as their mental health. Research shows physical exercise is essential to mental health. Burning off some of that negative energy can be beneficial in overall mood improvement by relieving stress and increasing energy and mental alertness. The same research recommends exercising three or more times per week for at least 45 minutes. This can easily be broken down to fit your children’s schedule by going for a bike ride after school and then maybe a walk together after dinner. Even better if you can find a local sports league that your child expresses an interest in, like soccer or softball!

3. Make Time For Fun

Your child should make it a priority to do something enjoyable every single day, whether it’s on their own or with someone else. More importantly, it’s important to find ways to make daily activities more enjoyable if they’re something your child doesn’t typically look forward to doing. For example, if your child enjoys music, allow them to set aside some time to listen to their favorite band, dance to some tunes, or play music on an instrument. Likewise, if guitar practice for instance, isn’t something that your child particularly enjoys but knows is a must for school, they can incorporate ways to make it more enjoyable by learning how to play a favorite song of theirs.

4. Support Creativity

When words fail, sometimes we can relieve our tension and express our emotions through creative outlets. Mindful activities like coloring or journaling are great avenues for your child to explore when learning to work through stress and complicated feelings. Consider a therapeutic coloring book, for any age, that can can sooth negative emotions, improve mood and increase focus on the present moment. Your child might even find a sense of pride in their work, ultimately boosting their self-esteem.

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