Selfcare for Kids
Seven tools to help equip your children to look after their mental well-being
Self-care is the current buzz word, but it’s not just busy mums who should be making time to care for their mental health, there are also lots of things we can be encouraging our children to do in order to look after their own wellbeing. Now while being happy 365 days of the year clearly isn’t realistic, there are things both young and old can do to not only feel a bitter in our own heads, but also to make the world a bit of a brighter place for those around us - feel good on the inside, do good on the outside!
Here, Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher and Health Coach, Suzy Reading, who specialises in self-care and helping people manage stress and emotions, offers us seven ways we can empower our kids with their own tools for self-care. That’s one for each day of the week:
Self-care for Kids……..
1. Notice Nature’s Beauty
Being in nature’s beauty is refreshing, energising and lifts our spirits. There is even new research suggesting that time in the great outdoors can boost positive body image and a healthy respect for our bodies. So get outdoors with your kids and encourage their inner earth lover! It is free, accessible, and so easily done! Giving voice to the things that pique your interest or things you find awe inspiring is a wonderful way to share time, drawing you close together. This can transform any moment, whether you are in the car or on foot – maybe it’s a red kite on the wing, a curious cloud formation or savouring a sunset. Being on the lookout for Nature’s beauty is the best self-care strategy on the go.
2. Calm your Mind with a Mantra: I AM STILL, I AM CALM, I AM ME
If your mind is busy or stuck on an unhelpful thought, anchoring it on a mantra can help. One of our favourites is by @gratefulmother: ‘I am still, I am calm, I am me’. Repeat it a few times in your mind or say it out loud and see how it feels for you. You could make some mantras of your own! Think about any way that you’d like to feel and make your own ‘I am’ statement, really focus upon what makes you unique! Get creative with it by making some art featuring your mantras, like this poster. They can become really useful reminders.
3. Mindfulness Jar
Seek out a clean, empty jar. Pop a tablespoon of glitter and/or stars in it, fill it two thirds with water, add a drop or two of food colouring if you like and screw the lid on firmly. Explain to your child that they can use this jar whenever they feel jumbled up inside or when their minds are really busy to help them find inner peace. Give it a shake for a moment then hold the jar still and watch as the sparkling contents whirl about and slowly settle. The glitter is just like our thoughts, sometimes jumbled and busy, sometimes calm and still. It is all ok. When we sit still, relax into our breathing, and watch our thoughts, the mind slows and settles down too, just like the glitter in the jar. When we feel shaken up it can be hard to know what to do. When the mind is calm it is easier to work out the solutions to our problems or talk about what is upsetting us. Use the mindfulness jar whenever you’d like to feel calm.
4. Surfer Pose
Want to feel strong? Use your body to feel powerful and courageous and encourage self belief! Stand up and step your feet twice shoulder width apart. Turn your right toes out to 180 degrees and press your left heel slightly away from you. Bend deeply into your right knee, fully straighten your left leg, stretch your arms out at shoulder height and gaze towards your right fingertips. Imagine you are riding those waves and notice how determined this shape makes you feel. You could repeat a mantra like ‘I am brave’. Hold here for 5 to 10 breaths before changing sides. Whenever you want to change how you feel, remember you can use your body to help you!
5. Balloon Belly Breathing
Quite simply, when we breath better we feel better and by taking the time to really listen and feel our breathing we develop the important skill of tuning in with ourselves. Try this breathing exercise whenever you want to feel calm or to help you melt into bed. Lie on your back and rest your hands on your tummy. Relax your body and allow your breath to be smooth. Imagine there is a balloon in your tummy. The balloon inflates with each breath in and gently deflates with each breath out, your hands going along for the ride. There is no hurry to fill or empty your balloon. See if you can take longer to empty it than fill it back up. If you like, you could pop a treasured cuddly toy on your tummy and watch them ride the breath up and down. Once you’ve enjoyed several relaxed deep breaths, give your toy a cuddle and feel how much you love them. Then wrap your arms around yourself, give yourself a tight squeeze and extend that same feeling of love towards you.
6. Build a toolkit together
Everyone experiences big emotions and no one is immune from worry particularly when they are facing a problem. Think of any challenge you are facing right now and spend some time with a parent, friend or on your own if you prefer coming up with some actions to try out in the moment. We all thrive on certainty whether we are six, 16 or 60, so even if you can’t guarantee a particular outcome, having a toolkit of things to try can be a powerful coping strategy.
Think along the lines of: When ‘X’ happens, then I will ‘Y’… So some examples of challenges we all face might be:
● When I can’t sleep, then I will…
● When a friend is unkind to me, then I will…
● When I feel angry, then I will…
Tink about some things you could do in the moment to help you deal with that situation and if you’re not sure, ask a grown up to work on your toolkit with you. Having lots of different options to try will help you feel more calm and confident. These toolkits become even more potent when written down, so find somewhere you can jot down and record these ideas, maybe even start your own self-care journal!
7. Double your Joy by Savouring
This is my all-time favourite self-care tip. It takes no real energy, effort or time and it is so powerful! Savouring is the ability to be really present to pleasurable experiences. I describe it as sucking the life out of joyful moments. Build your savouring muscle by noticing moments of peace and delight, don’t waste them by dividing your attention or letting your inner chatter sabotage it. You can savour the past by reminiscing about happy memories. You can savour the present by giving this moment your full attention and using all your senses to amplify the feelings of joy. You can savour the future by anticipating events to come. Teach your kids the art of savouring and they will have access to happiness in any moment. Savour with your kids and you’ll have many treasured moments bonding you together.
Suzy is a mother of two, a Chartered Psychologist, Yoga Teacher, and Health Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges. Suzy is a contributing editor for Psychologies Magazine, the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics and is a founding member of the ‘Nourish’ app. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster, is out now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Self-Care-Revolution-habits-practices-flourish/dp/1912023202. Her second book 'Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness & Self-Care for Children and Parents' will be out on April 4, 2019, shortly followed by 'Self-Care Every Day' on July 2nd.
You can join Suzy’s Wellbeing Community at:
 VirenSwamiabDavidBarronbAdrianFurnhamc (2018) Exposure to natural environments, and photographs of natural environments, promotes more positive body image. In Journal of Body Image Volume 24, March 2018, Pages 82-94