Self-care is self-reliance. As a parent, I have tried to instill the same in my kids. They say a journey starts with the first step. And that you must take that first step. Here is how I instilled self-care habits in my kids. I believe self-care habits should start from parents and from home. If parents follow these habits, children will acquire them and will develop adaptability in learning self-care.
Growing up, I saw my parents follow self-care habits like: waking up early and performing prayers, going for a walk, and eating healthy. This instilled self-care practice in me. Back in 1980s, we never knew that this was called self-care, it was just part of our parent’s lifestyle and routine.
However, me being a working professional and with my hectic schedule, I felt it’s not feasible for me to follow and teach self-care habits to my son. Yet, I realized if I can, it will make my life and my son’s life effortless. Honestly, introducing self-care to my son was not an easy task. Nevertheless, I followed what my parents did. Firstly, I focused and followed my self-care habits like: doing meditation, exercising every day, and eating healthy/nutritious food. When my son saw me executing these practices, it made it effortless for me to educate him with these habits and he got accustomed to it pretty fast.
I started off my son with self-care habits like: brushing his teeth, eating his breakfast, and cleaning up toys after playtime. These habits may sound simple but it will help children practice their motor skills and they will gain confidence and will develop self-esteem when they try new things and succeed. In addition, as part of self-care skills, we have to let children think, process, let them make decisions, and be independent. So, from an early age, I made my son make his own decisions like: picking his clothes, it can be that simple!
As he grew older, I introduced him to new self-care practices such as: downtime, which means doing nothing for 5 to 10 min. Sometimes, doing nothing is the best self-care practice. This helps children in cognitive thinking and helps them express their wants and needs. Later on, I encouraged him to write a journal every day and include 5 things that he is thankful for, this will help children develop and feel gratitude. His other self-care habits included making his bed, cleaning up his room, involving in house chores, waking up himself, and making his meal.
As weekdays are hectic for most of us, over the weekends, parents should make it a habit of having family time and fun time with children. In our family time, we all sit and talk about how the week was going? How we all did? Did we miss anything? And, can we make it any better next week? Fun time for me is playing an outdoor game or cuddling with my son on the couch and reading a book with him. Family time and fun time not only work as self-care practices, but they will also help us bond with our children.
From my personal experience, I believe self-care starts with parents working on their self-care habits and then educating children. Children perceive a lot from their parents and learn from them. Until parents follow self-care habits, they cannot educate their children. Parents need to take out time for themselves, the app helped me find ways and keeping up with my self-care practices. Every time I feel demotivated, I recall the in-flight announcement 'Put YOUR oxygen mask on before doing so for others (kids, elderly, co-passengers)'.
I have struggled with the fidgetiness of my son. A moment he is here and the next one he is gone. You try and explain something, and yet I found him to wandering in some other world. I found presence based meditative and self-care routines to my rescue. In one of Aumhum self-care sessions I got introduced to this thing called feeling my feet. It was an exercise where you scan your body bottom up, feeling all the sensations. It is some form of grounding. You can do this at your home as well. It is about taking your focus on each body part, starting from toe & fingers all the way to the tip of the head. A repeat of this practice for a week brought immense benefits to my son's awareness level. I often had the thought that I am over-engineering the child? But the results where my son was more in every moment, took away all my self-doubts.
Cause & Effect:
A lot of Indian stories are based on the the principle of Karma, a kind of cause and effect. It was easy for me to find stories that instilled the point that every action has a reaction. Our actions have to be conscious actions, and that not taking an action is not an option. For this, I had to take the route of using food as an example. Food-choices develop early and it is easy for kids to build a list of what they do not like to eat. One of my favorite ways to instill appreciation for food is through cause and effect. Wasting food on plate, is kind of a disrespect for the effort farmers, Mother Earth and nature have put together to help us feed ourselves. This has multiplicative effect. The entire cycle of producing food and consuming it changes the way how much we pay for food and how many people out there are not able to afford the same. I often go overboard defining this, but there are numerous stories on this, close to my heart that I have used to inculcate mindfulness on what we eat and how we eat.
We lost our dog and the kids were distraught. Yet, in a few months we were back to moving on. My kids needed to learn this, especially the 6 year old. It has always been tough for him to let go toys even if he wasn't using them in the first place. We've had numerous sad sleepovers where gifting the neighbor kid anything became a crying issue for my kid. So, it was important for us to help him understand that things don't remain the same all the time. They change. What we value today may not be so valuable to us tomorrow. We change and so does the value we put to things.
Teaching self-care to my son created a strong foundation for him in becoming inependent and I am confident that with these self-care skills, he will grow into adulthood that will keep him mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.