Letting go and letting your kids be in charge is the first step.
We often think of “self-care” as an adult concept. But teaching children strategies to look out for their own health and wellbeing, no matter what obstacles come their way, is important, as we have all learned from the events of the past year.
When children are out of their normal routine, and things like hygiene, nutrition, sleep schedules and study habits slide for even a short time, it can interfere with a child’s ability to thrive in school, sports and hobbies, and social activities – and can have lasting consequences.
A lot of self-care starts with teaching independence at a very early age. Just think about the first time your toddler tied his shoes – how proud he was! Then they are entrusted with the toothbrush and the confidence builds, and on and on.
These are the kinds of “positive feelings” we should be encouraging through every stage of childhood to ensure our children take more ownership of their physical, social and emotional health. It’s never too late to start reinforcing these habits, no matter what your child’s age.
Some simple ways to help your child see the benefits of their own self-care:
- Allow toddlers and young kids the opportunity to resolve minor conflicts with peers, when appropriate.
- Let school-aged children pack their own snacks for lunch and organize their backpacks.
- Let your children communicate directly with teachers about a bad grade or missed homework and come up with a resolution.
- Ask to teens to start setting their own alarms and making their own healthy breakfasts.
- Educate and encourage – but don’t force – your child to eat healthy and exercise.
Most importantly, allow them to fail and learn from their mistakes. Nobody wants them to fail, but it is a part of life and it’s how we grow.
It’s hard for parents to let their children be in charge. I know this as a parent myself. This is where partnering with your child’s pediatrician is a great strategy to help you reinforce all these messages and lead them in the direction of making the decisions themselves.
And we can be there to reassure you that letting them eat pizza three times a day when they refuse to eat their veggies is not the end of the world. In the end they will be okay.
Dr. Samantha Lowe is a pediatrician with White Plains Hospital Physician Associates, with offices in our Armonk location. To make an appointment, call 914-849-7999.