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Q: I am a firm believer in the importance of self-care and I know it is somewhat of a trend right now in the adult healthcare industry. But what about children? We tell them to eat their vegetables, exercise, and study hard in school, but not specifically about taking care of their emotional and mental health. How can we teach them these skills?

Teaching self-care is an important way to help our children develop healthy habits, coping strategies, and resilience. Some schools already offer programs that teach meditation and deep breathing to support kids in managing different stressors, even at a very young age. Parents can do a lot to model healthy self-care behaviors such as getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising. Encourage good habits by dedicating regular time to go on walks, cook at home together, and make sure to limit screen time, especially before bed. Parents should also talk to their children about the importance of prioritizing health and finding balance in daily life.

It's also critical that kids have a positive social network of friends and mentors who can reinforce the importance of kindness, gratitude, and even volunteerism. They can find these networks at school, within their extended family, at church, on a sports team, and in clubs and other community organizations.

When planning self-care activities with your children, make sure to find activities they enjoy and are excited about. These activities don't need to be expensive or elaborate, but they may take some planning and conscious effort to keep up regularly. Over time, it will become more of a habit and part of your family's self-care strategy for better health and wellness.

Giulietta C. Swenson, PsyD

Psychology, Behavioral Health

Maui Memorial Medical Center
221 Mahalani Street
Wailuku, HI 96793