You know how important it is to practice self-care, so you are trying to maintain two enriching and energising exercises (and they work!) every day. Still, you wonder how to teach self-care to your children so they can reap the benefits from a young age?
Keep reading if you want to learn seven easy and entertaining routines that not only they’ll be grateful for, but you’ll also enjoy doing with them—starting from today!
The bigger picture
I cannot stress enough that while basic needs are a form of self-care, I am going to go through other not so obvious forms of self-care. We know well about the occasional pampering or spa, the meditation, nature walks in peace…
But do you often think enough of the matters of the heart and soul? Do you take care of your emotional energy where your passion, life dreams, your sense of fulfilment, your creativity and your willpower lives?
Children do not think much of it; THEY LIVE IT. Unfortunately, it seems that when they grow up, they slowly forget.
It’s shocking to realise that becoming an adult you become less connected to yourself, and that’s a big mistake that you need to take care of if you want to succeed in life.
Since you are going through a transformational journey, why not share it with your children so they acquire excellent skills for life that will empower them as adults?
Routine #1- Speak and act Gratefulness in all things.
I’m not American, but one of the things that used to amaze me when growing up was seeing the praying before the meal in the movies and TV series. It is a lovely gesture to thank everyone involved in the process of the food from the making to the moment it reaches the table… Yet, a couple of years ago, I read America has a high percentage of food waste! I was in shock, what happened there??
It’s nice to pray, but something was missing.
My mom, she’s Filipina, she taught me to respect food. She said that if we don’t appreciate food, food won’t come to us and we’ll starve. I used to think it was weird to say that, and also she would let my brother play with his food (yet, he would eat it all!).
Now I understand what she means. Respecting food means to cook with respect and love, to eat what you need and slowly while enjoying it without rushing. Leftovers will be frozen or put in the fridge so it wouldn’t be wasted.
Respecting food for what it is, nourishment for our body, heart and soul. It plays such a big part in keeping us alive that we shouldn’t waste it or devour it without enjoyment.
So it’s not only talking about things with respect but acting with respect towards those things. I’ve talked about food as an example, but it applies to other things! If you don’t believe or understand me, look at something well made and done with respect or love and then compare it to a quick, mass-produced cheap object!
How to pass on Gratefulness to our kids? Let them help in the process, being patient and giving them space to enjoy it!
Try to prepare a beautiful salad together (or anything quick and easy), while talking about where food comes from. Explain to your children (through storytelling) what was the process they went through from seeds to fresh vegetables. Ask them what would they do to say thank you for the lovely food they get to eat. Maybe write a thank you letter to our planet?
Not only you’ll be teaching them to be grateful, but they’ll also learn a bit of science and get to be creative while bonding with you. It’s a win-win situation!
Routine #2- Keeping emotions open
In a world that teaches us to shush our real emotions, yet it heavily monetises from them, we end up afraid to share them openly. Being raw and show vulnerability is seen as a weakness. Yet, I consider emotions to be one of the most potent gifts of life!
I work heavily on emotional energy, and it’s this energy that keeps your world moving, literally and metaphorically speaking! This type of energy is the one that gives you purpose in life, and it brings meaning to it.
Without it, you will often l feel lost and with no direction in life and even question who you are or what you want.
So I believe that if you are honest and open with your emotions, you’ll always be indeed yourself and chances are, you’ll step in your power. Take young children as an example, so open and honest about how they feel or how they think. They are one hundred per cent themselves.
My routine in this one I check on their (and yours) emotions when it’s needed, especially when something big or upsetting has happened. I’ve taught my three-year-old son to tell me if he felt sad or angry since he was a year and a half. Sometimes if he were very reluctant to say to me, I would use a “third party” in the form of one of his stuffed animals, and I would “lend my voice to it”.
Sometimes he feels safer sharing his problems with me through his ” teddy friends”, and I don’t mind. I don’t care much about the method but the purpose and the result.
Routine #3- Shifting responsibility into a habit
When does a child have to start having responsibilities? This question usually creates a mixture of reactions, answers and quite a fair amount of controversy.
In western countries, children don’t seem to have many responsibilities while growing up as moms have this idea that they are responsible for all children and home-related chores. Also, many won’t admit that they have control issues as well. They are scared to delegate certain tasks in case they are not needed anymore and therefore, feeling like they are filing as mothers!
I didn’t experience that, mostly because of my mom but my Spanish grandma would sometimes ask me to help a bit since I liked observing her while she cooked. My mom is Asian, Filipina to be exact, and she made sure her FEMALE firstborn would take on chores as it’s traditional in the Philippines.
It all started at the age of eight and had to tidy up after my and my younger brother’s toys and make our beds. Sometimes I had to look after my brother while she cooked. My dad was away most of the year as he had to travel because of his job; he would spend a few weeks before going away for a few months, it was hard because I adore him.
As I grew up, my mom would impose more chores one me like washing the dishes, setting up the table, shopping, hoovering, etc.. My brother would be spared most of the time from any house chore! I found it very unfair, and it’s something I used to resent my mom. Still, now I understand, I don’t blame her as she did it because of her heavily patriarchal upbringing.
But when I flew the nest at twenty to become an Aupair in Ireland and ended up staying for good, I met other girls, and I could see that all those years of responsibilities that I hated so much proved useful for my independent life. None of my friends knew how to cook properly, and some even regret not asking their moms to learn from them.
While I’m not going to suggest to do as the Japanese (which in my opinion is a bit extreme), it’s not harmful to introduce some responsibility to our children. They can learn through helping mom and dad, and experimenting.
“Never help a child with a task at which she feels she can succeed.” – Maria Montessori.
I’ve studied Maria Montessori’s principles as she encourages children to become independent gradually. Depending on the age stage they are in, by doing things by themselves through play, repetition and encouragement or guidance in an observed space.
Maybe you could start asking your child to help to tidy after play while motivating them with a positive consequence.
“Let’s tidy up your toys, so we have more space to walk around without tripping over a toy and hurt ourselves or break that toy!”. Or even better if there’s a new activity waiting afterwards. “Let’s tidy up together, so mommy has some more time to prepare an even yummier food for you!”.
Children love helping their moms and dads after all because they get to do something together and prove useful, which will make their parents proud!
Routine #4- We are a team, so you count!
The previous routine already explains a bit why children like to help: they want to be useful and make their parents proud.
While I can understand a mom or dad wanting their children to be more independent, I need to remind what is the sense of freedom. Because becoming independent means she or he will eventually gain that sense. Wikipedia’s description says:
Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is “free” if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. … A person has the freedom to do things that will not, in theory or in practice, be prevented by other forces.
Based on the description above, I would doubt if I want my child to be “just” independent. I believe that freedom without good values, the right guidance and a proper mindset leads to disaster despite the best intentions.
Children don’t have enough experience nor information to process freedom and act in a way that will protect nor help them. So how to help them with that? Through teamwork! Yes, like in any job, if you don’t have enough experience in taking a much higher position that requires a high responsibility, you then start working within a team.
Your children will feel like part of a team by teaching them the importance of them taking part in the family’s activities and chores. Not only it will encourage them to do their bit more willingly, but also they’ll be appreciated and wanted as well. It’ll teach them social skills, communication, proactivity and responsibility.
Of course, you have to be careful and introduce more accessible types of chores that their age can handle. Per example, I would start by two and with only one task to help mom or dad like picking up toys and putting them in a basket or box. By three, I would encourage them to help to put dirty laundry into the washing machine or store away their books.
I also must state that encouragement and patience are essential, by dictating or ordering them with no warning nor explanation will make things harder for both sides.
It’s not a race, nor we aim for perfection.
It’s about learning new skills and making them a healthy and positive habit that not only will help the parents but the kids too!
Routine #5- A quiet, sacred little corner
haven/ˈheɪv(ə)n/noun. 1.a place of safety or refuge.
Feeling and being safe is a human right, is a need that has to be met in order to strive in life.
There are so many things that can threaten that sense of safety like war, diseases, violence, accidents. But there’s a threat that is growing every day and is one that although people are aware of it, it’s still a stigma in many countries, developed or non-developed.
It can make you feel very anxious; it can spike your anger levels; it can make you end up paranoid… It can make you feel a lot of negative ways.
Nobody is safe from it; even children feel stress! And of course, as a mom I can understand you want to protect them from it, but how?
I’m going to be blunt with you: I cannot guarantee that you’ll be able to protect them from ever getting stressed. I can reassure you though that if you give your children proper tools on how to deal with stress before it worsens, you’ll for sure be helping them when they need it most!
One of the things I’ve taught my son early was to tell me if he was feeling sad, angry or even happy and excited. I did that when he started talking by the age of one, even though he was just babbling and barely said, mama. Know that babies can feel the emotions of people, especially their mom’s and also they understand facial expressions!
I did that because for me it’s important that my children tell me how they feel if something affects them. Especially if it’s negative so I can help them with whatever they need and as soon as possible.
Another thing I did is to let them choose a sacred space where he can go if he needs to be alone and relax. We put some rules that daddy or I would not bother him and would ask if he is ok and if he needs any help and respects his response. He, in return, cannot bring any food inside his space nor he cannot make a mess in it and with minimal toys getting in.
This way he knows there’s a space all for himself where he can be himself and hide away from anything or anybody when he’s overstimulated. Thanks to this we barely have tantrums!
Routine #6- Respect before sharing
For me, respect goes before kindness, and the reason for that is many times I’ve seen people being disrespectful or taking advantage by using the excuse of kindness first.
“Sharing is caring!” have you heard about this phrase? I used to say it often as I’ve learned from the children I used to take care when I was a Nanny. While the intention is good, often children would coerce others through it. If you didn’t share when someone asks you to, then you weren’t kind or friendly, which people use against them by telling the teacher or others.
I’ve taught my child to do as he believes if someone would want him to share something maybe he could ask either respect for his choice or to equal the action by asking the other to share something too.
I’ve taught him also to be able to differentiate scenarios by distinguishing something that truly belonged to him and what was a “common property”.
If another child would be asking to share the swing despite my son arriving first and barely spent any time, he could tell them to wait their turn.
In the case of someone asking for his favourite toy he brought from home, he would say “my toy, my choice!” and ask them to please respect him. Knowing that this scenario can happen, I never let him bring any toy into the nursery!
So as you can see, respect can be kind, but kindness doesn’t necessarily happen in a respectful scenario.
Routine #7- Forgiveness is ageless.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. – Mahatma Gandhi
One of the things I remember about my time as an Aupair, so clearly and with so much candidness, is when the mom I worked for apologised to the neighbour’s five-year-old girl.
I remember well, I was washing some dishes and saw in the garden how my host mom was kneeling to the level of the little girl’s height and started talking to her calmly. The girl looked like she wasn’t sure of what to do, but she nodded and then she ran off to her house.
I asked the mom if everything was alright, and she directly replied that she was apologising to the little girl for shouting at her the day before. Apparently, the little girl, who’s the best friend of the youngest girl in my host family, was in our house and when was time for lunch she kept overstaying despite being told she needed to go. In a moment of desperation, my host mom shouted at her telling her that she really needed to go, scaring the poor girl and effectively making her leave.
My host mom acknowledges that by shouting, she was being a bit too rude and felt she needed to apologise.
I was shocked and replied “I think she’ll be fine, she’s just a little girl..”, trying to make her feel a bit better. She didn’t need me to. She immediately replied, “When something is wrong, it’s wrong, and you need to admit and amend regardless the age of that person you’ve wronged, whether she’s five or eighty”.
That struck me forever, and I felt so proud of being the Aupair of such an amazing and strong woman. I admire her so much, and even though it’s been ten years since that happened, I remember so well that day.
Since then, whenever I feel I’ve done wrong, I quickly apologise and explain myself. Sometimes it’s hard, but I get to do it. This way, I don’t accumulate more regrets, and I get to bring some closure or clarity not only for myself but also for the other person involved.
I taught my son the importance to own your wrongdoing and apologise at the moment or shortly after. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn more and do better.
It’s a bit tricky because he’s yet a bit young to understand fully and there was a time he would apologise, everyone, he would bump or almost bump! But as long as I consistently explain to him and guide him with patience, he’ll be fine and finally grasp the true meaning and power of forgiveness.
Skills for life
These are no mere tools but skills for life, skills that will enable yourself and your children to live life positively and assertively. These routines help the emotional energy flow unrestricted, fluidly and powerfully because these routines work with principles that are just and respectful for everyone.
When you do the right thing, your heart, soul and mind work together as one. When that happens, you unlock something so deep and intense within you… It’s synchronisation at its best, the type that can change the stars and move mountains.
And that’s a wish that as a mom I want for my children: the strength to change the stars if they’re going to and create their world where they can be themselves and live happy and free.
With light and joy,
Diosa Llabaria Bandiola