Self Care for Every Age – Kids

It’s Self Care Sunday! How will you spend today? Are you running around from church to brunch to baseball game? Are you cleaning the house, getting ready for the next week? Or are you using today as a day of rest to recuperate from last week?

I spend my Sundays getting ready for next week. My son and I go over the schedule for next week. I usually make lunches for myself for the work week. Although, today, I’m cheating because I don’t feel like standing up cooking. So we went to Walmart and picked up some frozen meals. Not the best way to try and save money, but I think I slept wrong last night because my back is hurting. So I am gauging my limits and practicing a little self care.

Self care is a big catch phrase nowadays. Therapists and doctors are constantly talking about it. Busy people are poo-pooing it because they see it as an excuse for millennials to be lazy. However, it isn’t.

We, as humans, need time to shut down our brains for awhile. The brain cannot be constantly going 24/7. It’s no wonder that many of us have insomnia – we don’t allow our brains to shut down. And when we try to sleep, the brain says “No Way”.

This is a common epidemic among kids. Parents want the best for their kids. We want them to have the opportunities we never had because our parents couldn’t afford it. We want to find that one activity where maybe our child is a prodigy and can become famous. So we schedule them with play dates and activities every day of the week – soccer, baseball, dance, voice lessons, karate, music lessons, etc. Our children then have meltdowns, and we wonder why. We wonder why they have bad grades and try to fit one more thing into the schedule – a tutor.

We, as parents and as human beings, are constantly playing the What If game. “If my parents had only paid for voice lessons, I could have been a famous singer, instead of singing solos in the church choir.”. “If my mom had put me in football as a kid, I could have been in the NFL and making big bucks.” So we put our kids in these activities. The sports and entertainment industries are full of stories of courageous single moms who sacrificed everything so their child could play football. Or could take figure skating lessons. We want to be that story. And sadly, when it doesn’t happen, we live with regret. FOMO is a big thing. We live in an age where we want to experience EVERYTHING. And we want our children to experience everything.

Can I tell you a secret?

They don’t have to experience everything! Let them be kids. Let them play. Let them discover who they are as a person, instead of who you want them to be.

Kids need to practice self care as much as parents. They need time to relax where they aren’t constantly doing something. But we don’t call it self care for kids. We call it downtime. Naptime. Screen time. We, as parents, sometimes need to force self care on our kids so they can learn to relax. So they will sleep at night.

Story time.

My son has been dancing since he was 3. It was the only activity I could put him in because of the custody arrangement with his father. We needed an activity that could occur during the school year, since he goes to his dad’s every summer. Football was out, even though he wanted to play, because football starts in August during high school. And there are camps in the summer that he would need to participate in to get better and to build teamwork. Otherwise he would always be on the bench. Teeball/baseball was out. That happened in the spring and went through the summer. Soccer was out for the same reason. Any sport that could translate from youth into high school was out because of said camps over the summer.

Dance was the only option we had for a physical activity. Yes, there are summer dance classes, but they aren’t required. He could practice on his own if he really wanted. When he got into competition, Nationals didn’t occur until Father’s Day weekend, but that was okay – it was only a couple weeks more.

Come to find out – my son’s an introvert, just like me. Ha! He doesn’t want to do solos and dance by himself. He doesn’t want to be the center of attention of the line (although he usually is, being the only boy). He is perfectly happy dancing in the back row and letting his girls get the spotlight. But he does like to dance. For him, his chosen activity is something he enjoys – not something that is going to land him on Broadway.

He tried band when it was offered in school – didn’t like it. He tried choir, but didn’t enjoy it as much as he thought he would. Plus, if he was in choir in high school, he would be pressured by teachers and friends to be in show choir, which is a big deal in our town. And that would cast him in the spotlight, and he didn’t want that.

At one point, we were at the studio 6 days a week because of various classes and because we were getting ready to go to Disney on a studio trip to dance in downtown Disney. That was a bit much even for me. Once the trip was done, we were down to 4 days a week, but even that was getting to be stressful. This year, we are dancing 1 day a week. 3 classes (4 if you count technique) in 1 day. It gives him time to relax during the week and do homework and keep his grades up.

You see, my son doesn’t want to be famous. He doesn’t want to be in the spotlight and make huge amounts of money. He wants to work with animals at a zoo. Animals are a passion for him. But he will stay in dance because he knows the value of having a physical activity in his life.

Most days, he comes home and sits down to do homework. He will usually get it down well before bed and he can use the rest of the evening to either do a chore for me or rest and relax. In other words, self care. My 15 year old knows the value of self care. It allows him to get a good night’s sleep, and as a result, he doesn’t sleep until noon on his days off like some teenagers. On the weekends (if we don’t have competition), he has time to hang out with friends  and neighbors, play on his Xbox (which is not allowed during the week) and watch movies. He is enjoying being a kid. He values that time to himself. As a result, we don’t butt heads because he is so tired and stressed.

Teenagers need to practice self care as much as adults. They need their sleep because their bodies are growing and hormones are racing, causing a constant fight or flight syndrome. They have to do well in school to get into college. They need money to pay for a car or to hang with their friends, so they get a job. And after school sports and activities to show they are a well-rounded student.

Now is the time for them to choose a hobby that allows them to relax. Reading for fun, knitting or crocheting, stamp collecting, writing fiction for their own pleasure. Something that might not make them famous down the road, but that they enjoy. If they enjoy flying a kite or a remote control airplane, let them. As much as we treat them as mini adults they are still kids and need to be told to relax.

What is my child doing today? He is sitting in his room, studying for a biology quiz, and then is probably going to hop online and play Xbox with his dad. And I’m going to let him because he has done everything he needs to for the week and I like hearing him laugh.

I’m hoping I’m instilling the importance of downtime and self care in my son.

2 Comments

  1. Lonni on May 21, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    OMG Jen, you’re amazing, that was phenomenal and something EVERY parent. should read and put into action
    I believe the same things! Our children simply don’t know how to be children anymore. They don’t have a clue what an imagination is because they’ve never been required to use it, and most children are stressed out because of their parents expectations. You’re right, they want their children to be involved in everything and succeed and everything. But they don’t realize is that failure allows learning.

    • Jen on May 22, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      I completely agree. Children have to be allowed to fail. How else can they learn to make better choices?

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