A Lesson in Self-Care from Our Children

As we move into mid-summer and kids are home throughout the day, you might notice that your stress level rises, but your child’s stress level seems to remain pretty stable. What do kids know that we don’t when it comes to de-stressing? As adults, we worry about paying bills, our children, our pets, aging parents, work, losing weight, cleaning the house – and the list goes on. And yet, do you recall anything that caused you this much stress as a five-year-old?

Children know how to de-stress. They inherently recognize the importance of taking time for one’s self and making one’s needs a priority without feeling guilty about it. So let’s take a lesson from our children this year. Let’s observe their strategies in self-care and incorporate these tools into our own lives. Consider these five tips from children who were asked how they keep themselves happy:

  1. “Eat a cookie or cupcake for breakfast sometimes.” Give yourself a break. Food can be exciting and comforting, and it is meant to be enjoyed. Playing hooky from one healthy meal per month is not going to destroy your diet, and it may give you a delicious moment of pleasure that brings you back to the days of sneaking into mom’s cookie jar.
  2. “Skipping and dancing and laughing are the best!” Be silly. Children do not care who is watching them as they skip through the grocery store – why do we lose that joy and sense of freedom as adults? And aren’t the funniest jokes sometimes those that bomb or make no sense at all? Put down your guard for a few minutes, and try doing a cartwheel in the backyard, or asking your neighbor, “What kind of cheese isn’t yours?” (NACHO cheese!). You are guaranteed a few moments of child-like cheer.
  3. “Watch the squirrels leap in the trees.” Allow yourself to experience the wonders of the world through a child’s eyes. Take a moment to set logic and science and experience aside, and watch the world go by with curiosity. Watch ants as they carry away your picnic crumbs, and marvel at their strength and skill. Find pictures in the clouds and the stars. Discover the million snowflake shapes that land on your arm. Let yourself be amazed by the seemingly small things.
  4. “Play with all of your toys in the bathtub.” Take time to relax. We all need time to unwind, decompress, and let our mind and body recharge. Maybe you’re past the rubber ducky stage (or maybe not!), but aromatic bath salts and your favorite MP3 downloads await you. Besides, is it possible to sit in a bubble bath and NOT enjoy playing with bubbles?
  5. “Cuddle and hug everyone you love.” Physical affection is powerful. Hold hands with your partner, pet your dog, and cuddle on the couch with your kids. A hug can make anyone’s troubles seem a bit less overwhelming, regardless of who initiates the squeeze!

Instead of growing up, try being a kid for a few moments each day, and notice how self-care suddenly seems easy and natural!

About Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker

Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker is an adoptee, adoptive parent, and psychologist who provides mental health support focused on adoption, trauma, and racial identity work. She is the author of the "Adoptees Like Me" book series.