As a licensed therapist, self-care is SO important to me, and I try to integrate little moments of loving self acceptance into my day-to-day routine. Starting with my morning ritual and practicing positive stress responses throughout the day, these moments help me combat burnout by honoring the person at the heart of all my duties and activities. One of the biggest duties I’ve undertaken is motherhood, and as a mom, self-care is a critical tenet to teach my girls!
Teaching Self-Care to Little Kids
I have three daughters at very different stages of self-development, and it’s important to meet them where they are so they can master the tools early and rely on them as they get older. Good news: there are self-care strategies to internalize at every age, but the number one rule is to make it fun!
Even our oldest, Rachel, joined in on our spa day. We spent the day in fluffy, cozy robes, did face masks and painted our nails. I loved seeing the colors they picked! Little Natalie chose pink, Emily purple, and Rachel picked blue. Totally their colors. Encouraging kids to be themselves and feel confident expressing that outwardly is a perfect starting place for little ones.
Afterwards, I taught them the basics of skin care. Hello—washing your face is more than splashing some water and smearing the dirt around! This was the biggest takeaway I wanted Natalie to pick-up, but I went into more detail for Emily and Rachel. Including Natalie in these conversations helps her feel like a big girl and valued part of the family.
In Natalie’s case, we’re at the stage where she is learning to do basic things on her own, like bathing. Demonstrating little details is important, like showing her how much shampoo to use. It’s easy to assume these things are obvious, but they’re really not! One day she wasted a whole bottle of conditioner because she used it as soap! 😂
For young kids, the biggest part is inclusion and modeling the habits and behaviors we want them to learn. Children are constantly looking to adults and older siblings, then imitating what they see. So demonstrating good habits early on sets a strong foundation for future lessons.
Teaching Self-Care to Teens
Once we dabbed dry with a clean washcloth, I showed the girls the layers of a multi-step process: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer. (It’s important to go from lightest to heaviest when applying different products!) When applying moisturizer, it’s most beneficial to start with the neck and work upward, helping distribute the product and lift the skin.
I had taken Rachel to Sephora in advance of this, and when I asked if she had finished with her cleanser, she mentioned she had been out for a while. I try to use these instances as teachable moments to make commitments to ourselves, and help her to know she can come to me for what she needs. Being dependent isn’t fun for a teen, so giving her the autonomy to share her needs helps her to take initiative she’ll need later in life.
Teenagers go through phases, and it’s critical to allow this to happen without invalidating the experience. Giving them room to be independent is key. This is especially true when it doesn’t seem like they’re practicing self-care. It’s natural for teens to sleep late in a messy room or hang around in sweats all day. Some days they really DON’T care!
Discovering that inner motivation to identify what’s important to them (and why they do actually care about it) is all part of the process. Extra space allows teens to practice trusting their own responses to different situations, and will help in integrating self-care later in life. Allow them to set their own boundaries and practice accountability.
At the end of the day, teens need to learn to do things because they understand the impact of their choices—not because Mom told them to.
Teaching Self-Care to Tweens
Meanwhile, Emily’s right that in-between space. She’s still young enough that she enjoys spending time with her parents and trusts our judgement. When she goes out, she likes to look cute, and is exploring her own interests. At this stage, I want to give her room for self-discovery, while still communicating the whys behind each self-care practice.
At the core of self-care is self-respect! Of course, no 16 year old wants to hear that. It’s important to share information when your kids are most ready to understand it and internalize it. The tween years are perfect for these more involved teachings. By giving her reasons now, she’ll learn to make these choices for herself because she understands their importance.
The Long Game
Here’s the thing: understanding self-care doesn’t happen in a single spa day. I’m in it for the long-game. Ultimately, I’m thinking about the women my daughters will become. As adults, I want them to put themselves first, know their boundaries, and understand what their bodies need in order to be successful. I want them to value their uniqueness, and see that who they are is more important than what they do.
After all, when we know ourselves and trust our knowing, we’re able to prioritize our own needs and wants in order to accomplish the goals that are most important to us. Without a strong understanding of self, it’s easy to follow along with the expectations society has for us, and lose our own voice along the way. This can be a hard lesson for girls, and especially for Asian American girls.
If I hadn’t listened to my own inner knowing, I would never have built the business I have today. This isn’t just one big leap! It’s a lot of little decisions, every day, that build up to big results. I know I need to continue trusting my gut along the way to keep my business successful and growing, and I’m grateful I have an opportunity to show my girls what it looks like to follow your own dreams.