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Model and Teach Self Care

Emotional regulation, nutrition, sleep, and positive coping skills are crucial for overall well-being and resilience. Youth aren’t born with these skills, so they must be intentionally fostered. In order to nurture these skills in children and youth, they need to be modeled and taught by the adults around them. Before you work to build resilience in others, it is important to make sure you are first taking care of yourself. Self-care helps us to be resilient caregivers. Modeling self-care and positive coping skills helps kids around us learn these strategies so that they can be more resilient too.

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Action Ideas

1. Promote Healthy Sleep

Research shows that children who get adequate sleep are better focused and behaved in school, sick less often, and manage stress more easily. Creating and maintaining a bedtime routine, helping kids go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, and limiting screen time before bed are all helpful when promoting healthy sleep.. Generally, preschoolers need 10-13 hours of sleep per day, elementary students need 9-12 hours per day, and teens need 8-10 hours per day. Learn more about promoting healthy sleep.

2. Make Meals More Meaningful 

Providing good nutrition at regular family mealtimes is important to building resilience and combating the effects of toxic stress. Not only are nutrients vital for the developing brain and body, but consistent family mealtimes also build connections and help youth feel safe and trusting of the world around them. Making meals technology-free (no phones, tablets, or TVs) will help strengthen this connection by limiting distractions. In fact, we believe in unplugged family mealtimes so much, we have our own Meaningful Meals campaign! Check it out to find resources for making your mealtimes more meaningful, and your kids more resilient.

3. Get In Some Physical Activity

Regular physical activity can actually help counter the effects of toxic stress by reducing levels of stress hormones in the body. It is best to incorporate exercise into your everyday routine, but it doesn’t have to be difficult exercise. Even something as simple as taking a walk after dinner or playing outside together in the afternoon can have great benefits. Helping kids brainstorm a variety of fun types of exercise, and joining them in exercise, can make physical activity more fun for the whole family. Here’s 25 fun ways to get your family moving.

4. Model Positive Coping Skills

Kids notice how the adults in their lives cope with stress. For example, if kids hear, “It’s been a long day; I’m going to have some wine,” they are more likely to interpret alcohol as a coping strategy. Our words and actions matter and communicating positive ways to deal with stress is vital. One way to model self-care effectively is to simply state your positive self-care or coping strategy to kids while you are doing it. For example: “I’ve had a stressful day at work. Tonight, I am going to take a bath, so I can relax my mind and body.” or “I’m eating healthy food, so I can make sure my body stays strong for anything I need it to do.” Learn more about positive coping skills and mental wellness for kids (and even yourself). Have your teen check this resource out for positive coping skills.

5. Practice Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is a technique that helps focus awareness on the present moment in order to calm the body’s stress response system. Mindfulness helps to reduce brain activity in the emotional centers of the brain. It helps people to react less impulsively and intensely to stress and provides a positive coping tool in stressful situations. Here’s two activities to get you started:

Grounding Countdown: 5-4-3-2-1 Activity

Sit quietly. Look around you and notice: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can physically feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can touch. 

Box Breathing: 
Box Breathing is an easy technique you can do anywhere to help calm your brain and reduce stress. Use the picture below and follow these instructions to practice this mindfulness skill:

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