Teen self-care is important. What’s more, it’s really vital for overall mental health. This one may seem really obvious but we need to be reminded. Self-care is vital to all of us. But that doesn’t make it any easier to practice, does it? We all know we need to care for ourselves. This can mean the simple stuff like brushing our teeth, making our beds, folding our laundry, and perhaps walking the dog. In addition to the basics, there are the core needs that we need met to feel healthy and to support our well-being. These may include exercise, eating well, getting plenty of sleep, setting healthful boundaries, creating space to feel emotions, and maintaining a positive mindset. This is sometimes easier said than done, especially when it comes to teen self-care. Adolescents are only just learning about who they are and what they may need.
Teens & Self-Care Statistics
The statistics on teen mental health only further bolster the need for self-care and self-awareness in adolescence. According to the CDC “1 in 6 children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) has a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder… In addition, 9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (6.1 million) are diagnosed with ADHD.” Stressors are only on the rise and kids need tools to manage.
What we know is that kids listen and observe way more than adults often think. Furthermore, the “do what I say, not what I do” approach does not work. We need to model the best behavior, as always, and there are some simple ways we can not only model, but also teach and guide.
Here are some tips for teaching teens about self-care.
Embody the change. To start, visualize the way you wish to behave in front of kids and think about what daily habits will help you uphold this vision. It may sound really simple but we all live busy, full lives. Hence, slowing down to listen in and practice self-care rituals can seem tough. “I can’t put myself first” or “The kids need me” — This is the road to martyrdom and misery. Don’t do it. If kids learn from us, we have to be the change. It seems antithetical to reason but when we take care of ourselves, we are showing self-love. When others see this — teens or adults! — it inspires the same behaviors.
Offer your support. Listening is a powerful way to demonstrate love. Timing goes a long way, too. When we are emotionally neutral, and not activated by something, we have the capacity for perspective. At the right moment, ask your favorite teen what they need to feel balanced, nourished. If they’re not sure, there are some tools you can share.
Recognize the feelings. This is an incredible tool for kids. Learning to identify feelings allows us to gain some objectivity and understand what we’re experiencing. In addition, it may let us realize the need for self-soothing. When we undergo trauma or have anxiety or depression, it can be really hard to know how to cope. We may feel overwhelmed or emotionally fragile. Self-soothing is a great tool for managing stressors but we can’t self-soothe without knowing what is happening within and what we need. Teen self-care is reliant on knowing how to self-regulate.
Self-soothing skills. There are various activities we can perform to enact self-care.
- ART: Some teens like to draw, color, or paint. Perhaps they weave bracelets.
- MOVE: When we move our bodies, we naturally change our perspective and mood.
- MUSIC: Listening to music is powerful and cathartic. A great tool for teen self-care.
- NATURE: A walk outside can restore a sense of balance.
- NUTRITION: Healthy food, self-prepared is a positive way to enact self-care. We’re nourishing our bodies and being creative when we prepare a meal.
Whatever works is what’s best. It might be as simple as taking a break from a situation or resting. This practice will go a very long way to supporting teen emotions and well-being. And the more we each care for ourselves, the more balance we bring to our lives.
At SoCal Adolescent Wellness, we provide the professional expertise and education to support and teach families the skills of emotional awareness, self-regulation, behavioral modification practices, and fundamental mental health tools. We connect the symptoms and experiences with evidenced-based therapeutic interventions as we develop unique treatment plans for teens and families. We guide clients to help them adjust and adapt to anything that life brings. We are here to help.