Written by Annie Wylie 

When you get on a plane you’re told that, in an emergency, you should put your own oxygen mask on before helping those around you, including your kids. This instruction goes against most parents’ instincts – but if you lose consciousness you can’t help anyone. 

The same thing can be said about self-care. 

What is self-care? 

Self-care is anything you enjoy doing that helps make you happy and maintain your physical, mental or emotional health. It’s something that refuels you, and does not feel like a chore to do. 

It’s a simple concept in theory but is often overlooked, especially when kids are in the picture. 

How will taking care of myself help my kids? 

You might often find yourself running low on energy with all the things going on in your life and family.  

Self-care can help boost your energy, helping you be a more effective parent. You’re likely to have more patience with your kids, giving them more attention and being more engaged. Far from being selfish, self-care is one of the best ways to help your family. 

When parents practice self-care, it’s been shown that kids are encouraged to do the same, and take this positive habit into later life. Since kids look to their parents as role models, your self-care also helps teach your kids to look after themselves better

Why self-care is often at the bottom of the priority list 

You’ve got a million things on your plate – grocery shopping, important presentations to your boss, school pick-ups, Saturday sport, relationship drama…It’s no wonder self-care is way down on your list. 

“I don’t have enough time.” 

When your family needs help, you might feel guilty spending time on yourself. That’s why it’s important to remember that your self-care is good for your whole family. 

“I don’t have the energy.” 

Your family juggling act tends to take everything you’ve got. A simple self-care routine can help keep your energy up and stop you from collapsing in a heap. 

“It’s too expensive.” 

Money is always a consideration, whether it’s for you or your family. Simple pleasures can be as effective as shelling out – you just have to find what’s right for you. 

How to make self-care a family priority 

For busy, hectic parents and families, making self-care a priority can help you feel happier and more physically, mentally and emotionally able to deal with life’s pressures and stresses. 

1.   Work together to figure out what self care is the best for you.[Text Wrapping Break]Individually ask yourselves, what makes you feel good? What would you like to do more of? Self-care is different for everyone. 

2.   Allocate individual time for self-care.[Text Wrapping Break]Even 5 or 10 minutes adds up so don’t get overwhelmed with needing half a day to relax.. Be realistic with how much time you need to feel benefits from your self-care.  

3.   Commit to a routine. Put your individual self-care plans into the family planner. Look at this as an ongoing plan, rather than an emergency response for when things get too much. Self-care activities should be the last to be dropped from the schedule, not the first. 

4.   Get support.[Text Wrapping Break]Back each other up! Tell each other what you’re doing and when, and encourage the family to help and support each other. Swap chores so someone can go do their scheduled self-care and ask for help if needed. 

5.   Reflect and adapt.[Text Wrapping Break]Schedule a time to check in and see how everyone’s doing. Adapt what isn’t working – would a different time of day work better or would a different day work better?  Encourage your family to keep at it. Be clear that you value self-care and will always support them in being able to do it. 

Get started with self-care 

It is important for you to find self-care activities that work for you. It shouldn’t be something you’re forcing yourself to do. 

Stick to the basics to begin with and over time you’ll find your own routine and rhythm. Here are some examples of common things people do to practice self-care. 

  • Physical self-care 
  • Exercise: walking, running, cycling, swimming, or doing classes and fun runs and rides. These can be a good way to get some much needed alone time, or organise or join a group if you prefer the company! 
  • Sport: throwing or kicking a ball around at the park with friends or joining a local club or gym. That small martial arts gym you pass on the way home, or the roller derby your friend’s been raving about may be your new favourite thing! 
  • Emotional self-care 
  • Entertainment: listening to music, watching a film or going to a gig, show or game. 
  • Nature: going for a hike, going to the park, gardening or planting a window box. 
  • Creative and spiritual self-care 
  • Imagination: start writing, drawing, photographing or even joining creative classes. Pro tip: check out local community centres or even pubs – life drawing is quite common to find these days! 
  • Education: reading books, listening to podcasts, or learning a language, an instrument or a craft. 
  • Spirituality: attending a service, reading scripture or meditating regularly. 

If you’re still having some trouble getting started, try this quiz to help you find out what type of self-care is right for you.  

Things to remember 

Self-care isn’t going to be an immediate cure-all. It’s very individual and what works for some won’t work for others. You might need some time to find what works best for you. Stick at it though, and gradually making it part of your routine will give you long-term benefits, rather than as an emergency fix. 

Remember that self-care isn’t selfish and will benefit both you and your kids. Not only will self-care relax and refuel you, but it will increase your emotional, physical and mental health. You’ll have much more energy and patience to spend quality time with your kids.  

Above all, be kind to yourself!