What is self care for kids - childhood self care defined

What is Self Care for Kids? Childhood self care defined.

Self care for kids is any activity that helps a child regulate. Childhood self care is important because just like adults, kids get stressed. Children don’t always recognize when they are stressed. Their bodies and brains are still developing. Plus, kids are still learning what signs to look for. This makes a regular routine of self care all that much more important. Self care can be taught and teaching healthy self care is a positive parenting skill. In other words, this is every parent’s role.

In this post, we provide a quick-start guide to childhood self care. This is followed by links to more in-depth resources. Finally, be sure to use the table of contents below to navigate this post.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Self Care

Childhood self-care can also be healthy (like going for a run) or unhealthy (such as eating a full pan of brownies). Unhealthy self-care differs from healthy childhood self care in that it helps kids feel better at the moment but often drags them further into negative emotions in the future.

Childhood Self Care and Positive Parenting

The good news is that parents can help their children de-stress by practicing healthy self care. In other words, self care for kids can be taught. Keep reading for a few more insights into the adverse effects of childhood stress and the positive impact of self care. Then check out our complete guide: The Ultimate Guide to Self-Care for Kids for a deep dive into this important parenting topic.

What causes childhood stress?

Common causes of childhood stress include:

  • Worries about grades, school, and friendships
  • Having their parents go through a divorce or separation.
  • Packed schedules. Even if your child enjoys the events, taking on too much at once will add to childhood stress.
  • Teasing, bullying, and cyber-bullying. As many as 32% of kids are bullied once a week or more.
  • Money problems at home.
  • Changes such as moving schools, houses, or experiencing homelessness.
  • And, according to the ACE’s Study, which stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Extreme childhood stressors include Abuse (including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse), neglect (physically or emotionally), household dysfunctions such as having a parent addicted to drugs or alcohol. And having a parent with untreated symptoms of mental illness.

While this list is far from exhaustive, it’s enough to see that today’s kids deal with serious issues. This is why ongoing self-care or strategies kids can use to distress, are so important.

What are some signs of childhood stress?

Self care for kids is especially important because children may not recognize the signs of stress. Some of these include:

  • Feeling anxious or worried.
  • Sudden gains or losses of weight/changes in appetite.
  • Difficulty sleeping or only wanting to sleep.
  • Tearfulness.
  • Shallow heavy breathing from the chest.
  • Feeling on edge all the time and difficulty relaxing.
  • Stubbornness, clinginess, crying, and whining.

These are just a few of the many signs of stress build-up in kids. In mild to moderate cases these symptoms signal an increased need for childhood self care. However, when stress impairs a child’s functioning (at home, school, work, interpersonal relationships, or health), seeking the help of a trained professional is best.

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Can you explain what healthy self care for kids looks like?

Here are 52 of our favorite examples of childhood self-care.


Created by ITHRIVE320 Self-Care For Kids Mandala

Self care for kids can be simple. Remember, the goal is not to solve the problem, but to help the child re-regulate.

Continual stress can activate the brains amygdala or emergency response system. When this happens, kids enter into fight or flight mode. This turns off the frontal cortex, or the critical thinking part of their brain, and makes it hard for them to focus.

For kids to keep pressing forward through difficult situations, it’s important for them to de-stress. Parents can help with this process by encouraging good childhood self care. One way to do this is to have a self care box for kids. This should be filled with your child’s favorite ways to destress. Then, encourage your child to use these self-care ideas as needed. Self care for kids can take anywhere from a few seconds (such as taking a few deep breaths) to hours or days (such as going on a vacation).

Use the graphic to the left to find some quick self care wins for your child.

Use the code in the box below to add this self-care infographic to your website.

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Continue the Childhood Self Care Conversation

What would you add to these thoughts and what else do you want to know about childhood self care? Let me know how I can add to this post and best serve you. Simply leave your comments below.

Finally, check out some of our amazing self care for kids resources below. We’ve also included links to a few general and marital self care insights.

Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at www.ithrive320.com.

2 thoughts on “What is Self Care for Kids? Childhood self care defined.”

  1. What great resources! I’ve never thought about kids needing self-care, too! And I like the idea of teaching kids by example. When they see us taking care of ourselves (and explaining why we need to take care of ourselves), it helps our kids learn by example.

    1. Thanks, Anita! You’re always such an amazing encouragement. We had a lot of fun putting these together. And with all of the stressors in our world right not, we’re seeing that self-care for kids is more important than ever.

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