Self-care for parents and teens

Image of a family with two male adults and three male children.

What is self-care?

Self-care is anything you enjoy doing that helps make you happy and maintains your physical, mental or emotional health. It's when you take the time to take care of yourself. It can be simple everyday pleasures like soaking in the bathtub, reading a magazine or going for a run. Or bigger things like having a meal with friends, doing a hobby or playing sport. For families, self-care helps parents and teens deal with life’s everyday pressures in a more positive and rewarding way.

Why self-care is so important for families

For busy parents, self-care can help replenish your physical, mental and emotional energy, and boost your creative and spiritual reserves. All of which get depleted when you’re tired and stressed. But did you know that your self-care helps your family too?

  • Self-care can help you be a more engaged and effective parent. You’re likely to be more patient and have more positive interactions with your teen. 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 teens are encouraged to do the same, and take this positive habit into later life. So your self-care helps teach your teen how to look after themselves better.

  • As a parent you know that developmentally this is a hard time for your teen. Learning self-care can help them through this tough period. Hear from a psychologist about what’s happening for them.

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

You’ve got a million tasks on your plate, and that’s before you’ve shopped, fed the family three meals a day and washed up. So it’s no wonder self-care, especially your own, is way down your list:

  • There’s not enough time. You feel guilty spending time on yourself when your family needs help. Which is why it’s important to remember that your self-care is good for your family.

  • You haven’t got the energy. Juggling those million tasks takes everything you’ve got. A simple self-care routine can help keep your energy up, and stop you collapsing in a heap.

  • It feels like self-care involves money. Whether it’s for you or the family, money is obviously a consideration. But simple pleasures can be as effective as exy ones.

  • If you’re struggling to fit it in, there are a number of ways to help make self-care a family priority.

Self-care ideas for everybody

Some activities you enjoy may cost a bit, or take time, but self-care is just as likely to be about the simple free things too. Here are some examples scaled from the everyday to the only once in a while.

Physical self-care

  • Exercise: Using a workout app, like Seven (iOS and Android) or Nike Training Club, walking, running, cycling, swimming locally – or doing classes and fun runs or rides.

  • Sport: Gaming online, throwing or kicking a ball around with mates in the park – or joining a local club or gym.

  • Spa: Soaking in the tub – or having a massage or manicure.

Mental and emotional self-care

  • Entertainment: Listening to music, watching a film or a match on TV – or going to a gig, show or game.

  • Nature: Time on the porch, balcony or in the backyard or at the local park, gardening or planting a window box – or hiking in the country or visiting a gardening centre.

  • Friends: Facetiming/Skyping with coffee in hand or popping around for a cuppa – or meeting in a café.

Creative and spiritual self-care

  • Imagination: Getting in the habit of writing, drawing or Instagramming – or joining creative classes online or in your local community.

  • Learning: Reading books online or from the library, learning how to cook new recipes, listening to podcasts, watching Ted talks online – or going to a local talk or event.

  • Spirituality: Reading scripture, meditating regularly, attending a service – or attending a event or Meetup on a topic you’re interested in.

Self-care is very individual

What works for some won't work for others. For example, exercise makes some people feel on top of their game, while others are restored by a bath and a snooze. The important thing is to do what you enjoy. This quick quiz will help you think about what kind of self-care suits you.

Self-care works best as a routine

Regular acts of self-care keep you energised and dealing with pressures well. Which is better than an emergency fix to get back on track when things go wrong. So sit down with the family – talk about the importance of each doing the things you enjoy, that make you feel happy. Bounce ideas and put them in the planner or calendar. And support each other in doing them. Self-care is fun and good for you – enjoy it!

Ready to get self-care happening in your family's life? Head to our Things to Try page and get cracking!

Are you after some help coping with the COVID-19 pandemic? Click here.