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I love me: why self-care practices should start in the preteens.

By Fiona Ghiglione, PhD.

“Self-care means giving yourself permission to pause” - Cecilia Tran

I find it really remarkable (and somewhat shocking) that I only started to practice self-care well into my late 20’s. My teen years were tough and filled with lots of self-doubt; it was a hard slog. It’s only now in retrospect, as a mum and preteen coach I really appreciate the value self-care could have offered me in the preteen years. 

All of us remember those years. The angst of our changing bodies; the deep desire to fit in and be accepted; the longing to be more, do more and have more. Those things haven’t changed over the generations, but unfortunately our girls today face new and more complex pressures; with technology amplifying those anxieties.

Which is why our girls need self-care more than ever. Self-care practices help our girls learn to take better care of themselves and as a result, stay more grounded, no matter what life throws their way.

What is self-care?

Self-care is all about taking time to nurture and care for yourself: emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually.

For our girls it involves:

  • Taking care of her body: a balanced diet, exercise and movement, sleep and taking care of her skin and hygiene.
  • Taking care of her emotional world: listening to her emotions, expressing them and understanding them e.g. through yoga, meditation, journaling.
  • Taking care of her social world: investing in healthy friendships, connecting with others and learning about boundaries.
  • Taking care of her spiritual mind: practicing gratitude, spending time in nature, building a strong mindset. 

Why is it wonderful for pre-teens?

  1. When kids practice self-care they begin to become attune to their physical and mental needs. Self-care is a form of self-love and gives our girls permission to pause and .. be mindful of their own experience - and honour that.
  2. It forms healthy habits! Practicing from a young age helps our girls get into healthy habits for adulthood. When we work with her to incorporate healthy habits into her day it can have flow on effects for her focus, energy and motivation in study, sports and daily life.
  3. It helps our girls become more independent. One of the great developmental tasks happening between childhood and the teen years is the move to independence. To successfully mature, our girls need to begin to learn life skills. Learning self-care allows her to slowly take more responsibility for herself and her own well-being - helping support that move to independence!
  4. It builds her sense of self-worth. Every time our girls engage in a self-care routine they are saying to themselves, “I’m important and I deserve to be looked after”. The simple act of moving our bodies, practicing yoga or washing her face each night helps increase endorphins and serotonin in her body - feel good chemicals important in good mental health. 

How can I help my daughter self-care more?

As parents there is so much that we can do to help her cultivate this self-care habit.

  • Teach her that our bodies and our minds need self-care.
  • Do it with her to start with! Whether it is taking care of her skin, going for a walk, reflecting, journalling or meditating.
  • Help her find ways to be with herself and enjoy her own company - being out in nature, having a dance or a stretch, listening to music or doing something she loves … quiet time with ourselves is nourishing and helps our girls’ nervous system relax and restore.
  • Share the bigger picture of self-care. It’s more than just beauty (and meeting the beauty standards of others) … it feels good and is a way to take care of these bodies of ours that do so much for us!

Let’s help our girls realise that “There is only one you in the world! Unique and amazing. Love and take care of yourself!”

Fiona Ghiglione is the founder of Mothering Girls, mindfulness educator and mum of two girls. motheringgirls.com

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Dorociak KE, Rupert PA, Bryant FB, Zahniser E. Development of a self-care assessment for psychologists. Journal of Counseling Psychology. 2017;64(3):325-334. doi:10.1037/cou0000206https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000206

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