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Self-care and Why It’s Important

Self-care and Why It’s Important

Written by: Caitlyn Chun

Raising a child is serious work! As a caregiver, you demonstrate patience, kindness, and empathy for your children every day. Your time may be spent juggling a seemingly endless number of tasks, and it can be all too easy to deprioritize the activities that lift you up. Even though it can feel like self-care is just another item on your list, making self-care a priority can make it easier to juggle all that you do! 

What is self-care and why is it important
Self-care is the use of activities and strategies to sustain well-being and the ability to function. Research has demonstrated that engaging in self-care on a regular basis has benefits for caregiver adjustment, identity, and functioning with children. Think of it like recharging your batteries; it is critical to engage in activities that will replenish your physical, mental, and spiritual energy so that you can stay at the top of your game. In addition, when your kids see how your self-care benefits you, they will learn that prioritizing their own wellness is a part of being a responsible human!It is important to note that self-care is not the same as self-indulgence — activities such as binge-watching TV and shopping for luxury items do not serve our long-term wellbeing. Self-indulgent behaviors are typically short-term fixes. Self-care behaviors are activities and habits that will sustain you for the long haul. 

Self-care strategies (adapted from Self Care Inventory from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2008)
In general, self-care is about what will sustain you in the long run. What works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else. Check out some suggested self-care strategies for the following areas of wellbeing:
• Eat healthy meals
• Get enough sleep
• Stretch and work out to raise your heart rate
• Take time away from screens
• Go outside for fresh air and sunshine

• Make time for self-reflection
• Read for fun
• Practice mindfulness
• Practice saying “no” to additional responsibilities
• Identify what you do for yourself as opposed to what you do for others

• Spend quality time with those you love
• Identify and engage in comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, and places
• Allow yourself to express your feelings (e.g., laugh, cry, etc.) 
• Give yourself affirmations and praise
• Talk with others about the joys and challenges of raising children

• Spend time with nature
• Be aware of the non-material aspects of life
• Contribute time, energy, and resources to causes in which you believe in
• Engage with inspirational literatures (books, music, lectures, etc.)
• Identify areas for personal growth
• Workplace or Professional
– Take breaks during the day
– Give yourself quiet time and a quiet space to complete tasks
– Participate in projects that are exciting and rewarding
– Arrange your workspace for comfort
– Plan nutritional meals and snacks during work

For a deeper dive into understanding self-care:
Self-care for Parents
Taking Care of Yourself
Managing Stress by Strengthening your Support Network

Additional Resources:
3 – 20 minute guided meditations
5 – 25 minute self-compassion guided meditations and exercises
Workout videos 


Supporting Young Children’s Emotion Regulation Skills

Supporting Young Children’s Emotion Regulation Skills

Written by: ClarissaAlfes

What is emotional regulation
Emotion regulation is the ability to handle and control strong emotions and feelings, and the behaviors that come from them. Both adults and children regulate their emotions every day.  Research shows when children build their emotion regulation skills they are better able to handle challenges, be resilient and succeed in school. 

Emotion regulation is difficult to learn, especially for children! Many children can struggle with knowing how to handle the strong emotions they feel. When children have difficulty controlling their emotions, it can lead to challenging behaviors. Research suggests children benefit from being taught how to identify and manage their emotions. Adults can guide children through the practice of controlling their emotions and calming themselves in appropriate, safe and positive ways.

Ways to support children in building their emotion regulation skills:
Dr. John Gottman, author of Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, introduced the idea of Emotion Coaching, where parents support their children in building emotion regulation skills through:
•  teaching young learners to understand their emotions
•  encouraging children to talk about their emotions and feelings
•  working through challenging situations that bring about strong emotions. 

Here are ways to support your child in learning to recognize and manage their emotions:
1. Let them know their strong emotions are okay  
•  Validate their strong and negative emotions in a non-judgmental, calm way.
2. Label the emotions your child is feeling
•  Use Emotion Coaching to listen to your child, name emotions they are feeling, and help them think through solutions for their problem such as sharing, saying sorry, asking for help, using a calm down strategy, etc.
•  Narrating children’s emotions helps them to connect how they are feeling in their bodies to emotional vocabulary.
3. Engage them in activities that talk about emotions 
•  Read and discuss storybooks about emotions.
•  Play emotion games, such as emotion bingo, emotion matching and situation card games.
4. Be an emotional role model
•  Talk about your own emotions and talk through your emotion problem-solving.  Children learn through watching and copying adults.
5. Teach them ways to calm down
•  Teach calm down strategies and provide tools and physical spaces they can use to regulate by themselves. Use role play to practice these skills when children are calm. 
•  Do mindfulness breathing, meditation or yoga with your child
•  Teach children how to use an emotional thermometer to notice and think about how they are feeling.

Young children that learn emotional regulation skills are ready to recognize and handle upsetting emotions and take on challenges with resilient, calm and problem-solving mindsets.  

Social Skills

Social Skills

Written by: Joshua Blazen

When you enrolled your child in preschool or kindergarten, you may have wondered, “Will my child learn reading, writing and math at their new school?” But did you wonder how your child would learn social skills at school? In recent years, teaching social skills has become more of a focus for schools. To guide schools in supporting social skills for children from birth through 3rd grade, Washington State developed Early Learning and Development Guidelines. According to this resource, key social skills milestones include:

Young infants (birth – 11 months): smiling at others, noticing and copying others’ facial expressions, using noises and facial expressions to interact with others

Older infants (9 months – 18 months): following others’ gazes or pointing, laughing when others laugh, recognizing others and remembering their names

Toddlers (16 months- 3 years): playing turn-taking games, observing and imitating other children’s play, playing side-by-side with others

Early preschool (3-4 years): sharing and taking turns, playing pretend, reacting to others’ feelings, playing in groups with other children

Late preschool (4-5 years): connecting emotions to facial expressions, inviting other children to join activities, switching between an “indoor and outdoor voice”

Kindergarten: accepting new trusted adults (bus driver, teacher, etc.), respecting others’ personal space, resolving some conflicts without adult help 

1st grade: thinking about how their actions impact others, brainstorming and problem solving with others

2nd grade: noticing unfair situations, showing compassion and respect to others

3rd grade: noticing others’ differences in skills and abilities, resolving conflicts without adult help, recognizing that others have different opinions

Why are social skills important
Research has shown that helping young children build their social skills can lead to a decrease in behavior problems such as bullying, hitting and defiance. 
• Children are more likely to succeed in school when they can form friendships, get along with others and communicate their wants and feelings. 

How can I support my child’s social skills at home
• Have conversations
The best way to help your child to build social skills is talking to them! When you talk to your child, they learn the skills they need to have a back-and-forth conversation, such as listening, asking questions and waiting for a response. When your child is talking, give them eye contact and acknowledge what they say with a smile or a nod. Children learn how nonverbal communication contributes to conversation by watching us! 

• Let your child take the lead
When setting up playdates or planning activities for your child, leave some time for unstructured play when your child can take the lead. When children have the opportunity to explore their environment on their own terms, and set rules and expectations, they build confidence to brave new social situations.  

• Coach your child through social interactions
As adults, we often find ourselves speaking for our children by answering questions for them or solving conflicts between them and other children. Instead, we can help children find their voice by coaching them through these situations. When your child has a conflict with another child, encourage them to speak directly to the other child rather than to you. When your child asks you a question about another child, encourage them to ask that child directly instead of you. Some children will need more support than others before they start using these skills on their own, but practice makes perfect! 

• Talk about feelings
It’s important to teach and encourage your child to talk about their own feelings, and also to think about the feelings of others. When you see other children on TV, in books and in the community, you can teach your child to think about others’ feelings by making observations such as, “That child dropped their candy, and now they look sad” or asking questions such as, “How do you think that child feels right now?” Children who have better awareness of others’ feelings tend to have an easier time navigating social situations!

Additional Resources
Social skills resources for parents of children birth to age 3:

Social-Emotional Health and School Readiness: A Guide for Parents with Children Birth to Age 5

Do you have concerns about your child’s social skills? We have local social skills groups and resources: