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Family on a bike ride together.

Self-Care: A Family Affair

The start of the school year was a hectic one in our household. Every member of the family experienced a major adjustment. My wife has returned to work after being home for the summer. My older daughter began attending school in-person after participating in virtual learning the previous school year, and the younger one is attending a new preschool three full days a week. For me, I’m adjusting to a full-time, work-from-home schedule and navigating the changes that come along with that. We’ve also tried to make up for the social experiences that our kids have missed over the past year and a half by enrolling them in extracurricular activities such as gymnastics, soccer, and dance. After only a couple weeks of this schedule, I realized that it was making everyone in the home – adults and kids alike – highly stressed and exhausted.

I understand that our situation is not unique and that many families experience increased levels of stress during periods of adjustment. Members of the household tend to cope with these stressors differently. Most of the time, adults naturally accept that stress is a part of life, and we make no deliberate attempts to cope even though we may feel depleted. Kids and teens often struggle to identify that what they are experiencing is stress. Parents usually recognize it when we notice changes such as increased defiance, irritability, heightened emotions, and more.

This is why the concept of family self-care is important. Individual self-care is great, but since the family is a unit, all the parts need to be in working order to be able to function at its peak. Below, I’ve outlined a few self-care ideas to implement in the home to address the mental, emotional, and physical health of your family.

Have a recharge day.

A recharge day is a whole day dedicated to taking it easy and avoiding stress. This can be accomplished in many ways. You can plan for a family “lazy day” where everyone stays in their pajamas and watches movies all day. You can also schedule a fun day trip and experience some new adventures with the family. I’m a big proponent of mental health days for both adults and kids. When we recognize that our kids are highly stressed, sometimes we must take that step of giving them a mental health day and allowing them time to recharge.

Talk about feelings.

Talking about stressors as a family can be a beneficial form of self-care. This is an opportunity for all members of the family to share the stressors that are unique to them. This is also a moment for the family to identify ways to support one another. I encourage parents to also share, if appropriate, the stressors that they are experiencing. I’ve found that being able to tell my children how I’m feeling is a great practice in empathy for them and can lead to changed behavior.

Take care of your physical health.

Taking care of your physical health is a great practice for individual self-care. It also works effectively when practiced as a family. Try going for a walk or bike ride after dinner, doing an exercise video, or making healthy meal choices as a family.

The hope with self-care is that it becomes a frequent and deliberate practice in your home. Rather than waiting until stress begins to negatively impact your household, be proactive and begin implementing family self-care practices today.

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About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew Jatau is a Licensed Professional Counselor and content creator currently working at Hopscotch, a leading pediatric behavioral health company.  He is the founder and CEO of Mylemarks, a website dedicated to providing engaging social-emotional resources for children and adolescents.  Andrew has worked in a number of settings providing mental health services to youth and families, including a day treatment center, a university counseling center, and most recently, a private practice in Virginia Beach.  He previously served as a Fatherhood Consultant with CHKD, helping to organize and facilitate fatherhood programs in the Hampton Roads area.  Andrew resides in Aurora, CO with his wife and two daughters.