Be someone they can talk to.
Written by guest blogger Lenna Wertenbaker of Mosaic VT
Self care is a creative art. Anything that supports you to feel well, manage the stressors in your life and show up as your “better self” is self care! I asked several of the youth that I work with what they do for self care and I was struck by the variety of different things they talked about. From long walks or taking space from a conflict to cool down, to tidying their bedrooms and caring for pets, to sharing a journal among a group of friends to keep up with each other’s lives and thoughts, there were so many creative and inspiring ideas.
Here are 3 tips for adults who want to support youth in their self-care – some from me and some directly from youth.
ADULT TIP 1: Make room for feelings. All feelings. And don’t try to fix or change them.
Our emotional landscapes are complex and wondrous places. Learning how to feel our feelings and just let them exist, especially the hard ones, is one of the most valuable skills we can support youth to develop – and develop in ourselves. Emotions researcher Brene Brown advocates for developing precise language for our emotional experiences, pointing out that “when we name an emotion or experience, it doesn’t give that emotion more power. It gives US more power,” (Atlas of the Heart).
One of my youth collaborators pointed out “youth have a lot of emotions, but that doesn’t mean they are less capable of making decisions.”
ADULT TIP 2: Get curious about what they are already doing to take care of themselves. Reinforce those great practices and explore new ideas together if they’re interested.
Approaching youth (or anyone!) with curiosity demonstrates respect and builds trust. Many youth are already doing amazing, creative things to take care of themselves. Your role can be to help them recognize those things as self care if they don’t already, and encourage them to keep doing them. If they are interested in new ideas, you can also help there. In one of my conversations with youth, we talked about the connection between self care and enjoyment, and noticed that a lot of self care activities are things that the person enjoys, because doing things you enjoy makes you feel better, and that is taking care of yourself. This youth also observed that “self care isn’t always pretty,” noting that sometimes self care is staying in bed for an extra 10 minutes, and encouraged adults to adopt a flexible approach in how we understand what self care looks like; “It’s different for different people and at different times.” When we can be intentional and savor the experience, the positive benefits of our practices can multiply.
ADULT TIP 3: Model and talk about your own self care.
Walk your talk! Take time to understand your own needs around self care – what are the practices that support you to feel well, manage your stressors and be your better self more often? – and do those things regularly. Share with the youth in your life about what you practice to take care of yourself, including the challenges and things that get in the way. Let them know when you need to prioritize your self care practices over other things so that they can see the value you place on self care.
BONUS TIP: Any practice takes practice. Remind youth – and yourself – that stress and struggle are part of life, perfection is not the goal, and now is always a good time to practice checking in with and caring for ourselves.
Don’t give up!
Original Artwork by Teppi Zuppo @aioazech TeppiZuppo.com