How to create a self-care toolkit for kids

In a world that’s teeming with busyness, on top of the pressure to react instantly to friends on group messages, FaceTime and social media, being a child can seem pretty tough.

Thankfully, alongside the crazy lifestyles and innovation, we are all also trying to tune into ourselves a little more. We know it’s a good idea to take time out from tech, to enjoy some relaxation, sleep properly and love ourselves as much as we can. And we’re passing those messages on to our kids as well. And they’re needed.

“The statistics on the prevalence of mental health issues for children are alarming,” says Suzy Reading, mum-of-two and author of new mindfulness book Stand Tall Like A Mountain, citing that NHS Digital studies have shown emotional disorders in children are on the increase.

Suzy Reading (Natalya Chagrin/PA)

And to create calm within the chaos, she recommends building a self-care toolkit for kids, but what exactly is it? And how do we encourage our little (and not-so-little) ones, to get on board?

What is a self-care toolkit?

(Suzy Reading/PA)

“A self-care toolkit is a bespoke selection of nourishing practices and skills that help our children navigate challenging emotions and life experiences, boosting wellbeing and resilience,” notes Reading, and by ‘bespoke’, she means that it’s most effective when tailored to the needs, preferences and interests of the individual.

“We teach our children about healthy eating, healthy exercise and road safety – we clearly need to broaden that toolkit to address mental and emotional health.”

This might sound a bit challenging, but actually, all you need is a book, a brain and a bambino of any age.

How to do it

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Thanks so much for the kind words on today’s #MondayMicroMoment session. We explored self-care for times of overwhelm, burnout and energetic bankruptcy. There’s still time to tune in and you’ll find it on my live stories til 9am tues. If you know of someone having a tough time, please flag it for them. As promised, here is the check list of signs to look for and the prayer salute sequence from my book ”The Self-Care Revolution” where you’ll find all my healing tonics. I hope it’s useful. Remember the mantra: ‘I am safe, I am loved, I am held’. ‘I can be there for myself’. I am here for you too. We’re in it together, Suz xx . . . . . . . #authorsofinstagram #selfcarerevolution #mondaymotivation #selfcaretoolkit #vitalitywheel #energybank #energeticbankruptcy #overwhelm #burnout #fatigue #pnd #anxiety #depression #bornamother #motherhood #grief #loss #stress #change #mantra #yogaeverydamnday #healingyoga #selfsoothing #breathebetterfeelbetter

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To create a self-care toolkit, you need to identify times or situations your children find difficult, tricky or unhappy. “It’s not about never feeling sad,” says Reading. “Feeling sad is a really normal emotion. It’s about letting yourself feel it, but doing something that soothes you.”

Poppy, my 6-year-old, describes her body as feeling ‘fast’ when she gets stressed. It’s often when she’s trying to do something like her hair, and is struggling with it, but instead of stopping and asking for help, she feels overwhelmed and gets upset. So, she decided to make a toolkit for when she feels stressed.

Rosie, my 9-year-old, sometimes lays in bed for ages, struggling to get to sleep. She’s a bit of a worrier, and has always used the time before she goes to sleep to think over everything that’s happened or is bothering her. So, she decided to build a toolkit for bedtime.

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When conflict arises being able to name our family values helps. An ongoing dialogue about what family means to us and how we want our home to feel gives us shape and clarity. Share these ideas with your kids and ask them what feels important to them. I love that my four year old volunteered ‘helpful’, ‘kind’ and ‘care’. These guide us when tempers flare and having this tangible reminder on the wall keeps these intentions fresh in our minds. I hope this might be a joyful activity for you this half term. Mantra (as ever) ‘savour the good, make peace with the shitty’. We’re in it together, Suz xx PS thanks @psychologiesmagazine for the inspiring images! ❤️ . . . . . . #selfcarerevolution #sundayselfcare #familyselfcare #selfcareforkids #standtalllikeamountain #mindfulnessforkids #meditationforkids #yogaforkids #values #missionstatement #halfterm #umpire #referee #warringkids #peace #lovingintentions #strengths #strengthsbasedparenting #kidsmentalhealth #purpose #resilience #compassion #theresalotoflovehere

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Collectively, they agreed they also miss lots of people in their family, as they don’t get to see them as much as they’d like. So, they thought they’d make a third toolkit for when they’re missing someone, whether that’s mummy and daddy on a weekend away, Nana up in heaven, or Uncle Ben who lives quite far away.

To make a toolkit, you simply need to write down a list of things you can do when you feel stressed/can’t sleep/miss someone – or whatever it is that’s a worry. By writing it down, it helps you remember what to do, because when any of us experience challenging emotions – especially children – it’s almost impossible to think logically about what to do to make yourself feel better.

What happened when we made our own toolkits

My kids were surprisingly up for making self-care toolkits. I thought Poppy would be, because she’s able to recognise when she’s unhappy and is always keen to do something about it. But my eldest often suspects anything like this might be boring. She does love getting creative though, so armed with a fresh new pad, some stickers, pencils and pens, they set about starting a self-care journal, which would include their chosen toolkits.

Poppy’s toolkit for stress

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Day 6 of my Self-Care for Kids Challenge with Stib. We’ve got a creative activity for you today! Calm your mind with mantra: I AM STILL, I AM CALM, I AM ME. If your mind is busy or stuck on an unhelpful thought, anchoring it on a mantra can help. One of our favourites is by @grateful_mother: ‘I am still, I am calm, I am me’. Repeat it a few times in your mind or say it out loud and see how it feels for you. You could make some mantras of your own. Think about any way that you’d like to feel and make your own ‘I am’ statement. Get creative with it by making some art featuring your mantras, like this poster. They can become really useful reminders. Wishing you peace and ease in your Sunday. Please share your mantras with us too! Suz xx #feelgoodinjanuary #mindfulnessforkids #yogaforkids #selfcareforkids #selfcarerevolution #standtalllikeamountain #selfcaresunday #wellkids #happykids #positivevibes #positiveparenting #wellnesstips #relax #relaxationforkids #relaxation #calmkids #bluemonday #colourmehappy #arttherapy #mantra #meditationforkids #yogaoffthemat #yogaeverydamnday #selfcaretoolkit

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Poppy wanted to build a toolkit for when she feels stressed. These are the things she thought would make her feel better:

Stand up tall

Do a chicken wing shoulder roll (put your hands on your shoulders, breathe in, roll them around, breathe out and shake it off)

Shut my eyes and concentrate on breathing slowly

Do some drawing

Write a story

Ask for a hug

Talk about how I’m feeling

Rosie’s toolkit for bedtime

Poppy and Rosie with their self-care journals (Claire Spreadbury/PA)

Rosie says she’s “not always ready to go to sleep”, so we decided she could try doing any of these things if she’s struggling at bedtime:

Stretch or do some yoga

Listen to music

Dream up the best day ever

Think about baking and decorating a cake – imagine all the different stages

Think about happy memories, like a holiday

Put a toy on my tummy and focus on breathing – pretend your tummy is a balloon which you’re trying to blow up slowly, and then let it out.

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I’m so excited to be able to share my new book with you! ‘Stand Tall Like A Mountain, Mindfulness and Self-Care for Children & Parents’. We teach our children how to brush their teeth and cross roads, this book is about broadening that toolkit to include emotional first aid and resilience boosting activities. It’s about promoting collective wellbeing and nourishing the health of the family unit. I can’t wait to share more with you. Tune in to my live stories if you’d like to hear and see a little more. Out April 4 and available for preorder on Amazon now. Thank you for sharing this journey with me. Suz xx . . . . . . . . #standtalllikeamountain #selfcarerevolution #coverreveal #newbookbaby #authorsofinstagram #outsoon #resilientkids #compassionatekids #happyfamily #selfcareforparents #selfcareforkids #familyselfcare #fillyourcollectivecup #cuddlecup #yogaforkids #meditationforkids #relaxationforkids #mindfulnessforkids #vitalitywheel #selfcaretoolkit #emotionalagility #strengthsbasedparenting #wereinittogether

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Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness And Self-Care For Children And Parents by Suzy Reading is published by Aster, priced £12.99. Available now.

- Press Association

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