Once you’ve figured out how to keep yourself on an even keel, it’s time to help your children do the same. Remember, the best defense against self-destructive behaviors and suicidal tendencies is a healthy, happy, well-connected family. For the most part, good self-care is caught rather than taught. If you live by the truth that ongoing self-renewal is a matter of high priority, your kids will probably follow suit. If you don’t, they may end up repeating your mistakes, no matter what you have to say on the subject.

Self-Care: How to Teach It to Your Kids

Consider these tips as you teach good self-care to your children:

When you’re done, you’re done. Like adults, kids eventually run out of gas. As a parent, keep your eye out for telltale signs—crankiness, irritability, and fatigue—and tell your child when it’s time to take a breather.

Watch out for parental pride and ambition. Childhood overcommitment and exhaustion can often be traced to us as parents. If you’ve got your son involved in five different afterschool activities during the week, make sure you’re not trying to live vicariously through his achievements.

Do one thing at a time. Pick one activity each school term and make the most of it. If your daughter likes ballet and soccer, encourage her to work on her dance moves during the winter semester and get out on the playing field in the spring.

Just say no. Good self-care often involves eliminating certain things from your kids’ schedules—even good things. Teach and model the art of being selective and making wise choices. Too much of a good thing is still too much.

To maintain good self-care, set reasonable goals and find out what works for your family. And then try to keep the big picture in mind: Your child’s ability to carry out good self-care can help him be less vulnerable to suicide.

Self-Care for Families and Kids

  • Take a break to play catch or Frisbee in the backyard.
  • Go for a walk around the neighborhood as a family.
  • Plan physical activities to take maximum advantage of your natural surroundings (mountains, beaches, parks, etc.).
  • Maintain a structured routine, including set dinner times and bedtimes.
  • Limit the use of electronics.
  • Provide kids with structured choices by asking these types of questions: “Do you want to go hiking or biking today?” or “How would you like to use this last half-hour before bedtime?”
  • Find something cheap, free, and fun that you can do together as a family—preferably something that doesn’t involve electronics and that gets you outdoors for a while. Plan a picnic, visit the zoo, go out for ice cream, or break out one of your old board games.

Let us stop you here. This is not a lecture on how you need to do more or add more to your already too-full daily list of chores. This is a reminder of how important maintaining your health and sanity is to you and your family. You give your car oil changes, tire rotations, and other regular maintenance—shouldn’t you give yourself even better care than your vehicle? You may be in a season of life where finding enough time to go to the bathroom is difficult. That’s understandable. Still, get creative and do what you can, even if it’s a little thing.

Choosing self-care now will cost you—that’s a fact. But it will cost you a lot more down the road if you don’t care for yourself now.