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Why kids’ self-care skills are so important

Aveeno® logo Aveeno® 14/09/2015 Hugh Wilson

Self-care skills can boost self-esteem and encourage healthy and hygienic habits

© UrbanZone, Alamy They are some of the key milestones of childhood. Children may forget them in the blink of an eye, but parents remember the first time a young child – not long ago a babe in arms, it seems – dresses themselves without assistance, squeezes toothpaste on to their own brush, or washes their hands before dinner without having to be pestered to do it.

But these accomplishments aren’t just poignant moments for parents, they’re important waymarks on the road to self-sufficiency and independence. In particular, skills that encourage good hygiene and healthy habits are vital, and with that in mind here’s what you can do to encourage them.

Self-care means self-development

“Most children respond well to the idea that they are getting older or “big now” and they all want to be older than they are – hence the ‘I’m not six, I’m six and a quarter’ type comments,” says parenting expert Liat Hughes Joshi, author of New Old-Fashioned Parenting.

For most children that extends to self-care skills, from teeth brushing and hand washing to, later, bathing or applying moisturising cream to dry skin. Doing these things for themselves brings a host of benefits for both parents and children.

“In short, looking after yourself and being more independent can boost a child’s self-esteem,” says Liat. “And for adults – obviously the more your child does for his or herself the less you have to do over time.”

Adopting self-care skills helps children develop self-esteem and a sense of themselves, and children with more independence in self-care show greater initiative and confidence in their play and learning.

With that in mind, here’s how to encourage it.

© Blend Images, Getty Images All children are different

It’s tempting to measure your child’s progress in areas like self-care against their peers and in some cases become anxious as a result, especially if your child appears to be lagging behind. But it’s worth remembering that all children are different and will adopt self-care skills at different rates, and may even appear to regress after apparently mastering a skill.

“In general children are highly motivated to try new things and be independent, and do go through a period where 'me do it' is their favourite saying,” says clinical psychologist and parenting expert Dr Claire Halsey. “New skills can quickly become dull though and children may revert to wanting help, or in their rush to the next activity get frustrated and ask for help. Some resistance comes because new skills are complex and children find it difficult to do them.”

How do you know when your child is ready to be taught a specific skill? It may be obvious, especially if he or she is the sort of child who tries to do everything for themselves. If not there are a number of resources on the internet that can help but often just regularly asking yourself if you think your child is ready is enough.

“It’s wise to keep challenging yourself now and then, asking if your child really still needs you to do X or Y,” says Liat. “If they don’t, it might be time for you to leave them to it.”

Teaching self-care skills

Once you think they are ready you can help to encourage self-care skills by offering plenty of opportunity and lots of encouragement. Teach your child what to do with clear and simple instructions, and give lots of praise. For example…

Brushing teeth

Show your child how to use gentle circular motions to brush each tooth individually, as well as the back of their teeth and along the gum line. It’s a good idea to brush your own teeth at the same time and then help your child to ‘finish off’. When your child first starts to brush their teeth on their own, check every few days to make sure that they are doing it correctly.

Applying emollient

Sometimes kids don’t like the way emollients feel or complain that it takes too long or isn’t fun. If you have to regularly apply cream or lotion to your child’s skin (if they suffer from dry skin, for example), it can help to turn the task into a game or challenge. The free-to-download children’s book series, The Dry-Ventures of Ellie & Eddie, has been created by the makers of AVEENO® to help you give your child an understanding of dry, eczema-prone skin and to ultimately begin conversations about how to take care of it.

Whatever their age, remember there’s a transition to go through, and don’t expect instant – or instantly consistent - success. “With many tasks there’s also that middle ground when they still need some supervision – so transition from you doing it for them, to teaching them to do it, through to full independence,” says Liat.

After that, the last thing to remember is not to panic. Children adopt self-care skills in the end. By giving them opportunity and encouragement – and avoiding criticism – your child is likely to become independent in each skill at exactly the right time for them.

Parenting expert Liat Hughes Joshi and clinical psychologist Dr Claire Halsey do not endorse any specific brand or product and have no relationship with the sponsor.

Formulated with active colloidal oatmeal, the AVEENO® range of moisturising products (Daily Moisturising Lotion, Creamy Oil and Hand Cream) hydrates and soothes dry, sensitive skin, leaving it feeling comfortable, soft and smooth – whatever your age.

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This content is promoted by the AVEENO® brand from Johnson & Johnson Ltd.


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