Updated: Jan 4, 2021
WRITTEN BY SALLY HILLS-DAVIS, OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST AND KIRSTY BROCKLEHURST, PHYSIOTHERAPIST, FOUNDERS OF THE PRACTICAL CHILD.
As therapists, one of the things that we hear so often from parents is ‘I know I shouldn’t have done all this for them, but now he/she just won’t do it’. Sadly, often they are quite right. If children have been dressed by their parent/carer until they are aged 6, 7 or even 8 and have had everything done for them, it is hard to suddenly be told that they ‘have’ to do it by themselves.
Self-care can start early, with activities such as brushing hair. After brushing your child’s hair, you could ask them ‘would you like to brush mine.’ This is a great, albeit painful experience (especially if you have long or curly hair) and a fabulous way for a child to learn.
Brushing our child’s teeth is also something that can be encouraged from an early age. Start by the adult brushing and then, closely supervised, let them give it a go by themselves, giving them the skills for good oral hygiene for life.
Other self-care activities that can be encouraged as your child grows up through childhood to their teenage years:
Eating with a spoon progressing to spoon and fork and then to knife and fork
Dressing: buttons, shoe laces
Washing face and body
Helping them to learn how to look after themselves through mindfulness or yoga
Learning the importance of sleep
Learning how to manage money
Learning the importance of interaction with others limiting the time spent on technology
As parents how can we help?
Try and help with tasks when you feel you have time and patience
Help to problem solve things together without giving your child all the answers
Practice and practice. For some children they may get the hang of a task straight away but for some repetition will help.
Some children are better being shown visually and then repeating the task themselves, for some they may be better talking it through or for older children a written sequence to follow.
It is never to late to start involving your children in self care. If your child is older and you want to start helping their independence, set small goals and build up slowly. Whatever age they are, trying to get them to work on too many skills at one time can be exhausting and cause frustration.
Helping your child to achieve in self care can take a lot of time, and when you are trying to rush out of the door it is often so much quicker to do it yourself. However, when your child gets to an age where they can start doing things for themselves, the pride in watching them achieve can be so rewarding.