Self-care for parents and caregivers

Taking the time for self-care is a great way to nurture your child.


Raising young children can be stressful and from time to time it can take its toll on parents and other caregivers. Self-care is a crucial way to ensure adults caring for young children are prepared to invest the time and energy they need to be the best caregivers they can be. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you may not have much left to give your children.

Michigan State University Extension has some suggestions for making sure parents and caregivers take the time for self-care.

Make sure your basic needs are met. In the hustle of trying to take care of young children, the needs of parents and caregivers often get overlooked. Think about the energy you invest in making sure your child’s needs are met. You make sure they get enough to drink and eat, provide enough time for them to get the restful sleep they need as well as the exercise and time to play—do you do the same for yourself?

Make it a routine. Just like you develop routines for your child, make self-care part of your daily routine. Come up with simple routines you can do to help you relax and unwind and take care of yourself. Maybe it’s taking a quick walk by yourself a few days a week or making time to bake if that’s a hobby you enjoy.

Start small. Big changes can seem intimidating, so don’t think of increasing your self-care as something big you have to do overnight. Break up the task into small pieces and find something small to start with, like challenging yourself to drinking less caffeine to help you sleep better at night. Try writing down your goals and keeping track of your efforts—this can help motivate you to keep going and is a great way to see your progress. Once you have incorporated that change, try making another small change.

Model self-care for your child. Let your child know what you’re doing and why self-care is so important. You can tell them, “This is Daddy’s time to himself. When I go for a walk alone it gives me time to think and helps me feel calm and relaxed.” Children learn from watching us and when we show them we value self-care, they learn to value it too.

Investing in your own well-being is a way to invest in your child’s well-being. Take the time to nurture yourself so you have the energy and motivation to nurture your child.

For more articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

To learn about the positive impact children and families experience due to MSU Extension programs, read our 2017 impact report. Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H and MSU Extension positively impacted individuals and communities in 2017, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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