For parents of a child with autism, self-care can seem like self-indulgence and may not be seen as something necessary or even possible to prioritize. But if you think about this skill building technique on a larger level, you’re teaching your child to advocate for themself in their mental and physical health - which we all know is an incredibly important skill, and one that we’d like our kids to carry into their adulthood.
Whether the skill you’re trying to teach is simply washing hands after using the restroom or more elaborate like practicing yoga, follow this structure to help your child succeed and enjoy caring for themselves:
1. Treat this new skill as part of a routine and remind your child when it’s time to do it.
Kids are busy - they’re focused on running around, playing, jumping, and touching everything around them! If you’re trying to build a new skill, it may take prompting from you to remind your child that it’s time to do this new task. Keeping it routine (like brushing your teeth every night before bed) will help your child build a pattern and start to remember to do it on their own.
2. Let your child know why this new practice is important.
No one likes to do something with no purpose, kids especially! Talking with your child about why it’s important to do this new thing will help them find the value in it.
3. Imitate and repeat.
This one comes with a bonus for you - practice this new skill with your child! Not only will it encourage your child to do it because they see you value it, it buys you a little time to take care of yourself too. The more you practice a new skill together, the more normal and routine it will seem to your child as well. So make the time, do it regularly, and both you and your child will become masters of self-care.
4. Bonus: set a visual reminder.
If you’re a family that uses lots of visual reminders like calendars, schedules, or charts, you can build self-care into that representation too. Maybe you set aside 30 minutes a week for “self-care” and let your child choose music to have a dance party to - or you make a list of your bedtime practices (1. put on pajamas, 2. brush teeth, 3. take 5 deep, relaxing breaths) and place it somewhere your child will see it. For kids that need routine, knowing they have time for these things can be the key to helping them start!
Our BCBAs have plenty of self-care tips to share with you and your child. Visit getanswersnow.com to learn more about us and to connect with one of our clinicians.