If your child is a tween – between eight and 12 years old – it can be a great time to help them develop healthy body care, eating and exercise routines that can be the foundation of a healthy lifestyle for years to come. Developing sound self care practises at a young age can also help them resist the negative and unhealthy messages too often pushed by media and their peer groups.
Here are eight self-care tips for your tween:
1. Eat mindfully
Tweens today are exposed to a number of confusing messages about food, from tiny-portioned cafeteria meals to ads for cheap fast food, fad diets trending on Instagram or peer pressure to be on a diet. Preparing healthy meals and serving as a role model yourself can help your tween see food as a positive, nourishing force in life. Healthy eating means having balance - not drastically cutting calories or overeating.
2. Make physical activity part of your day
With recess no longer on the schedule at many schools, it's important your tween sees exercise not only as a daily activity, but also something fun! Encourage your tween to participate in sports and activities they enjoy and spend time outside. You can also set an example for your tween. Try suggesting going on walks and bike rides together, and why not park the car farther away from the store and take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
3. Practice good hygiene
Growing bodies can mean changing hygiene habits. Teach your tween to shower daily or every other day, wear deodorant, brush and floss, clean and trim their nails and practice a healthy skincare routine. Go to the store with them so they can pick out a gentle face wash, a moisturizer, any non-stripping acne products and sunscreen. Help them develop morning and bedtime hygiene routines. Your teen will probably also want to know about shaving their underarms, legs or face - help them understand how to shave, but let them know that it's their choice whether they want to.
4. Be media-smart
Many kids today have smartphones and social media accounts, which means they're bombarded by heavily re-touched or staged images of "Instagram celebrities" and models. Too often, tweens compare themselves to these artificial images, which damages self-esteem. Help your kid understand that social media, magazine advertising and other marketing methods use images that are not real and should not be held up as a standard for comparison. Teach them that healthy, beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes.
5. Get enough sleep
Teens are notorious for skimping on sleep, in spite of many studies showing that sleep is critical for adolescent brain development. While your child's a tween, teach them the importance of ample sleep to good health - snoozing for the recommended amount of time each night helps strengthen their brains and refresh their energy so they will remember more in school or at sports practice. You can also help them come up with a nightly wind-down routine, like turning off their phones two hours before bedtime, having a cup of decaffeinated tea or warm milk and reading a chapter of a book before bed.
6. Less is more
Wanting more than what you have can create a lot of anxiety and stress, especially when tweens constantly focus on what expensive new clothing or electronic devices their classmates or social media stars have. However, more things doesn't equal more happiness. Try encouraging your tween to see that always wanting the latest and greatest can be a trap that creates dissatisfaction. "Less is more" is a mantra that will serve your tween well in life, in terms of both spending money wisely and having a positive mental outlook.
Unlike generations before, your tween is a digital native, born into a world where smartphones and the internet are the norm. Teach your child how to responsibly use electronic devices and to unplug often. You can implement rules in your house to encourage this behavior, like no phones during meals and before bed, but the important thing is that your tween learns the value of disconnecting for his or herself.
8. Have confidence
A lot is going on for your tween. Their body is growing and changing, their social relationships are becoming more complex, and more change is on the way when they become a teen. Now is an important time to reinforce the importance of being confident in their own skin and to embracing their unique gifts. A strong sense of self can help your tween resist peer-pressure and make safe, smart choices.