What does self-care mean for a child?
Why is self-care important for the child and for you to understand as their carer?
Self-care is a very important part of a child’s development, as it is the ‘stepping-stone’ towards their independence and autonomy. As the carer, you play a vital part in this process, especially if the child is young. You are the main person that will be supporting and encouraging the child’s ability to learn and develop their self-care tasks.
Keep in mind that the child’s ability to learn and perform self-care tasks will greatly depend upon their age and developmental skills.
- As the main carer it is important for you to understand that you may be the child’s main role model. Therefore, modelling and showing the child the ‘how to do’ the self-help tasks will help the child feel more at ease with the big task ahead.
- Positive feedback and encouragement is one of the main ways of supporting the child while they are performing the activity. Praise them, applaud them and encourage them to keep trying.
- Let the child know that it’s okay to make mistakes and all they have to do is move on.
- If the child is feeling flat or insecure about the task, ensure that you are sensitive and understanding to their needs and feelings, encourage positively.
- Always keep an eye on what your child is doing; this is particularly important if they are young. Make sure they are doing things the ‘right’ way, by explaining and demonstrating how it is done and what the SAFE way is.
In addition to the above, teaching the child how to take care of their health is important. Make them aware of illnesses and how to look out for signs of being unwell.
Personal hygiene is also another aspect to the child’s self-care skills.
Once again, depending on the child’s age and stage of personal development, their ability to understand and take care of their hygiene will vary. In addition to this, consider that the child may have grown up with different levels/standards of hygiene, compared to what you may expect.
Tips to encourage personal hygiene:
- Talk about how taking care of our body keeps us clean.
- Discuss and demonstrate how washing your body doesn’t only keep you clean but also makes you feel nice.
- Try to maintain and create a routine as to when the child has a bath or shower. In that way, they are expecting it and understand that it’s a part of their daily routine.
- Teach them how to wash their hair and brush their teeth.
- Make sure you maintain the child’s fingernails and toenails.
- Be aware that most children will at some stage have nits (especially if at school), so if they are scratching their head a lot, check for them! And treat accordingly.
- Show the child how to blow their nose, explain to them that by blowing their nose they will clear it.
- Do not call them ‘smelly’, ‘yucky’ or ‘stinky’.
- Wash and keep the child’s clothes clean and fresh, so that they can feel happy to wear them.
1 A. Owens, National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC), Ask a Child Care
Adviser- Supporting Health and Hygiene Skills, Extract from Putting Children First, the
Newsletter of the National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC) Ask a Child Care
Adviser – Supporting Health and Hygiene Skills, Issue 15 September (2005) p3-5