Self-Care for Pre-Teens and Teenagers

Hello and welcome back to your favourite dance blog!  

Today I’d like to spend some time discussing an important facet of emotional development: self-care.  I’m sure you’ve heard the term before, it seems to be everywhere these days.  Self-care is about making time to prioritize rest, self-love, emotional care, nutrition, creative expression, and mindfulness.  Things we need to function at our best when we are out chasing our dreams!  You know, the whole, fill your own cup first?

Many of us only practice self-care when we crash.  Our bodies crash if we aren’t paying attention to the signs that we need to rest.  When we get sick with a cold or flu, have a string of poor mental health days, or are falling asleep during regular activities, it’s often an indication that we have been neglecting our self-care.  Our body is trying to force us to rest.  

At GRDA, we promote self-care as a daily practice with the goal of preventing burnout and the inevitable crash.  We understand that daily self-care helps maintain physical and mental wellness.  Teaching today’s youth how to support their body, mind, and emotional selves is essential to their overall wellness and enjoyment of life!  We want to make sure the pre-teens and teens in our care are learning this valuable tool before most of us did!

I know that this age is one of the phases where people develop their autonomy and their sense of self.  This blog will provide some tools for how to guide your kids through the exploration of self-care without infringing on their autonomy.  I’m sure you’ve experienced the push-back youths often give when you ask them to do something or are reminding them of a daily task?   So what’s a caregiver to do?

Good news! You can guide them gently!

Instead of telling your teen to, “go meditate for 10 minutes,” and that you’ll be “checking in on them,” you can help provide a space in their life for exploring what self-care looks like for them!  Meditation might not be something that they’re drawn to, so be open to what feels good for your pre-teen/teen.  I know for me, but being told I’ll be “checked on” by an authority figure still ramps up my stress hormones!  Avoid that by remembering it’s not about what they do, or how well they do it, just that they are spending time with themselves!

As parents, you can discuss what your pre-teen/teen wants to try and can help provide time to allow for their pre-teen/teen to engage in self-care.  Daily might be too much, maybe it’s something that you do a couple of times a week at first!  You could even schedule that time for yourself too!  You can each go spend 30 minutes doing a solo activity and then share about what you did and how you feel afterwards!  This can be a great oppourtunity for you and your pre-teen/teen to share in your self-care while maintaining autonomy!

Not sure where to begin?  Here are some ideas on how to incorporate self-care for dance class!  Drop your pre-teen/teen off for dance class and go practice your own self-care!  Share these ideas with your pre-teen/teen, and see what appeals to them!

Body (physical self)

Before Class:

  • Energy-boosting snack – fruit/veg + grains + water

During Class (don’t worry, your pre-teen/teen’s dance teacher will support this!):

  • Small frequent water breaks
  • Breathing into stretches, listening to your body and not pushing beyond its limits
  • Being gentle with themselves if difficulties arise

After Class:

  • Water and another small snack
  • Resting

Mind (mental and emotional self)

Before Class:

  • Set intentions – if they don’t want to share their intentions with you, that’s ok!  They might prefer to journal it, or make a note on their phone!  Here are some ideas for intention setting:
    • Achieve a specific number of successful attempts with a new skill or progression
    • Focus on increasing flexibility
    • Focus on increasing strength
    • Focus on reducing wait times/taking more turns
    • Bring something you want to fix or achieve to your instructor’s attention
  • Set aside external worries (agree with yourself to set aside thinking about homework, and emotional challenges – promise yourself to devote time to those later)

During Class (don’t worry, your pre-teen/teen’s dance teacher will support this!):

  • Remind yourself of your intentions
    • Breathe for focus (see our blog for some techniques here)
    • Ask for feedback from other dancers and your teacher about what you’re working on
    • Ask questions on how to improve
  • Breathing to maintain emotional balance 

After Class:

  • Reflect on your class (with a parent, friend or in a journal?)
    • Congratulate yourself on your accomplishments
      • Celebrate
        • Favourite song?
        • Favourite snack?
        • A creative pursuit?
    • Hold space for any difficult feelings that come up
      • Comfort yourself if needed
      • Favourite blanket?
      • Stuffy?
      • Calming music?
      • Read a book/activity?
      • A creative pursuit?
      • Talk about it with someone you feel emotionally safe with?

Finally, as difficult as it can be (and I know exactly how this can feel!), respecting your pre-teen/teen’s privacy is important.  If they don’t want to share with you what happened in their class, what they’re learning, or how well it’s going (or how they’re struggling), that is ok!  You can support them without needing to know all the details, and without giving advice (unless they ask)!  Show them you care by respecting their autonomy and privacy, and let them know that you’re there for them if they need you!

Healthy nutrition, physical activity, resting when needed, creativity, mindful breathing, emotional self-care, and giving our eyes a rest from screens are things all humans need to maintain their mental and emotional wellness!  When our mental and emotional wellness is balanced, our life is more enjoyable!

And don’t forget!  Embodying the behaviour you want to impart to your pre-teen/teen is a proven teaching method!  So make sure you’re also practicing daily self-care and share with them how it helps you, what you do, and why!  You’ll both feel better and you’ll be able to share in your discoveries of what works for each of you!