I recently listened to a podcast with a psychologist who explained the concept of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are especially important for young children who are absorbing so much new information every day. These neurons help them learn not only by listening to others but also by observing others and “mirroring” their actions.
This becomes apparent as early as four weeks old when a person smiles at a baby and the baby starts to smile back.
It is because of this that an effective way to teach self-care is to model it.
When a child watches their caregiver take care of their emotional needs, they begin to learn how to do this for themselves. Whatever strategy a parent is using the child will likely copy. Good or bad. This is why intergenerational patterns of unhealthy and healthy coping skills develop.
In the early stages of motherhood, I didn’t make much time for self-care. Especially when my second child was born. I’ve changed this. For multiple reasons.
1. I want to be the happiest mom I can.
2. I want to take care of my body so I’m here as long as possible for my children.
3. I want to take care of my mind so that’s there as long as possible too.
4. I want to take care of my body so I can play and engage actively with my grandchildren.
5. I want to model appropriate ways for my kids to learn how to take care of themselves. Because “Life lessons are better caught than taught.”
If this is an area you are currently struggling with this blog post explains how I jump-started myself on the path to better self-care. My husband and I also recently recorded a podcast on the subject.
As a school counselor, I often saw teens engaging in self-abusive behaviors as a form of emotional release. Unhealthy coping skills providing the dopamine their brain was seeking. They hadn’t been taught any other way.
A counseling strategy I used was having the student bring in a baby picture. We’d look at it together, comment on how adorable, sweet, and totally innocent this baby was. Then I would remind them that this baby was still them. They were the same person. I’d asked how they would feel inflecting pain onto this innocent baby. As cheesy as this sounds it was perspective-shifting for a lot of my students engaging in these self-destructive behaviors.
As full-grown adults I want us to do the same thing. Look at those baby pictures. That’s us. How would we treat that baby if it was in our care? I want us to remember the importance of modeling self-care for our children. To understand we are setting them up for life by teaching them these skills when they are young and their brain can easily adapt to new ways of thinking. Self-care is one of the least selfish things we can do for our kids.
About the Author: Nikki Cox is a mommy of two striving to clear away the clutter both physical and emotional so she can live life with intention and clarity. Find her at Lovelylucidlife.com.