Putting the Care Back into Self-care

Putting the Care Back into Self-care

By Roseen Ress, Occupational Therapist at Bellavista School

Thinking back to the various lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, there were some timesaving and comfort advantages to pyjama zooming, and no make-up mask days for me and my family. However, as a mother of 4 and an Occupational Therapist working in a school setting, I have noticed how self-care practices have been neglected, and as a result, this has affected the physical, emotional, and social wellbeing of many people.  

For some, self-care may be viewed as a luxury, however, from an occupational therapist’s perspective, it encompasses essential activities of daily living, like shopping and managing finances, to daily routines of washing, dressing, and feeding. Self-care is important for both adults and children. Children model their behaviour on what they see,  and are taught, including their self-care routines. During Covid, most school and social events were held online, which provided an excuse for both adults and children to neglect many self-care practices. For example, being able to ‘turn off’ one’s visual appearance by switching the zoom camera off, or shopping online further decreased the participation in self-care practices. As we return to life outside lockdown, we need to put the ‘care’ back into self-care, specifically for our children. Why – because self-care does the following: 

  • Impacts physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being.
  • Builds resilience, self-esteem, and confidence.
  • Develops the ability to organise, plan, sequence, and coordinate.
  • Promotes independence in an individual’s occupations in the school, and other environments.
  • Promotes social inclusion.
  • Develops motor skills.
  • Develops receptive and expressive language skills.
  • Improves the ability to follow instructions.

Too much assistance with self-care tasks may lead to children’s overreliance on parents or carers and may create a gap between their levels of confidence and competence in comparison to their peers. 

Occupational therapists can bring unique expertise to assess what factors are impacting engagement in self-care activities and their intervention plays a valuable role in addressing these difficulties by either equipping the child with the skills required, or alternately adapting the environment or modifying the task. There are also simple ways that parents and caregivers can assist their children, such as:

  • Model and lead by example for children to develop life-long healthy habits. 
  • Increase a child’s independence in self-care skills by allowing children the space and time to perform self-care activities in their natural setting. Allow for time and repetition to increase skills, confidence, and success.
  • Break down self-care skills into smaller steps and mediate and support the child through each step.
  • Increase organisation by creating routines at home. Visual prompts and timeframes may assist.
  • Remember to encourage age-appropriate independence and realistic self-care tasks.

Please reach out to your school-based or community occupational therapist for further information or support, and remember that by taking care of yourself, you will encourage your children to take better care of themselves.

For more information, visit www.bellavista.org.za 

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