Self-Care for Kids: 10 Simple Strategies to Help Them De-Stress

When kids learn how to de-stress now, they get strategies they can use for the years of adulting to come.

Published December 15, 2023
child breathing or meditating

No matter how happy our childhoods were, we all still remember times when we felt really anxious or just generally tense as kids. We can't protect our children from ever having to deal with stress, but we can teach them some self-care for kids to make it easier for them to handle. Even better, knowing a few self-care activities they can rely on can give them the tools they need to manage stress as adults too.

These are a few of our very favorite strategies for helping kids feel calmer and better prepared to deal with whatever stress life tosses their way. These work for all ages, from toddlers to teens.

1. Breathe Deeply

It may seem simple, but how we breathe can make a real difference in how we feel. When kids are stressed, they sometimes take quick, shallow breaths instead of deeper ones. Making a conscious choice to breathe deeply can help them relax and reset.

  • For littles, talk about breathing from their bellies instead of their chests. Don't worry about keeping a breath count.
  • Older kids and teens can breathe in for four seconds, hold their breath for seven, and slowly breathe out for eight seconds.
  • You can ask any age of kid to take four deep breaths when they start to feel worried or overwhelmed.

2. Eat or Drink Something Healthy

child drinking milk

Food as a solution for stress is not a pattern anyone wants to encourage, but if your kids are like my kids, they get hungry and don't even realize it. Taking a minute to have a glass of milk or an apple can make problems feel much more manageable. 

When kids start to feel stressed or you notice that they seem to be overwhelmed, they can learn to ask themselves when they last had something to eat or drink. This is a helpful skill for any age.

Quick Tip

Encourage kids to go for something nutritious, even if they would prefer chips or candy. Having a few healthy snacks on hand can make it easier for them to create this self-care habit.

3. Tune in to What You Hear

Mindfulness is tricky, even for adults, but you can simplify it and make it into a game. My 10-year-old does this with me all the time, and he's way better at it than I am.

  1. Sit and close your eyes. Tune in to what you hear around you. Listen for birds, the sounds your house makes, other people's voices, all of it.
  2. If your mind wanders, note it but don't feel upset with yourself. This is normal, and it takes practice to keep your mind on track.
  3. After a minute or two, open your eyes. How often did you think about something besides what you heard?

4. Write or Color Your Way to Relaxation

child drawing

Being creative is a great self-care activity for kids of any age, and there are tons of ways to do it. The right activity totally depends on the kid's age and interests, but it should be something quiet and creative that the kid really enjoys.

  • Younger kids can color in a coloring book or on a blank sheet of paper. No need for a super messy art project; this should be something they can do on their own.
  • Older kids can draw or color in a sketchbook or just have fun in a coloring book.
  • Kids who can write may enjoy journalling or writing stories.

5. Have a Dance Party

Music is a great way to de-stress, and moving your body can help too. Put some music on and start dancing. This can be a family activity, but it doesn't have to be. Sometimes kids feel self-conscious about dancing, so they might prefer to do it in their bedrooms or away from everyone else.

6. Use an Affirmation

An affirmation or mantra is a really good self-care idea for kids who need a little reminder about how awesome and capable they are. If they make it a routine and say something encouraging to themselves every day, they often feel a lot more confident.

There are tons of great options for affirmations, but these are a few of our favorites:

  • I can handle anything that happens today.
  • I am a good person.
  • I'm kind to other kids.
  • I'm a good friend.

7. Re-read a Favorite Book

child reading

You know how there are certain books that just make you feel a lot better when you read them over again? Reading new stuff is important, but there's a special comfort that comes with reading an old favorite. This type of reading is an important self-care activity for kids.

Older kids can read to themselves (and this quiet time is soothing), but younger kids may need a grown-up to sit and read with them. If you're busy and don't have a chance, just looking at the pictures in a favorite book can help too.

8. Ride a Bike or Go for a Walk

Being active can help a lot with managing stress, no matter what age you are. For really little kids, this is going to take some adult involvement, but older kids can ride their bikes around their neighborhood or go for a stroll. If you're not comfortable with your kid leaving the yard alone, suggest the backyard or basement for a little active time.

9. Pet a Pet

Petting a cat, dog, hamster, or other pet is another awesome way to destress. The act of soothing another creature and paying attention to them can be a form of self-care too. When we feel connected to our animals, we tend to feel calmer.

10. Make Room for Daydreaming

child daydreaming

Everyone feels busy these days, even kids. Setting aside some time to do nothing but daydream can be a really good way to take care of ourselves. This can be part of another activity like taking a bath or going for a walk, or it can just be sitting and looking out the window. Letting our minds wander helps us come up with new and creative ideas and solve the problems we're facing, so it's a good tool to have as kids get older.

If kids are dealing with a specific problem or issue, you can also encourage them to think about steps they can take to improve the situation. When kids come up with solutions, it can help them feel like they have some control and feel calmer. Even if it takes some parent involvement to actually implement the ideas, taking steps towards creative problem-solving in their own lives is a great step you can help them take. 

Quick Tip

If kids are feeling overwhelmed, it's good to encourage them to look at where they can free up some time. Even just a five-minute break can make a big difference.

Self-Care for Kids Becomes a Lifelong Habit

Taking care of yourself is a big deal, no matter what age you are. If you focus on self-care for kids, you can help them create some habits that will make it easier for them to manage stress throughout their lives. That's a real gift, because we all know how stressful adulting can be. So grab those coloring supplies or put on some music to banish the overwhelm and anxiety now (and in the future too).

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Self-Care for Kids: 10 Simple Strategies to Help Them De-Stress