Self-Care 101: What every foster parent with a teenager should know

By Karen Bontrager – MSW Candidate EWU, ICF-Trained Relationship Coach & Scholar

The importance of making time for self-care has been discussed in many different circles. In the schools, children as young as six are being taught techniques such as: deep breathing, staying centered, and noticing their emotions. Books are being sold by the thousands regarding taking care of your whole being:  body, soul, and spirit. Professionals ranging from social workers to medical doctors are hailing its praise and promoting its significance to their clients and patients.

This is all well and good, but how do you as busy foster parents with older teenagers, incorporate these principles into your already jammed schedule when there are already not enough hours in the day? Do you want to learn how to make this shift in your thinking? Are you ready? Then, here is the answer. The simple truth is this, despite all rationale and reservations to the contrary, you must choose to make a decision.  By determining today that you will make self-care a priority in your life, the ways to turn this impossibility into a reality will come into fruition. These tips gleaned from the workshop at the 2016 RFSW Conference on March 19th called “Self-Care 101: What every foster parent with a teenager should know” should help you get on the right track. (I appreciate all of the amazing participants in my workshop for trying on these ideas of self-care).

“Self-Care 101: What every foster parent with a teenager should know” Tips 

  1. Make a decision to incorporate self-care into your life. Start small by being intentional about noticing all the needs you have in just one day. Jot down your feelings on a piece of paper, and then review your thoughts. (This article about self-care by Laura Tirello will help you start this journey).  http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/01/11/dont-forget-yourself-the-importance-of-self-care/
  2. Grant yourself permission for some me-time. Realize that you cannot be your best if you are operating from an empty vessel.
  3. Realize that self-care is often not about doing more, but less. Focus on prioritizing your life down to 4 goals: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. 
  4. Amplify gratitude. Before you get out of bed, say five things you are thankful for in your life. (Secret Daily has a video to help you with being grateful). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0WS2MXTwf0
  5. Notice that stress and worry cannot live in a grateful heart. 
  6. Set the example. The best way to have others follow you is to model the desired behavior especially in time of conflict and strife. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths and pay attention to your feelings without any judgment; just be with what is there.
  7. Get your whole family involved by turning self-care into a fun game. Ask the members of your household ways to integrate this into your lifestyle. Be playful with the possibilities, and watch the ideas flow. (Teenagers especially appreciate having their voices be heard by adults).

If you are willing to take the first step towards applying these skills of self-care by giving you some me-time to first notice what you need, focus on less and not more, and be grateful for your many blessings, you may realize that there is not only more time for you, but for all of those special people in your life who need you to be your best.