Redefining Self-Care in Kids & Teens

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Self-care can be interpreted in a variety of ways—for some, it’s taking a walk; for others, it’s reading and having a cup of tea. But for children and adolescents, self-care can be as simple as anything they enjoy doing that helps keep them happy while maintaining good mental and emotional health.

So how do we get our loved ones involved in regular self-care practices? What are some ways we can encourage them to look after their mental and emotional well-being?

Audience Questions

Dr. Jennie Kuckertz shares ways to explore different types of age-appropriate self-care, explains the short- and long-term benefits of self-care routines, and answers questions about how we can all look after ourselves and one another.

  • How would you define self-care?
  • What does the research tell us about the role of self-care in healthy, emotional development?
  • We hear stories of kids who have been isolated during the pandemic losing some of their ability to practice social skills with others. To what degree are you seeing that in your own practice?
  • Does it go beyond some of the social interactions? For example, a lot of us are feeling a heightened level of anxiety because of the uncertainty around the pandemic. How does that factor into things?
  • Can you give an example, either for a child or for a teenager, of one of those small things that they can do?
  • How can we communicate all of this to kids, especially the younger kids?
  • To what degree do parents dictate what self-care should look like for a child or teen?
  • Could you talk about some of the dos and don’ts of modeling behavior for our kids?
  • Can you give us general guidelines as to where we might draw the lines for what is appropriate for one age group and what is not?
  • Can you speak a little bit to the balance that we might find between using screens for healthy downtime versus getting glued to screens for hours on end?
  • You mentioned family time and family activities. Can you give us some examples of what that might look like?
  • Kids and teens spend so much of their time in classrooms. How do you feel educators are doing when it comes to providing self-care opportunities during the school day?
  • In terms of self-care, what are your thoughts on the appropriate level of dialogue between a parent and a teacher or administrator at a school?
  • In the bigger picture, at a macro level, is the field of education embracing self-care?
  • Mindfulness, mindful breathing, meditation, and yoga have been found to be very helpful for adults, can they be adapted for kids?
  • Nutrition and sleep are important factors as well, could you talk about the holistic approach to self-care for kids of any age?
  • You see a lot of kids with anxiety. Are there signs that parents and educators should watch out for that would suggest that the typical self-care practices are not enough for a young one who is struggling?
  • Can you walk us through what’s next for a parent who does notice warning signs? Are there phone calls that should be made, conversations that should be had?
  • You work a lot with kids, specifically with OCD. Are folks in the classrooms getting better at acknowledging and recognizing OCD?
  • What do you do if you find that the parents of a patient aren’t fully grasping the importance of self-care?
  • Are there tools or approaches that you use to try to convey to kids how important it is for them to take care of themselves? Can you give us an example?
  • What are some of the yard sticks that you use to measure the success of these self-care approaches?
  • How do you go about working self-care into the mix of day-to-day coping strategies for a child who has special needs like asthma, diabetes, or a mental health challenge?
  • As parents, educators, and clinicians, how do we handle the specific challenges of dealing with teenagers who might think that they know everything already and don’t want to be told what to do?
  • Can you give us any specific examples of self-care practices that might work well for a teenager?
  • What about relationship challenges for teenagers, how do these challenges factor into all this?
  • Do you find that kids and teenagers are more or less reluctant to do therapy with a professional?
  • What about getting a teen versus a child to open up to you?
  • What can we be doing proactively to anticipate and provide self-care opportunities to our kids for the cyclical challenges associated with junctures like summer break or going back to school?
  • Could you walk us through a good self-care activity that a family can do together?
  • Can you talk about self-care for those caring for kids?
  • When is the threshold crossed where a parent or caregiver may need professional care?
  • Could you talk about the stigma a parent may feel around going to see a therapist?
  • Do you find that kids and teens experience school burnout or other types of burnout that can be addressed with self-care?
  • Are there any resources that you’d like to share for self-care?

The information discussed is intended to be educational and should not be used as a substitute for guidance provided by your health care provider. Please consult with your treatment team before making any changes to your care plan.


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About Dr. Kuckertz

Jennie M. Kuckertz, PhD, is a research psychologist at McLean’s OCD Institute and is a current recipient of the Corneel Young Investigator Award at McLean Hospital. Her research interests are in mechanisms of treatment for OCD and anxiety disorders, including traditional interventions such as exposure and response prevention therapy as well as novel cognitive bias modification programs.

Dr. Kuckertz’s research uses advanced statistical methodology that appropriately leverages the full richness of longitudinal mechanistic data to examine impact on clinical outcomes. Her clinical expertise is in treating OCD and anxiety disorders in children, adolescents, and adults.

Learn more about Dr. Kuckertz

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Originally aired on December 6, 2022