We have been talking a lot about about self-care and community care. Many of us including myself are stressed and struggling. We want to eat our daily greens, sleep like babies or toddlers, and and most of all feel relaxed and joyful. We are too busy, disconnected, overwhelmed, or disheartened by a world where our values are not based in empathy, love, compassion and taking care of ourselves and others.
I decided to research self and community care in a demographic where people know their needs and are often better than us at getting them met in the moment. Additionally this subset of people are not prone to the same negative attitudes and habits as adults are including intoxication, gossip and a preoccupation with the news.
Below is advice from 2, 3,4 and 5 year olds on self and community care. I asked them what they do and recommend we do when we are stressed out or worried.
How should we take care of ourselves:
- Take some time out. This was a clear direction from a couple children in the Chipmunks and Squirrels two and three year old class. Conrad suggested when you are stressed, “ Maybe have a rest time or a timeout or talk to Daddy.” Jesse added, “ I talk to my mom and I tell her I am sad, and Conrad replied, My mom goes in time outs.
- Find a mommy or daddy or someone that helps. Mommies, daddies and other caregivers and friends came up often as a way to take care of ourselves. I asked Mila and Jessie how they take care of themselves. Mila and Jessie discussed this. Mila stated, “I don’t know…and Jessie she doesn’t know.” Jessie replied, “So I think talk to her mom and read a book. “ Marsden, in the three and four year old Q train class, said, “ I don’t know…… well mom hugging me, that makes me feel better.”
- Play with Ninja Turtles, Batman, and rings. There were lots of ideas for playing and building (no real walls please). Jabari (age 3) said when he is taking care of himself, “ I like Ninja Turtles, I do puzzles,… batman puzzles. And Ysabelle (age 4) stated, When I take care of myself, I play with rings and stuff.
- Read some books. Books and reading came up a little in a cozy way. This group is not a fully literate group yet and they do dig books. Rime highly suggested the book/cuddle combination. Rime “I snuggle with my cuddly and also read some books.”
- Count. Counting, I have been there, when you are just so stressed and you are not sure what to do. Rumi, age two said it in a much more joyful way. “I count… one, two, three.”
- Find something to cuddle. Wow. This might be the secret to self-care in the current moment or forever for 2-5 year-olds. In the Chipmunks and Squirrels class, Bo began, “ I have a stuffed animal.” Mila added, “ I have Doggie Junior and Baby Bella they just cuddle me” Sid then chimed in, “At my house I have Elise. She’s a little a bit big and she is one. (I am not sure if Elise is a stuffed animal or a person). Nico added, “Baby baby.” This self and community care technique went beyond one classroom and into the Ducks and Geese class, ages 2 and 3, June expressed how her self care works, “A dog just a dog, that makes me feel better.” Arbor added, “My puppy is at home ( I don’t know if these are stuffed or real dogs).” Lena said it simply and powerfully, “I cuddle.” Finally, Mila let me know this kind of self-care is not limited to adults. I asked, “What does your mom do?” Mila replied, “She gets a stuffed animal from my room.”
- Don’t cry or cry. This was our most hotly debated topic on self-care in We discussed do you ever cry when you are worried or stressed? Mila, “No.” Jessie, “No.” Nico, “ No.” Our teacher Vernessa did support crying and added, I feel good after I cry. In the Ducks and Geese Class, when Paz is stressed he said, “I cry and then I smile.” Adira responded, “No I don’t cry and yah, I have a pillow.”
- Be happy. This seems like a viable option for some people as a self-tool. Just be. Hayden age 2, said, “ Be happy. Justin age 4 said, “ Feel Happy.” and Isabella, age 2 expressed, “My mom is happy.”
- Build something. This tool for self and community care may be under used by grown-ups but in the pre-school set, it is common and highly regarded. Noah age 4 said when he is stressed, for self care, “I build things like a tower you can build a tower.” His good friend Inke added, “Yes and I build blocks.” and his other good friend Marcel also affirmed this tool, “ I just build a train.”
- Set A booby trap. This is an underused and understudied. Perhaps we all may want to try out this new playful and powerful technique suggested by Liam age 4, who stated “I build booby traps.”
- Don’t get hurt. Don’t climb on things. This may seem like an obvious technique for self and community care and it is important. If we get hurt and climb on things, it could get worse…we could get more worried. Meg, age 4 warned us, “ Make sure I don’t get hurt I don’t climb on things that are too high and I listen to my mom and dad.” and Luco added, “… And I don’t climb on rocking walls.” I do propose climbing on things safely for self-care and this has not been researched by our pre-schoolers.
- Just do this (shrug shoulders, give a mean look) and silence. This is a new self-care technique to me, the shrug, mean look and silence (perhaps Maxine Waters is using this.) Milo age 4 , introduced and explained it to me I just do this (shrug shoulders, give a mean look) and silence.
- Go home and “lie” down. This technique explained by Liv is used universally by all ages and culture. It is much needed right now. Liv stated clearly, “Go home and lie down.” It is though interesting to note that not of our pre-school collaborators brought up napping as a self-care technique.
- Breathe and stretch. Our pre-schoolers surprisingly suggested breathing and stretching often. This also was throughout several classrooms. In the Shuttle class of 4 and 5 year olds, Mira age 4 stated, “I just take a deep breath.” Abe, age 4 added, “I stretch.” In the B and Q train classes of 3 and 4 year olds, Felix age 3 stated, “I take a deep breath nothing else.” Shiloh added, “I breathe.” and Julius chimed in, “ I tell my body to calm down.” Noelle concluded, “I take deep breath.”
- Vitamins/Cough Drops/Medicine. Diego age 2, suggested when you are stressed to take care of yourself, “Get better.” Juniper, age 2 added, “If you have cough drops and you will feel better.” Lusa in the 4/5s class added, “Every morning I have my vitamins.” and Rowan explained to me, “ I got something, if you get sick, you get medicine, and you drink it every morning and every night.
- Exercise. This technique of self-care was mentioned more by our teachers than our pre-schoolers. Taylor age 4 did say, “Every day when I am stressed out and my dad does exercise, I do exercise with him.”
- Yes. This is a new open ended conceptual technique by Violet age 3, you just say yes, yes, yes. Violet, “ Yes, yes, yes, yes…..”
- Don’t go near him. This technique was brought up directly in response to the election. If you are stressed about someone, Meg said, “Don’t go near them.” This technique is effective and helpful.
- Eat. This self-care technique is more often utilized by adults than children. Hayden, age 2 did say it succinctly, “ I eat.’
- Give your friends or yourself a hug or a kiss. Our final technique for self-care was mentioned many times and is actually utilized by our pre-schools often. Ora Luz, age 3 explained it, :I hug and I kiss my friends. I also tell one of my grown ups and it helps.” Simona age 4 explained her self-care technique, “ I ask somebody to give me a hug and I think of something happy and I do it.” Frank, age 3 explained he feels better with a hug from mom and a kiss. Rosina, age 3 said, “I give Finn a hug. Marin, age 3 added, “a little hug and a kiss,” and finally Ecco said, “ I hug myself then I feel good.
This impressive, easy and almost free list of self and community care tips can be used any time. We recommend you try as many as you can especially those new ones. Enjoy them, shrug and silence, don’t get hurt and climb on things, perhaps set a booby trap and hug and kiss and take care of each other.
Additional Teachers Notes on Self-Care:
Nikki: I like to move, go to yoga, Aikido, or come to Maple Street or I’ll go to a studio and dance around.
Vernessa: I go for a long walk. I have Liam who is a great cuddler any time. He counts.
Nikki: I used to have a cuddly named Casper now I have a dog named Ruby.
Thomas: I used to have a lot of cuddlies Piglet from Pooh and a Tiger was my favorite. Yes it keeps your bed safe.