As part of the NCSCvirtual wrap-up series, I am sharing tips for teaching students self-care. The trauma and stressors of COVID-19 affect us all. Teaching self-care will help educators focus on teaching skills and activities to promote emotion regulation, independence, personal care, self-management, self-awareness, self-empowerment, and coping skills. 

Self-care is any activity that we do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It can include but is not limited to social, emotional, physical, and spiritual care. However, self-care is not “one size fits all.” It is crucial to empower students with a self-care “toolbox” with different skills and strategies for different scenarios and contexts. 

An important factor to consider when implementing self-care into your classroom is the developmental age. Educators who teach younger children may want to include routines for personal care, such as washing hands, bathing, and taking care of their bodies. In contrast, older students and adolescents may want to focus on outlets for safe physical activity, social media boundaries, ways to reduce isolation, navigating relationships, and emotional boundaries.

Here are some Tips for Lessons on Self-Care Classrooms that can be used in-person or online:

  • Begin the school year with self-care lessons and routines as part of your classroom culture.
  • Utilize in your lessons visuals and quotes on self-care or apps/websites students can use for self-care. 
  • Create reflection assignments for self-care like journaling.
  • Create lessons on self-care routines & how to create a self-care schedule. 
  • Create opportunities for students to talk or reflect on their self-care practices, including practices that work and don’t work for them. 
  • Create classroom routines for self-care (i.e., brain breaks, coloring breaks, mindfulness routines, calming music, etc.)
  • Create self-care spaces in classrooms (self-care corner, calming images, sensory items, coloring sheets, or calming zoom backgrounds online.)  

What is even more important is to remember when teaching students self-care is taking time for yourself. You cannot fill from an empty cup, so you need to “fill yourself first.” To take care of our students, you must practice and engage in your own self-care and ‘walk the walk.’ In turn, you will model for students how to cope and thrive in “our new normal.” 

Marina A. Badillo is a Social Worker and Counseling Director at a Charter Transfer High School located in Brooklyn, New York. She is a Doctoral Candidate at New York University’s School of Social Worker and is an Adjunct Professor for the City University of New York.