Nurturing the Caregiver: A Guide to Parent Self-Care

Parenting is a profoundly rewarding yet demanding journey, especially when you find yourself supporting a child with mental health or behavioral challenges. Amidst busy and sometimes complicated lives, it’s important for caregivers to prioritize self-care as best as they can. This can feel like a difficult or even impossible task at times, however, it is a crucial practice that serves not only a caregiver’s well-being but also enhances their capacity to support their child.

Before diving in, let’s clarify what self-care means. Self-care is a deliberate and conscious effort to prioritize your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It's a commitment to nurturing yourself in meaningful ways to you, allowing you to be the best version of yourself, even in trying times.

As caregivers, it can be easy to set aside our own needs as we become overwhelmed with the needs of others. Consider this a gentle reminder to pause and take some time to reevaluate how you might add self-care to your routine. (And check out the accompanying handout to deepen your commitment to self-care.)

Read on for six meaningful ways to incorporate self-care into your life.

1. Take Time for Yourself

In the midst of busy schedules and the emotional weight of supporting your child, taking moments for yourself can feel challenging. However, this time should not be a luxury—it’s a necessity. Whether it's a few deep breaths, a quiet cup of coffee, a short walk, choosing to stay in for the night, or a few pages of a good book, these moments are vital for recharging and fostering resilience. And if you find yourself in one of these moments of respite, do your best to be present and mindful of any positive emotions that arise during this time. Try to let go of worries or the burden of any responsibilities just for those moments.

2. Get Creative

Engaging in activities that spark creativity is a powerful form of self-expression and can even be a form of emotional expression and release. Whether it’s drawing, writing, or exploring a new hobby, creative outlets serve as therapeutic and rejuvenating spaces.

3. Access Your Inner Child: Be Playful

Reconnecting with your inner child by embracing playfulness can offer a refreshing perspective. Engage in activities you enjoyed as a child or discover new ones that bring joy and laughter. Playfulness becomes a powerful antidote to the stress of being a caregiver, and it can also provide an opportunity to connect with your child.

4. Practice Self-Compassion

Parenting is a journey filled with highs and lows, and it’s essential to be gentle with yourself. Practicing self-compassion involves acknowledging your efforts, embracing imperfections, and allowing space for personal growth. A wonderful resource for self-compassion is Dr. Kristin Neff. (Find out more at

5. Find Community

An often overlooked aspect of self-care is finding and fostering a supportive community. Parenthood can be a challenging road to navigate. Building connections with others who share similar experiences can be a powerful form of self-care. Consider checking out local parenting groups, events, or workshops, or research online communities to find a group of like-minded individuals with similar experiences and interests.

6. Make Sure to Meet Your Basic Needs

Depending on your situation, meeting your basic needs might be the most self-care you can do at times, and that’s okay. Do your best to focus on taking care of your physical health (taking medication, going to the doctor when needed, resting when sick, etc.), getting balanced nutrition and exercise, prioritizing sleep, and limiting recreational substance use. Meeting these foundational needs will keep you going and may even eventually provide you with a platform to increase your self-care practice over time.

Supporting a child is an act of love and commitment. However, it's equally vital for parents to recognize the significance of their own well-being. By incorporating these self-care practices, you’re not just nurturing yourself, but you are modeling healthy behaviors and creating a foundation of strength and resilience for both you and your child. Self-care is not selfish: It’s an essential component of the journey towards a healthier and happier family.

Free Exercises

How do I teach my child that it’s safe to share their feelings with a trusted adult?
Welcome to Therapy Book
Starting therapy can be a challenging and confusing experience, especially for children. They often don’t know what to expect, who a therapist is, or how therapy can help. Whether they’re going to therapy to navigate grief, sadness, anxiety, trauma, or other tricky situations, it’s important that children understand the ins and outs of therapy to start off on the right foot.

Written and illustrated by therapist (and mother) Andrea Dorn, MSW, LISW-CP, Welcome to Therapy walks children through the process of starting therapy and normalizes the experience in simple, concrete, and developmentally appropriate terms – allowing kids to better understand what to expect and what is expected of them.

Meet the Expert:
Andrea Dorn, MSW, LISW-CP, is a mom and licensed clinical social worker who works as a psychotherapist with adults and children of all ages. The Mindful Steps series was created as a culmination of her interest and background in mindfulness as well as behavioral and attachment theories. Andrea is dedicated to helping young minds and their families navigate the big and small changes that come with child development by encouraging mindfulness and emotional connection.

Learn more about her educational products, including upcoming live seminars, by clicking here.

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