The Importance of Self-Care

Written by: ROB SURTEES, Therapist, Caring Families Aotearoa (subsidiary of Fostering Kids NZ)

As part of the LIFT programme, which includes the Foundations for Attachment training (DDP informed) that Caring Families Aotearoa is delivering around New Zealand, self-care is an essential component.  We know that caregivers are not caring for themselves, as they should.  After attending our Foundations for Attachment training caregivers tell me they have noticed positive changes in their child. When asked what they are doing differently they reply that one of the changes is taking or making time for themselves.

We cannot give what we do not have. We cannot provide support, nurturing and compassion until we learn to do this for ourselves. Most of the children we are caring for have experienced trauma at different levels. Caring for these children can be very rewarding but at the same time very stressful.

Ask yourself, what you would do if you had the time to do it? Then make it happen.

Resilience is the process of managing stress and functioning well, even when things are difficult. Being resilient as a caregiver means;

  • Taking care of and feeling good about yourself
  • Asking for help when you need it
  • Being hopeful and preparing for the future
  • Not allowing stress to get in the way of providing loving care for the child
  • Plan for what you will do when situations become challenging for you and the child
  • Taking time to really enjoy the child and doing the things you like to do together

Taking breaks is an essential part to therapeutic parenting. Talk to your social workers, if you have one, they need to make these arrangements for you.   Sometimes respite may be the only way you will get through. Respite is a lot more preferable than a placement breakdown.  Use this time to re-charge your batteries, not to catch up on housework etc. Children will adapt to this change as part of their routine.

It is important that you take time for your hobbies and stay connected with you friends and family. Support groups and individual support from other  caregivers is a great idea, a problem shared is a problem halved and often other caregivers may have experienced what you are going through, and have some practical advice.

We need time for reflection. This can allow you to think about your child’s behaviour, what they are communicating to you, and to reflect on your response to it. This can help you acknowledge your feelings of anger, sadness or despair. It can also help you maintain a sense of humour.

Remember the three R’s

  • Rest
  • Relax
  • Reflect

One other R if needed, Repair. There is a lot more to this and I would encourage you all to participate in the LIFT programme.



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