As queer men, we're no strangers to the need to be kind to ourselves. LGBTQ people face disproportionately high rates of depression and anxiety. Most queer people must, at some point, navigate through troubled waters of self-doubt and discrimination before finally coming to a place where we are comfortable with our sexual orientations and gender identities. And just as we do so, we often face these challenges once again when we have kids, given the unique challenges we face as LGBTQ parents.
So who better than a gay dad, really, to help teach children how to be kind to themselves? Of course, we've all heard of "self-care" — and if you haven’t, you can check out how other dads do self-care here. But self-care doesn't always need to involve meditation and yoga. And you don’t always have to have long, serious discussions to create a "self care" environment as a family.
Instead, try building these lessons into your daily routine together. Allow your child to take the lead on an activity where you are 100 percent present in the moment. As fathers, this can be tough. Life is so busy, but it is during this family time where kids unexpectedly learn how to resolve conflict, create positive expectations around what it means to care for themselves and for others, and many other natural lessons that pop up.
Being kind to yourself takes time and patience. It can be difficult for children—especially younger ones—to embrace the art of patience when they are trying to master new skills. As fathers, it is of course your job to help them through these difficult moments and frustrating situations. Luckily, you can plan fun activities as a family to help your kids learn these skills whether they realize it or not.
One activity that’s proven beneficial for children’s cognitive growth as well as their self-confidence is cooking. You can help your family foster this skill by including them in the entire process of making dinner.
So, start by deciding on a meal as a group. Once you nail that down, explain the benefits of making lists and then work together to determine all the ingredients you need to shop for, whether in-store or online using a grocery delivery service. The benefit of getting groceries and other dinner essentials delivered is that you leave more time to connect at home with your loved ones—plus, it’s safe and quick!
Once you have your groceries, you can split up “jobs” that ideally meet your child’s skill level and age. For example, if you have a child between the ages of 3 and 5, you can let them pound out pizza dough, stir batter, tear lettuce, sprinkle cheese and any other age-appropriate task that makes them feel a part of the group and also helps them build confidence in their skills. Cooking is also a great activity to promote being kind to yourself because you are offering opportunities for your children to learn and improve over time.
After creating the perfect meal, opt for a more physical take on self-care and inward happiness. Yoga may be the perfect solution for you and your family. Reducing anxiety, improving your mental health, and increasing your flexibility are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits yoga has to offer our children.
With our lives as hectic as they are, it’s crucial to take some time to just breathe. While you’re giving your mind that much-needed pause, your children are also receiving so many developmental benefits as well. Their strength and coordination will skyrocket and they can begin to view exercise in a positive light, meaning they are more likely to continue this healthy habit.