Youth in care say self-care supports healthy relationships
by Megan Holmes
To have healthy relationships with others, one must first have a healthy relationship with oneself. For this, safe, enjoyable practices for maintaining mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health are needed. The right self-care practices can be the key to creating an environment where healthy relationships can flourish.
Self-care means recognizing when it is time to step away from personal and or professional relationships and responsibilities to provide care for oneself in some way (e.g., meditation, therapy, time alone, etc.). Recharging helps one maintain the dignity of the relationship.
Self-care can take many forms. For one person it may be writing. For another it could be music, or reading a book in the park. What matters is that people take time to do something they enjoy or helps improve their focus, productivity, and relationships.
What Do Youth Think?
What do young people in foster care in North Carolina think about the connection between self-care and healthy relationships? To find out, I spoke with youth in care and foster care alumni from different parts of the state at an event called SaySo Saturday. (For more on SaySo Saturday, see box below.)
Interviewees were first asked what “self-care” meant to them. One defined self-care as having people that care about you and want to be present in your life, and who want to help you as you grow throughout life. For this young person, self-care is different from the definition provided above, and clearly involves help from others. Another young person I spoke with defined self-care as when you are your own provider in safety, health, and hygiene.
What do youth in foster care do to take care of themselves? One young person shared that when she gets angry, she finds it helpful to step outside and regain her thoughts. For her, fresh air and scenery help her regroup.
Another respondent noted that one way of practicing self-care is to have healthy eating habits and exercise regularly. This makes sense—healthy eating habits and regular activity increases a person’s overall health and well-being, which then allows a greater chance for them to establish and maintain healthy relationships.
Another interviewee pointed out that self-care is also about the things we choose not to do. He said that he is mindful to not place himself in situations that he should not be in, such as dangerous environments. It is great to see these youth establishing self-care practices that will help them grow into strong adults.
The young persons I interviewed see a clear connection between self-care and healthy relationships. One shared their belief that both self-care and healthy relationships “help the other individual and help you become a better person.” Another agreed, pointing out that “If you don’t have proper hygiene, it can be harmful for intimate relationships by transferring various illnesses to the other person, which would be inconsiderate.” This respondent mentioned a different aspect of healthy relationships that is extremely important. Good hygiene is a self-care practice that will increase the young person’s long-term health.
Conversations with youth in care reveal that self-care is not as simple as we think it is. It has many faces and many lasting effects on all involved. If you are currently experiencing life in any way (employment, caring for family, etc.), you are strongly encouraged to find time to care for you so you can perform at your best in all you do. Don’t forget, you can’t help others if you aren’t first helping yourself.
Megan Holmes is a foster care alumna and recent graduate of NC Central University, where she earned a BSW degree with a minor in Spanish.
SaySo Saturday is an annual youth conference that provides youth who are or have been in substitute care in NC a chance to network with other youth in care and participate in essential life skill workshops. We also draw names for door prizes and elect SaySo’s next Youth Board of Directors. SaySo Saturday is held every year on the first Saturday of March.
Other Annual SaySo Events
- It’s My Transition. A one-day seminar for youths 16+ years of age. Three are held annually. Each seminar focuses on two of the seven LINKS outcomes.
- LINK-Up Youth Conference. This one-day life skills conference is for youths ages 13-16. Workshops and games are facilitated by SaySo’s Board of Directors and adult supporters. Conferences are usually held in January and August each year.
- SaySo Survivor. This is a weekend leadership retreat that allows SaySo members to explore their resiliencies and move from surviving to thriving.