James Van Der Beek is no stranger to the highs and lows of parenting. The actor — who has five kids with his wife, Kimberly — moved with his family to Texas from Los Angeles during the pandemic. That’s not for the faint of heart.
Van Der Beek recently spoke with HuffPost Parenting regarding what he’s learned about his kids during the pandemic and how he’s practicing self-care in these strange days as part of his partnership with Tom’s of Maine.
On (yes) toothpaste
If you’re a parent of young kids, you can probably relate to Van Der Beek’s toothpaste story. “We made the mistake of giving [our kids] mint toothpaste and they go ‘that’s spicy’ and then brushing teeth is an uphill battle many a time after that,” he said, adding that Tom’s of Maine’s strawberry flavor is now their household favorite. He was happy to partner with Tom’s of Maine because, he said, “so much of parenting is getting a good tip, so this felt like a good tip” for other parents to know about.
On what he’s learned about his kids during the pandemic
Van Der Beek said he fell in love with Texas while filming the much-beloved “Varsity Blues.” So when the pandemic hit, he and his wife “took the leap” and moved their family.
The kids, he said, are happy for the space. And what’s surprised him most about his kids during this time is “their ability to recalibrate.”
As an example, Van Der Beek told the story behind a photo he recently posted to Instagram (below).
“My 4-year-old was riding a bike with training wheels that they had wedged onto a little corner on a concrete pathway so that it was like an exercise bike. She made her own Peloton with training wheels!” he said. “And my 6-year-old was behind her sharpening a stick that she wanted to make a spear, like it was a sharpening stone. And that was just complete benign, loving neglect; that wasn’t anything that I had engineered. That was just something they did on their own, given enough space and enough time to get bored. These kids do know how to use their ingenuity and think on their feet.”
And if your kids aren’t off being tiny creators? “Don’t beat yourself up; your kids know how to do it and they totally will,” he said.
He often shares intimate family moments on his Instagram account in what he called an “exploration of the human experience.” He strives to be authentic, he said, and gets that in return from his followers.
What, if anything, has he learned from them? “I’ve learned we’re all trying. We’re all doing our best. We all have moments when we’re crushing and when we’re definitely not,” he noted.
On practicing self-care during a pandemic
Self-care is hard enough to come by even during normal times. But Van Der Beek’s solution to self-care is, thankfully, easy(ish) to see through.
“Everybody wants to be a perfect parent ― none of us had perfect childhoods ― but we have these expectations to be perfect parents ’cause we love these little humans so much and it’s impossible. No one is going to be a perfect parent and just reminding ourselves of that goes a long way in teaching our kids self-forgiveness,” he said.
“We’re all trying and we’re all learning and doing our best and we’re not going to be perfect and it’s good to share that with the people that know us and care about us and are invested in us living our best life,” he added. “For me, self-care starts with self-love; you really have to work hard on loving yourself and I don’t think it’s something our generation was raised doing. We were taught to be good to other people and you’re taught to be selfless, but I don’t know how much anybody really stressed self-love when I was growing up. And I look back at that and it’s really kind of the pillar of loving other people, is having that love for yourself. My self-care is really based on putting that first and doing the things that keep me happy and healthy and fulfilled.”