When we hear ‘back to school’, we think about school shopping, packing lunches and homework. What about the social and emotional well-being of the child? The transitional issues, the stress and the pressure that can creep into a child’s psyche at this time of year can become overwhelming. With ADHD, depression and anxiety on the rise in children and teens, it becomes increasingly important that kids learn the skills to deal with some of the stressors and pressures that can arise during the school year.
As parents, there are ways that we can help them build this skill set, in providing our kids with downtime, teaching mindfulness, and using nature. ‘After school’ time has become synonymous with homework and extracurricular activities. What if the time directly after school was spent unwinding? After a day of sitting, listening, paying attention and even behaving, downtime can be extremely beneficial to helping kids manage stress. Here are 5 ways to help your child manage the stress in their life:
1. Teach Mindfulness
Mindfulness encourages kids to stop and think about their bodies, thoughts, and feelings. In an over-scheduled world, we forget to pay attention to the way we breathe and our connection to the earth. Here are 7 really easy (and awesome) activities to do with kids to help teach mindfulness and provide a state of calm.
2. Limit Extracurricular Activities
Extracurricular activities are wonderful for a variety of reasons and can be beneficial for promoting physical activity and teamwork. However, there is a fine line between just enough and too much. That line is mostly dependent on the individual child and what they are able to handle, but drawing that line before it gets to be too much to handle is key. Pick one or two activities that your child is interested in and be sure to schedule unstructured play and free time into the week as well.
3. Encourage Outdoor Play
Being outside allows our minds to focus on that which we are drawn to, encouraging an effortless type of attention. Giving your child the freedom to be outside, without instruction or games, and just letting their mind wander is an invaluable opportunity for calm and mindfulness. A few minutes of outdoor play before sitting down for homework will prime the mind for learning and attention and will allow greater opportunity for focus.
4. Provide Opportunities for Imagination
How does your child like to be creative? Finding ways to encourage creativity and imaginative play after school can help reduce stress and pressure, and can encourage an active mind, releasing some pent up energy after sitting and attending school.
5. Look for Signs of Stress
Stress in kids can manifest itself in many different ways. Has your child’s sleep patterns changed? Is their appetite different? Are they overall cranky or moody? These can all be signs of stress. If you think something is up, ask them. Kids can surprise you. And if you don’t get a response, use your best judgement and make some adjustments where you can. Taking the time to ask the questions will show that you care and that you are willing to listen, this alone can go a long way.
With school just around the corner, it’s important to think about morning routines too! A nourished child is one who can focus better in school. Here are some ways you can build a better breakfast for your child or craft some gluten free snacks.