After I wrote my recent post about adult wellness, it got me thinking about wellness for my kids. They don’t have the same stressors in their lives that us parents would have, but everything is relative and I have witnessed anxiety, stress and feelings of being overwhelmed in my kids.
As adults, we tend to downplay these expressions of emotion and say something like, “this is not a big deal” and redirect them with distractions. There is an appropriate time for a response like this, but I think there are also times that we need to validate how hey are feeling and teach them how to manage those feelings.
Listening to them and talking it through is one way, but sometimes they may need more than that. I know when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed I need to move and be productive in that moment so I can relax enough to be able to rationally think through my stressors. Yes, my coping strategy is cleaning, something quick with instant results. But, I have found that if I take the time to practice mindfulness or wellness regularly, like reading, going for a walk, socializing with friends or practicing yoga I experience fewer episodes of stress and anxiety. (I feel better, but my house may not be as clean…). So it would make sense that the same theory should alleviate stress in my kids.
From the Mouth of Babes
I took a few minutes to sit down with my kids separately, and asked them the following questions:
- What is stress?
- What makes you stressed?
- What makes you feel better when you are stressed?
- What should other people do when they feel stressed?
My 3-year-old daughter’s answers:
- “It means you are mad”
- ” When I don’t like people”
- “Don’t blame your mom and don’t hit people”
My 6-year-old son’s answers:
- “When you get really mad”
- “When people are upset at me”
- “Come into my room and have alone time”
- “Take a deep breath or talk to someone”
If anything this was a reminder of their level of understanding and problem solving. I believe my son can identify when he is feeling stressed, and will often verbalize just that. But my daughter, not so much. I want to be able to support my kids in that moment, but also give them strategies to find the relief they need on their own while also incorporating regular wellness into their lives.
What can I do? What can they do?
I think validation is a powerful tool, and often just feeling understood can deescalate that bad feelings. It is usually pretty easy to tell by their behaviour that the are overwhelmed or stressed about something and I will encourage them to use their words and try to explain what they are feeling. Just repeating back what they tell me has an instant effect of calming them down. This makes me thing of a funny quote I read not too long ago, that I actually used on my husband…
“Never in the history of calming down did someone calm down when told to calm down”
If you think about it, that is so true! Why is that the first response to someone who is freaking out? It makes it so much worse. If I ever say “calm down” to my kids I try to follow-up with a way for them to do that. I may suggest they take a deep breath, or I’ll give them a tight squeeze, and reassure them by saying “we will sort this out”.
We all know by now that movement can help to reduce stress because it increases the production of endorphins. Endorphins are the feel good neurotransmitters that essential make us feel happy…so it’s the movement that makes me feel better not that my house it clean…good to know. Engaging your kids in a sport they enjoy, like kicking a ball or going for a bike ride while you talk out their issue is the prefect recipe!
Mindfulness for Kids
Teaching your kids about mindfulness may be a little tricky. You can model it, name it and do it with them. I found a great book to help introduce it pointedly called Mindfulness for Kids written by Tracy Bryan. You can check it out, and others like it, on Amazon
Some mindfulness activities you can encourage your kids to do regularly are coloring, going for a walking, bike riding, reading or looking at a book and yoga.
I reached out to a co-worker who is also a Yoga Instructor and asked her about yoga poses I could teach my kids to help with relaxation. She said “teaching kids that they have the power to relax themselves and connect with their body through breathing and movement is giving them a life tool. Starting your day off with yoga, even 3 minutes of belly breathing, sets the tone for your day.” – Tanya Neuert
Here is a series of easy yoga poses Tanya showed me that I can do with my kids. My goal is to spend 10 minutes with them in the morning and follow this easy yoga practice. I hope to be able to show them the importance of daily wellness and hopefully one day they will be able to see the benefits for themselves.
Deep Breathing, or belly breathing, inhaling through your nose and exhale through your mouth. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system and can slow down your heart rate.
Sitting crossed legged with prayer hands. Continue the deep breathing, with your eyes closed. Tanya suggests to set and intention for your day, an emotional goal. You can ask your kids to share theirs and then follow-up with them at the end of the day to see if they accomplished their intention.
Sun salutations: follow this sequence as many times as you like.
- Reach above your head, bringing your hands together
- Fold forward
- Come half way up, hand on your shines and looking forward
- Place your hands on the floor and step back into downward facing dog
- Step your left foot forward up to your hands and stand in a lunge (alternate with the right foot for the next sequence) Repeat!
Supine Twist. Bend your knee into your chest while keeping the other left straight. Pull your bent knee across your body while trying to keep both shoulders on the ground. Alternate with the other leg.
Child’s Pose. This can be done with knees together or apart. Reach forward with your hands or place your arms alongside your body with hands close to your feet.
Click here to open and print the series of yoga poses.
Modeling wellness, self-care and mindfulness for kids is a great way to get them interested. If it’s good for you it’s good for them too!
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