By now, most kids have returned to their classrooms. And so it starts! Another year of books, activities, and for a lot of kids – stress. This year, I am trying a more relaxed approach to the time after school. We have selected just a couple of key activities that both my girls love and that they do at the same time, thereby reducing the insanity (for me) during the week. Although we limited activities out of my own selfishness and desire not to be a chauffeur, the real reason is to allow the girls to focus and to have enough downtime to be calm. Last year, I noticed that the weeks where we were on the go 3-4 days, all of us would be completely frazzled and slightly grumpy, especially as winter set in. So, I’m building in more pauses and spaces to our calendar.
It’s important to take some downtime in the day, especially for kids. Stress can manifest in all sorts of physical and emotional behaviors. Here are some great ideas to help your children chill out and stay stress-free.
1) Feed the animals. I know this sounds a bit ridiculous, but if my kids aren’t properly fed, they turn into irritable monsters (that’s putting it mildly). I offer carrots, sliced peppers, crackers, grapes and cheese as snacks right after school. Give them a little energy boost to get them through the next few hours before dinner. Beyond that, have a meal together. Breaking bread is a phenomenal opportunity for parents and kids to connect. It doesn’t have to be dinner every night. Just make time for one weekly meal.
2) Try out yoga. There are so many benefits – stretching, flexibility, balance, relaxation. It does a body good! Yoga is also great for reducing stress because it focuses on breathing and the connection between our bodies and our minds. Kids learn to deal with stress through meditation and awareness. Do yoga together and you’ll all feel more relaxed and better able to tackle your day.
3) Build in some downtime. We all need to take a break. Why not build one into every day? Take some time to read a book, play a game, listen to music, make each other laugh. This is especially helpful if you see that your child cannot focus on the task at hand. A little break will restart the brain and give your kid a fresh perspective.
4) Visualization. This can be lots of fun and something you do during your downtime. Guide your child through some visual imagery. This technique is great for relaxing muscles and the mind.
5) Shake it off. Exercise is extremely important for clearing out stress, promoting learning and refreshing our brains. Get your kids to do some physical movement to get all the nervous and anxious energy out.
6) Call your mother! Mother Nature, that is. She wants you to pay her a visit. Do it. She’s always close by (right outside that door) and will sooth the soul. Plus, playing in nature has been proven to enhance executive functioning skills, health and happiness in children. Nature stimulates thinking and creativity. So, go on – get out there!
What other techniques are you using to help your children manage stress?