Introducing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a relatively new field of positive psychology, which promotes sensory awareness and being present in the moment. You may have seen the term in the media of recent, as many people are struggling with anxiety in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But mindfulness is more than just a buzzword. Practicing it as routine has been proven to lower anxiety and depression, especially in people who tend to over analyse and worry excessively.

If your little one has inherited your habit of over worrying, it may be time to introduce them to the idea of mindfulness. While they may not be able to grasp the concept in full, you can talk them through what it means to be present and thoughtful in their lives. Try to use as few words as possible to explain to avoid overwhelming them and be sure to set a good example. If you are constantly tense and worried, they will be too.

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Mindfulness Exercises And Activities

Once you have introduced the idea of mindfulness, follow through with a few simple activities. You may have to adjust these according to your child's age and ability to sit still for extended periods and if they are unresponsive to the activity, leave it be. There is no sense in forcing your child to do something that may only be making them more anxious.

It may also take them some time to warm up to the idea of being mindful. Children are always on the go and it may be difficult for them to understand why you want them to sit still and think about their emotions. However, by making it part of their daily routine, whether it's when they wake up or just before bed, they should begin to appreciate their quiet time.

1. Deep Breathing

This simple exercise is one we should all be doing. Teach your children how to breathe in deep and exhale through their mouths to release tension and bring them back to a sense of calm. Get them to lie on their back with their hands crossed over their bellies. Ask them to breathe in deeply, noticing the way their diaphragm expands and deflates. Do this exercise for ten seconds or more each day to help them become more aware of their breathing.

2. Grounding 

Grounding techniques work to bring us out of our minds and into the present moment. When you notice your child becoming anxious or frustrated, ask them to name five things they can see, hear, touch or taste around them. You can also incorporate tactile exercises, like playing with Play Doh or digging in the garden, to improve their sensory reactions.

3. Go For A Walk

Speaking of the garden, when last did you take a walk around yours to admire all the wonders nature brings? Ask the kids to join you for an outdoor adventure each morning, getting them to name as many flower and plant species as they can. Sit on the grass with them for a few minutes, taking time to notice the sounds the birds make, the way the wind blows and how the sun is shining. Teach them to appreciate these small gifts and to respect nature.

4. Get Creative

Younger children often find it difficult to express their emotions verbally. Ask your little one to draw how they are feeling, teaching them words like happy, sad, excited, frustrated and bored. Older kiddies should also appreciate a good creative session. You can incorporate calming music, asking them to notice how the rhythm of the music affects their heart rate and the tension in their body.

5. Guided Meditation

Even in lockdown, you may not always have the time to guide your child through mindfulness exercises. This is where apps like Stop, Breathe & Think come in handy. Download the app onto your smartphone or tablet and let the kids discover their sense of quiet and calm. Mindfulness apps are also great for stubborn teens who may be averse to you helping them find their inner zen.

6. Morning Yoga 

Yes, kids can do yoga, too. If you are a dedicated yogi, invite them to join you for a session. It's a great way to get in some exercise together and practice your deep breathing technique. Plus, your kids will probably be fascinated by all the funky poses. Once lockdown is over, enroll them in a kiddies' yoga class to keep them on the path to mindfulness.

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Are you ready to try out these mindfulness exercises with your kids? Let us know how it goes! 

Talk To Them About COVID-19 And New School Regulations

When talking to your kids about going back to school, it will be important to acknowledge that things may not be the same as they were before. Firstly, you may want to recap with them about what COVID-19 is and how it is spread. Next, explain how they will be expected to behave once school reopens, making an emphasis on keeping physical distance (even from their friends) and wearing a cloth face mask. You may also want to advise them about temperature screening and how to practice good hygiene while at school.

All of this new information may be frightening for children. Try not to overburden your child with too many facts or instructions. Have an open discussion with them instead and listen to what they have to say.

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Look Out For Signs Of Anxiety 

Children express signs of worry and stress in different ways than adults do. Look out for disturbed sleep patterns, bed wetting, loss or increase of appetite, irritability and a demand for more of your attention.

Respond to these cues in a calm and supportive way. It is your job to allay their fears and concerns, not to criticise their feelings. Ask them if they have any worries about going back to school or get younger kiddies to draw you a picture of what they fear. Reassure your child that they will be alright and that you will be there to support them. If your child isn't responding to conversation, make time to play a game with them or do something creative. Kiddies will often open up about their concerns when distracted by a fun game or play activity.

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Make It Fun  

How would you usually get the kids ready for school at the start of the year? Try to incorporate some of those routines into this back to school run. Encourage the kids to pack their school bags early and make a list of any stationery or books they may need. Talk about what they would like for school lunches and which of their friends they are excited to see again. Reinforce in your children's minds that school is a positive place for learning and their own growth.

If you have anxieties about sending your child back to school, try not to project these fears onto them. Discuss your worries with your partner or a friend in private. Remember that this will probably be good for you, too. With less distraction and responsibility if you are working from home, your productivity will likely increase. Don't forget to take a little 'me time' every now and then, as well. A happy parent, is a good parent after all!

If your children won't be returning to school any time soon, check out these super handy teaching resources for parents to use at home.

We're Facing A World Crisis

The United Nations declared that humanity has not faced as grave a situation as COVID-19 since WWII. Take a moment to think about that. These are extraordinary times and it is not always going to be easy to lift yourself up and be as productive as you normally would be. For most people, staying locked indoors for as long as five weeks can have serious effects on their mental and physical well being. With the added barrage of seemingly bad news constantly coming your way, life cannot carry on as normal. If you do not feel the urge to bake ten loaves of banana bread a day or spring clean your entire home, that's alright. If all you do is get yourself through the next few weeks, you'll be just as worthy as anyone else to tell your grandchildren about that time you lived through a global pandemic.

Social Media Skews The Truth

Another reason you may be feeling wholly unproductive is because of social media. As always, it is vital to remember that people mostly post pictures or stories that show them in their best light. Social media is only a small window into other people's experience of the lockdown and should not be used as a mirror to compare yourself to others. Take regular breaks from social media if you are starting to feel inadequate or as if you are failing somehow. You may even consider deleting your accounts until lockdown has ended.

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Not Everything Is An Opportunity To Turn Your Life Around 

While it is wonderful to see so many people taking on fitness challenges and learning new skills, lockdown does not have to be a life-altering experience for all. If you are content with passing your days by binge watching series and eating two-minute noodles, that's okay. Learning a new language or how to paint like Michelangelo during this period may not be the best idea anyway. Your mind is probably pre-occupied with a thousand different worries a day and may not be able to take on mass amounts of new information. Parents and those working from home may also find it difficult to make time for new hobbies. There is nothing wrong with this. Tackle your everyday tasks and responsibilities, leaving your reserve energy to practice self-care and keep up good hygiene. 

Spend Time With Family

For those of us lucky enough to be under lockdown with family, this is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with our loved ones. Not sure where to start? Set up a family game night or read a few books to the kiddies before bed. Taking care of yourself and your family can be just as rewarding as reorganising your wardrobe or any other DIY project. Parents may also want to spend time under lockdown teaching their children life skills and lessons that they may not learn in the classroom.

For those separated from family during this time, it is pivotal to reach out over Whatsapp or call each day. Stay connected with friends too, as loneliness and depression can easily set in when we feel isolated from our community. Give a little extra love and care to your furry family members, too, if you have. Petting your dog for just a few minutes a day can lower stress and boost endorphins. Sounds like a great way to be unproductively content, if you ask us!

Go easy on yourself and remember that we're in this together!