The pandemic has really taken the toll on everybody’s mental health. While a lot of workplaces offer Employee & Family Assistance Programs as part of their benefits package, not everyone is lucky enough to work for a company that does. As adults we learn how to suppress our feelings, often until the boiling point and then we blow up in various of ways. Now, if we as adults aren’t ready to let our feelings out and get help – how can our children?
Recently at work, we had a Mindfulness Week with a Corporate Speaker, who guided us through 10 minute meditations every day and I cannot explain how this affected my day in the most positive way. I felt empowered, ready to kick start all of my duties for the day, I felt confident and most importantly calm and not overwhelmed with the amount of work left to do.
I am lucky to be able to work from home, simultaneously so does my sister in Ireland with 2 children at home. Over the past year I watched them grow up (via weekly calls) and saw how much the pandemic has affected them. This is when the idea for this post was born. Every parent is doing their absolute best to keep their children happy, healthy and out of harms way; but even the best of efforts can’t shield them from the outside world and ongoing long term restrictions.
Mindfulness is about being in the present fully and experiencing each emotion. It’s very important to carve out a mindfulness routine for your children daily. Repeated activity after 30 days becomes a habit and we do it automatically without even thinking about it. When your child is playing with their toys – switch off the TV, minimize the distractions, let their imagination run wild. What will help their busy mind to relax and focus on task at hand is some soothing background music which will be nurturing to their nervous system. Additionally, when you are serving your children their meals, minimize the distractions, turn the TV off and allow them to truly enjoy and focus on their meal. It’s proven that we, as human beings don’t really taste our food if we are focused on scrolling through our phones or watching TV during meal times. The same applies to children and their mind is even busier than ours.
- Daily Journaling
Journaling isn’t only for adults & no, I dont mean expect the children to write paragraphs about how they feel. These days there are number of fun activity journals aimed at children, to help them understand emotions, feelings and actions in a fun and engaging way. They are simple exercises that will take 3-5 minutes each day. I have linked some fun ones here and here, both super inexpensive.
2. Go on an Adventure
This mindfulness activity is great, as going out walking is probably something you do with your children everyday anyway and it will not require much more effort or resources on your part. Find a place nearby where the nature is varied and it’s quiet & calm. Bring your children out, letting them know you will be going on an adventure! Let the kids touch different plants and trees, ask them to explain to you how it feels, their texture and what does it remind them of. Remember, as I mentioned mindfulness is about being in the present. If you live near the water, listening to the current is very soothing, you can also spot the fish and other animals that may reside within.
3. Mindful Jar
Children don’t understand emotions and because of that they don’t know how to deal with them when they experience them. Create a fun mindful jar – it can be an empty pasta jar you had at home or you can purchase a nicer decorative jar if you want to make it fun for the kids – i have linked one here. Let them decorate it anyway they want.
When your child feels overwhelmed, sad, angry or anything at all, ask them to write it on a piece of paper, or if you like to be sustainable you can use these wooden hearts, which then can be reused for a different project. Each feeling or emotion is written on the piece of paper or a wooden heart and at the end of the day or week, you both empty the jar together and go through the emotions. This will allow your child to explain how they felt, why they felt it and also allow them to have a mental break “out of sight out of mind”. This is also a great parent-child bonding session and keeps you in the loop on their mental health.
4. Heartbeat Game
Increased heartbeat is a sign on anxiety, stress and general discomfort. It is also a sign of being active, healthy and energetic. If you know your child is experiencing anxiety, have a dance off or a jumping competition with them – once they are energized ask them to put their hand on their heart and “listen” to their own heartbeat. This will not only allow the brain to understand increased heartbeat is a healthy sign, but also lets the child know that increased heartbeat doesn’t just mean negative and anxious feeling, but also positive. When they’re anxious next, increased heartbeat won’t scare them as much.
5. Feelings Tree
Similarly to the jar, on a poster size paper draw a tree with multiple branches, every time your child feels happy or excited about something, get them to dip their thumb into paint or ink and create a leaf on the tree. Write the positive emotion on the leaf and keep it somewhere within their reach daily. This will act as a positive affirmations board for your child, letting them know discussing feelings isn’t just about negative or daunting emotions. It will also allow them to cherish the happy & exciting moments in their day, help them stay positive during the hard times.
I hope you found these tips useful. I’d love to see your projects, should you decide to go for one of the artsy ideas 🙂