What our kids have done this past year is INCREDIBLE. I can’t imagine myself as a child sitting in my kitchen every day, all day, doing school. And homework. No friends. No recess. No social life. No silly, fun times with friends, that kids need so very much. But they’re doing it. We’re all doing it because we have to. And we’re AWESOME.
All this doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. The pandemic, online learning and physical distancing is leaving our kids feeling isolated, lonely, overwhelmed, anxious and bored. The constant electronic usage is making it difficult to concentrate and focus. In fact, a study found 85.7% of parents reported changes in their children’s emotions and behaviors during the quarantine.
Teaching our children to identify issues and find ways to take care of their mental health is important for maintaining a healthy social-emotional balance. They’re experiencing a pandemic for the first time. Remind them they’re not alone in this, without making it any scarier. There are a lot of really good, smart people making things better. And it’s working. In the meantime, here are some fun things we can do with our kids to help them learn healthy self-care.
- Get moving- Physical exercise boosts endorphins, which help relieve stress, and increase mood boosting chemicals, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, making this the quickest, most effective, possibly simplest way to take care of oneself.
- Sing together– Belting out your favorite songs is a great way to release tension, have some fun and get in some giggles and together time.
- Read together- Snuggle up and read a favorite story or find a new one that deals with some of the feelings we are all experiencing right now.
- Coloring- Is a great way to relieve stress. it works our fine motor skills, and allows our minds to relax and enjoy the beauty and fun of coloring.
- Play with clay or play dough- Squeezing, rolling, pounding, etc. is great way to get some stronger emotions out and relieve tension and anxiety. You’re never too old for play dough.
- Play a game- A board game, a video game, a movement game, any game. Having fun together allows you to connect emotionally while having fun and gives your brain a worry break.
- Do nothing- It’s healthy to be intentional about taking time to let your mind wander and daydream. Kids will find this much easier to do than adults do.
- Build a pillow fort- Collaborate and build something fun and comfy, then use it for a chill zone when you’re finished.
- Watch a funny movie- Laughing, just like exercise, releases mood boosting chemicals in the brain and movie watching gives everyone a chance to slow down and cuddle up for more good feelings.
- Disconnect from electronics- Electronics ramp up our brains and since kids are using electronics for school, it’s important they take tech breaks and have some analog fun.
- Listen to music- Overwhelmed or distracted kids may find it soothing to have a calming soundtrack playing in the background. To bring your crew out of a funk, try dancing or just bopping along to a more up-tempo beat.
- Dance- Don’t just listen to music or bop along, bust out some high energy dance moves and boost those feel-good brain chemicals!
- Journaling- Writing about feelings is a great way for kids to relieve some stress without having to confront those big feelings right away. Not writing yet? Have younger kids draw pictures to share how they’re feeling.
- Meditation– Like mindfulness, learning to meditate helps kids be more aware of their physical bodies and with experience, learn to control and manage it during trying and peaceful times. There are lots of free apps for guided meditation out there. For kids, we love Smiling Mind for both iOS and Android.
- Yoga- Mindfulness and exercise all rolled into one, yoga is another great way for kids to get in tune with their bodies and stretch out their stress. There are lots of free apps and videos on kids yoga to help you get started.
- Talk about emotions- Quarantine and distance learning have come with some BIG emotions. Talking about feeling in a light conversational way, can help your child figure out how they’re feeling. After listening and validating them, you may be able to suggest ways to best manage those feelings. If you feel your child might need more help, consider having them talk to a child psychologist.
- Go outside– A little fresh air can do wonders for our minds and emotions. Have kids go for a walk. Swing on swing set or just sit in sun and soak up some Vitamin D. Can’t get outside due to weather, head to the next room. Sometimes a change, any change will refresh us.
- Virtual playdates- Staying connected to friends is important for all of us but our kids are missing the social aspect of school. Arranging a few zoom style play dates keeps them connected, lightens the mood and reminds them they’re not alone in their experiences.
I know it can feel difficult to fit these self-care ideas into your already overwhelming schedule of things to manage with your kids. No pressure! I encourage you to pick a couple to try this week to help both your child(ren) and yourself relieve some pandemic stress. Which one will you start with?