August is typically a month full of fresh starts, from new classrooms for the little ones to the kick-off of fall sports. This year, the back-to-school experience looks a bit different. Whether you’re gearing up for homeschooling or preparing for your children to return after a long hiatus, you may be concerned they’ll be affected by the uncertainty and anxiety swirling in the air.
For children and teens, who don't have the same emotional toolbox as adults may have for dealing with stress (or past experience to draw from), mindfulness can hold profound benefits in helping them to self-regulate and find calm in this new normal. This doesn’t mean sitting silently for hours on end either — there are plenty of fun and age-appropriate activities to introduce mindfulness to your child. Below, you’ll find a few of our favorites!
Create a Scent Tent
There are endless ways to reap the benefits of essential oils...and creating a ‘scent tent’ is a sweet, simple way to introduce children to the magic of aromatherapy! This exercise also encourages kids to take a deep breath, which can work wonders on their mental and emotional state. Place a few drops of essential oil (lavender is one universally calming option) in your child’s palms, have them rub their hands together, and then instruct them to make an enclosed ‘tent’ over their nose to breathe and enjoy the healing properties.
For another creative way to help your child breathe, have them spread their fingers wide like a starfish. With the pointer finger of their other hand, have them trace up and down each finger slowly, while matching their breath to the movement. Each time they trace up, tell them to breathe in; each time they trace down, have them breathe out. Starfish breathing encourages an immediate relaxation response by bringing your child back into their breath and body.
Guided imagery is essentially directed, deliberate daydreaming as a tool for deep relaxation and stress relief— something that children are already naturals at! Because kids are so receptive to stories, HHA founder Beth O’Boyle shares that bedtime stories are the perfect opportunity for parents to hold an impromptu guided imagery session.
To set the atmosphere for guided imagery, it’s helpful for parents to anticipate where the child might have challenges (for instance, having to homeschool amongst siblings instead of friends) and set the tone of a welcoming environment. Keep it short and be mindful of the language you use, gently reinforcing experiences in a positive way. Beth emphasizes the importance of evoking the senses: tap into what’s heard, sensed, smelled, tasted, felt, and set that up in an imaginary way that’s pleasant and comfortable. You’ll likely find that kids don’t need a lot of prompting to go into a relaxed, receptive state, getting there quite quickly!
Magical Meditation Stones
Even for adults, meditation can be difficult. However, when you have a focal point to call upon, the act of slowing down and turning your gaze inward becomes much more accessible, Go on a nature walk with your kids to find some rocks, and then have them express their creativity by painting them. Then, impart some mindfulness with the help of these ‘magical’ stones. To end your evenings on a good note, you can pass the stone around and have each family member share the best thing that happened all day. Or, have your child lie down and place the stone on their belly as they relax. Watching the rise and fall of the stone is a good way to tune in to the rhythm of the breath. You can also teach them mantras — “I am loved,” or “Everything will be okay”— and have them hold onto their stone each time they need a reminder of their strength.
Yoga Freeze Tag
With limited access to playmates, it’s likely your child is experiencing greater levels of restless energy or agitation than usual. And who can blame them? Help them channel their energy with a fun game of yoga freeze tag. Pick one child to be “it”; the tagged child then has to take a downward-facing dog pose. To get unfrozen, another player has to do a cat-cow pose (or whatever posture they’d like!) underneath them. Feel free to teach them a few new poses each time you play, and before long, they’ll have a whole slate of yoga poses under their belt to call upon.
AshWork Energy Clearing, Distance Reiki Sessions, and Bach Consultations
Whether your child is struggling to focus, feeling agitated from being cooped up, or perhaps dealing with sibling rivalry, energy work can be a wonderful support. Both Reiki and AshWork are safe, gentle modalities help to restore emotional balance in people of all ages. Beth is currently offering distance Reiki sessions and AshWork Energy Clearing by phone; to learn more, feel free to call her at (201) 653-7700 ext.1.
Bach Flower Remedies are a safe, gentle, and effective way to help balance children’s emotions – as well as the ups and downs parents are feeling too! Whether it’s discouragement, a lack of confidence, fear, worry, anger, or difficulty adjusting to the uncertainties of this time – there’s a Bach Remedy to address it. To schedule a phone consultation, call (201) 653-7700 ext.1.
As always, we hope that one of the above ideas connects with you and your family, helping to instill a sense of peace and resilience during this turbulent time. We’d love to hear about how you’re holding up and what you’d like to see more of in our blog in the comment section below. As a special giveaway, we’re offering a free bottle of Rescue Remedy to one lucky reader. Simply like us on Facebook and share this blog on social media to enter for a chance to win and enjoy some natural stress relief!
Hannah Chenoweth is a Hoboken-based conference producer and freelance writer who enjoys covering all aspects of health and wellness.