Starting School Right: Mindful strategies for Parents and Kids
Updated: Aug 23, 2022
This blog is derived from my conversation with Nina Sanyal, a fellow meditation teacher and a holistic mom. You can find our conversation on Instagram here.
The start of a school year can be stressful. The anxiety of summer ending ('Why does summer have to end, Dad?') mixed with excitement of meeting friends & many other emotions, can really churn the stomach, for both parents and kids.
Here are some things you can do to make the start of the school year smooth, pleasant and easy.
These tips can make weeks leading up to the start of school peaceful and happy for both parents and the kids.
1. Acknowledge, feel and move through emotions- solo & together
The start of the school year can be an emotional time for both parents and kids. Sometimes parents can feel the emotions of the child, other times parents can project their emotions on to the children.
A good way to manage this mixed churning of emotion is for parents to take some time to feel what they are feeling. You can journal, meditate, take a solo walk or run errands alone. Finding some alone time without distractions (that is phone free) can help parents acknowledge, feel and clear the emotions they are feeling so they can be fully present for what their kids are feeling.
A few ways parents can help children to manage their emotions:
Breathe: Breathe into the belly and breathe out from the belly
Provide extra support: Loving attention can help the kids feel safe and loved.
Talk to the kids: Asking the children about what they are feeling and listening to them can help them articulate their emotions.
Meditate: Kids above 12 yrs can meditate with a guided meditation, or sign them up for a meditation class.
2. Look at the bright side!
Move away from despair, find the silver lining. Looking at the positive aspect can help both parents and kids.
Turn challenges into opportunities. For eg. if you child is anxious about separating from their best friend in the new grade, parents can help them see this as an opportunity to make new friends.
Use gratitude. At the end of the day, parents and kids can talk about the best part of their day, what they enjoyed the most and what they are most grateful for. The habit of finding the good in any situation can garner immense benefits for kids & parents alike.
3. Get grounded! Say bye to over stimulation
Going back to school can mean over stimulation for the kids. Meeting other children, spending time with devices, being in a new environment all contribute to an overactive child. Here are few ways to address over stimulation:
Connect with Earth and Water element: running barefoot in the yard, hugging a tree, swimming or taking a bath can all ground and relax a child's nervous system. This can help them settle in after school & be more relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Burn up the energy: Another way to handle over stimulation is to let them run, play, be super active. The play will burn their excess energy. Plus it will make them hungry. So win! win!
4. Be gentle with the fears
Fear can come up as school starts, understandably so. Dealing with it with impatience or asking the child, 'whats wrong with you?' doesn't help. Its also useful to remember that many of child's fears are learnt from a caregiver.
If a child is very emotional, a parent can help them feel safe and calm first. Deep breaths will help here. Once they are calmer, the parent can gently help them rationalize and move beyond their fear. A parent could even participate in the fear inducing activity with the child so they see its safe.
5. Set parameters to manage screen time
Going back to school can also mean increased screen time. With many kids using devices for school work, it can be really difficult to manage screen time. Here are somethings that can help manage screen time.
Remove devices from bedrooms: Encouraging teens and children to leave their devices in the kitchen or living room and not carry them into the bedroom will help reduce device use during night and subsequent sleep disturbances.
Create a device free time: Keeping dinner time free from devices, turning off wifi for an hour on the weekends, or going for a walk without phones can be some of the ways parents can create a device free time for their family.
Follow the 50/10 Rule: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children walk away from screen for 10 mins every hour. They recommend apps that parents can install on child's device that makes the screen dark after 50 minutes. More from AAP here.
Protect their eyes: Reminding kids to blink, following the 20/20/20 recommendation (Looking away every 20 mins at something 20 ft away for 20 seconds) and providing good lighting can help protect young eyes as they continue to use screens.
With these mindful strategies, parents and kids can help each other in weeks leading up to school