How are you? We all know that it’s so important, especially in these trying times, to find some sense of balance and peace amidst the chaos. You, the parent, are steering this big uncertain ship so remember to care for yourself as you care for your young ones. It isn’t selfish. Take a few moments for yourself. Find what grounds you. Remind yourself that you are doing an excellent job already, especially in a situation no one has ever experienced before. Here are some of the things I’ve been doing, including some things I’ve done in the past with my kids when they were little, and some ideas that may be helpful to both you and your children too.
1. Music. Hands down, this is my number one “go to” whenever I need to shift gears for myself or my family. When my children were little and were stuck in the house during awful weather for example, some of my favourites to play were the soundtracks of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sound of Music, and Mary Poppins. It instantly elevated the mood, especially when they paired it with dancing around. Try some dance music too! Maybe something you listened to as a teenager. What are your favourites? Kids are very in tune to their parents’ moods. If you are relaxed and having fun, they will likely follow your lead. To help relax in the evening before bedtime to dial things down, I played this gorgeous and very calming compilation of classical music that I still adore playing to this day: Dream Children. Nothing beats falling to sleep to this, and ps: I still occasionally play it as I fall asleep! If you have Spotify you can find these playlists there.
2. Breathe. This is very important to reduce stress and something we need to remind ourselves to do to recharge ourselves, especially in these times. If you’ve done yoga, you are aware of how refreshing this can be. (*if you have Amazon Prime there are many yoga and other fitness classes to choose from). But you don’t have to just do yoga to try some breathing exercises. It’s something that can even be taught to children to help them relax or wind down and a skill they can build on for a lifetime. Here are a couple of breathing activities that Nicole Steward, MSW, RYT recommends that I think would be great to teach children (and to do together).
● “Take 5” Breath- for this one, sit on the floor or a chair. Hold your hand up and with the other hand touch the base of your thumb and trace up as you inhale through your nose. As you slide down the other side of your thumb towards your index finger, exhale through your mouth. Then inhale as you trace up the index finger, then exhale as you trace down the other side of the index finger and keep going in this fashion as you finish with the pinkie finger. I love this breathing exercise for kids because it is tactile and visual.
● “Birthday cake” breath- ask your child to hold up an imaginary cake plate. Have them tell you what kind of pretend cake it is (Chocolate? Vanilla?)..take a deep breath and slowly “blow” all the candles out as you move your head back and forth. Oops,miss one? Take another deep breath and slowly blow that one out too.
3. Exercise: dance, skip, yoga, walk, run, hike, stretch, bike….we are so very lucky to have forests, trails and parks through neighbourhoods, canyons and beaches..just make sure you go at a time and to a place where you can keep a 2 meter distance apart. It’s certainly hard to see playgrounds closed, isn’t it? And it sure is confusing for young kids in particular to understand why their preschools, playgrounds and play dates are now off limits. Here’s a link on to how to talk to your kids about coronavirus: https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-coronavirus
4. Art:Perhaps have your child bring a bucket and small shovel on your walk to collect a cool rock. They can paint the rock when they get home. How about drawing a picture for Grandma or Grandpa or an elderly neighbour, take a picture of it and send it to them by text message or by email?
5. Garden: You can start seeds in an egg carton on a windowsill or even in some yogurt containers. Have your kids choose and plant the seeds, water them, decide which window would be best. Hint: Beans are very easy and fast to grow for more immediate gratification. Something about seeing the first green sprout pop up through the dirt is exciting as well as calming.
6. Cooking or Baking- Great for language skills such as vocabulary, sequencing, and predicting to mention a few. Name all the ingredients, talk about what you’re doing (mixing, pouring, etc), and make some predictions. ex: I wonder what would happen if I left the cookies in too long or not long enough?
I hope that some of these tips come in handy and I’m sure you’re being creative and already doing many of these things and more. I will be back soon with some speech and language topics, resources, communication tips and strategies to help you through this rough patch. In the meantime, stay safe and know that you’re doing a great job!