Written By: Maya Lewis | Common Threads Communications Intern
Summer is winding down and your child may be getting ready to head back to school. Pencils, backpacks, notepads, and textbooks are the essential back-to-school supplies that always come to mind when preparing your child to return to the classroom. But, there is one back-to-school essential need that can’t be packed in a backpack, but could make all the difference for a student’s wellbeing and performance in school. This back-to-school essential is the skill of preventing and managing stress. For many children, going back-to-school can be an extremely stressful time. This stress can come from social interactions in school, keeping up with assignment deadlines, returning to the classroom after remote learning, managing extracurricular activities and at-home responsibilities, and more.
Stress can present itself in a child’s behavior through multiple ways. A stressed child may be more prone to aggressive behavior and be unable to control their emotions. Sometimes, these behaviors are addressed with punishments, but there are other tools that address the root of these behaviors to more positively validate the feelings of children, and can help them with better managing their emotions in the future.
Given that children are in their formative years and their brains are developing, investing time and energy into wellness practices can be incredibly significant and positively influence their futures. Mental and emotional wellness practices in the early stages of a child’s life create positive habits that can be used for the rest of their lives and prepare them for any obstacles that they may face.
Here are 3 simple, yet impactful, ways to introduce emotional and mental wellness practices for your child to develop habits that can be used to avoid anxiety and manage stress.
Mindfulness is the act of being in the moment and calmly being aware of and accepting one’s feelings. Mindfulness is important because it can decrease feelings of anxiety and help maintain high levels of happiness in children. One of the best ways to develop mindfulness in children is through meditation practice. Yes, meditation! We are not suggesting that you train your child to be a yogi, but here are 2 easy ways to that introduce meditation to your child offered by the New York Times.
This meditation method can be done anywhere and can help ease your child’s nerves. First, have your child close their fists and begin with a deep breath. Following the deep breath, they can unfurl a finger as they exhale. They start with their thumb, then index finger, then so on. By the time all of their fingers had been released from their palms, they would have taken 10 deep breaths. This easy meditation practice encourages your child to be in the moment and use their breathing to help calm themselves down.
Deep breaths before bed.
This meditation method is for when your child is getting ready for bed. As they lay, they can take deep breaths through their nose and exhale through their mouths. Deep breathing is a great form of meditation because it promotes self-awareness and relaxation.
Affirmations are positive statements that challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that one might have about themselves or their environment. According to the “Self Affirmation Theory”, one’s self esteem and integrity can be maintained through positive affirmations and positive thoughts. Positive thoughts even have an impact on our physical development. There is MRI evidence that shows that positive self-affirmation can expand certain neural pathways in their prefrontal cortex (Steele 1988). Developing positive self affirmations can greatly help build the self confidence, self-regulation, and self-awareness in children and help them stay grounded when they encounter obstacles or stress. Here are some examples of affirmations:
I am perfect just the way I am
I am enough.
It’s okay to make mistakes.
I am proud of myself
I am capable of anything I put my mind to
I am beautiful
I am smart
I use kind words to express my feelings.
I treat others the way I like to be treated.
I learn from my mistakes.
I am grateful for all that I have
I believe in myself.
I am a kind and caring person.
I always do my best.
I am good at lots of things.
I stand up for what I believe in.
Here are some ways to introduce daily affirmations in your child:
Put affirmations around the house or in other places your child will see them daily
To get your child in the habit of replacing negative thoughts and beliefs with positive ones, surround them in positivity. An easy way to do this is to place affirmation cards around your home and even in your child’s backpack and/or lunchbox. This can be done with simple sticky notes with positive affirmations on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator door, bedroom door, or wherever! This will encourage positive-self talk in your child and help them develop their own practice of affirming themselves.
Repetition! Repetition! Repetition!
The beauty of affirmations is that like any skill, it builds with repetition and practice. And, the benefits are plentiful! Take a few minutes to teach your child a short series of affirmations that they can repeat to themselves daily. For example, they can repeat these affirmations on the way to school or even in their head as they brush their teeth.
Maintaining proper nutrition is most commonly linked to physical health but its positive impact does not stop there. Nutrition promotes mental and emotional help as well! A balanced, nutritional diet supports ones ability to cope with any stress that may arise by providing them with the necessary energy and physical health to do so. Did you know that certain foods, such as vegetables and omega-3 rich foods, help balance the hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for regulating our moods? Studies have shown that poor nutrition can cause higher levels of anxiety and depression. The benefits of nutrition on the emotional wellness of children is one of many reasons why Common Threads is dedicated to providing proper nutrition education and making balanced diets more accessible to families. Programs such as the Small Bites Program and the Parent Workshop are fantastic ways to jumpstart your family’s nutrition and wellness journey and to support their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Although this blog was centered around the emotional well-being of children, all of the tools listed can be used for adults as well! Everyone is deserving of emotional and mental health and everyone experiences stress. It is never too late to develop wellness practices and be a wellness model for your own children.