With school closures put in place across the UK amidst the current coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, and families encouraged to stay at home and self-isolate, it can be a challenging time for a lot of parents.
Changing routines and being stuck in close quarters can lead to children getting bored, agitated, and restless. With the pandemic outbreak happening around them, many children may also be feeling confused and frightened. It’s an anxious time for many of us, never mind our little ones, with many never having experienced anything like this before or truly understanding what is going on.
It is therefore a difficult, unprecedented time for children but also for parents, who may struggle to alleviate their children’s fear, on top of their own, and keep them occupied while they are out of school.
That’s why Headspace has launched resources to help guide parents on having conversations with children around stress and anxiety, and helping us all to be kind to ourselves in this current climate. The app has also launched a 'Weathering the storm' collection of meditation and mindfulness content, free for all global users, to help take care of our mental health in this uncertain time.
Here are some mindful activities you can do with your kids to help them stay calm and keep busy, while they are at home during this time.
1. Have some breathing breaks
One way to help children calm their anxious thoughts and relieve overwhelming feelings is through having breathing breaks throughout the day. Breath can be used as a tool to reset your mind and physiology. The simple act of focusing on your breathing can help you to unwind, reset and step away from the worried mind.
Take them through a simple 10-minute breathing exercise. Start by encouraging them to join you in taking deep, full breaths and exhaling slowly out of your mouth. Focus on counting your inhalations and exhalations as that can help you transition from faster breathing to slower even breaths, which promote relaxation, counting aloud after each breath. Observe the rising and falling sensation that it creates in your bodies.
It’s completely normal if your minds wander. Notice these thoughts, but then let them go, bringing your attention back to your breath. Be sure to let them know that, too.
Once you’ve finished, encourage your children to congratulate themselves, and ask them how the process made them feel. The morning can be a great time to practice breathing exercises with your children as it can help set the day up on a positive note and clear your minds for the day ahead.
2. Play a mindful game
It can be hard to think of ways to keep your children occupied, especially without resorting to screen time. One way to occupy their time during the day, and help them feel calmer at the same time, is to play games that involve the senses. This can help them bring their attention back to the present moment and create a feeling of groundedness.
Here are some quick, simple, mindful games you can get your children involved in, without much preparation time and hassle:
- Touch: Put a bunch of mystery items in a paper bag and take turns feeling one object at a time and guess what it is as you describe the texture and shape.
- Sight: Look around the room in silence for one minute, and point out all of the things you never noticed before.
- Sound: Set a timer for one minute and count how many different sounds you can hear with your eyes closed, and then share what you heard with each other.
Tip 3. Cooking with a twist
When the children are home all day, there will be more cooking to get through and mouths to feed, which offers the perfect opportunity to get children stuck into some mindful cooking and baking – while learning multiple new skills at the same time!
Encourage your children to help you out with the daily cooking, teaching them small skills and keeping them engaged in the process of turning ingredients into meals. Focusing their attention on tasks such as stirring, mixing and weighing, can be an active, fun way to help them concentrate and keep their minds in the present, allowing stressful thoughts to leave the mind.
To further use the senses, encourage your children to describe the colours of the ingredients, the texture of the food during different parts of the process, and notice the different forms the meal has taken, from start to finish.
Baking in particular can be a fun activity for children to be occupied with, whilst also being a grounding and therapeutic experience. The repetitive actions and gentle rhythms when mixing or kneading can help relax the mind. This is a similar process to concentrating on your breath during guided meditation sessions.
It is also very rewarding; when children have finished baking and can see and eat the end result, it can provide them with a feeling of satisfaction. They can also share the food they made with the rest of the family, with the act of sharing being great for mental wellbeing, as well as bringing the family closer together through the exercise.
One of the best parts of this mindful activity is the delicious aroma of the baked goods filling the house, creating a lovely cosy atmosphere, perfect for the family to unwind in.
Download Headspace on the App Store or Google Play, and visit https://www.headspace.com/covid-19 for more information.
Headspace for Kids, available to all subscribers, offers exercises for kids to enjoy fun, engaging activities that teach them the basics of mindfulness, including sleep & relaxation, cooling off & calming down, kindness & appreciation, and staying positive.
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