Three ways to help your child feel more calm
By Claire Spreadbury
Whether they’re struggling with schoolwork, battling with friendships or feeling the highs and lows of our current situation, being a kid is never easy.
So, what can parents do to help instill a sense of calm? There are activities you can introduce now to help give children skills they can turn to in tough times.
Here are three worth giving a go…
1. Start writing a journal
Taking time out of each day to write in a journal is a great habit. It can make kids more thankful for the good stuff and act as a release if they write down anything that’s worrying them.
Mum-of-two Francesca Geens started the HappySelf Journal after reading daily reports about how some kids are growing up stressed. “I really wanted to do something to help children develop healthy habits as they grow up in this increasingly busy and switched-on world.”
Ms Geens created a journal aimed at children aged six to 12 and is based on scientifically-proven methods that promote happiness, develop healthy habits for life and nurture enquiring minds. “I designed it because it’s what I wanted my own children to have access to, and couldn’t find anything like it,” she says.
Her kids got involved in the entire process. Ms Geens’ 10-year-old still uses it daily, and her 14-year-old daughter has been helping with the teen edition, coming soon.
“We saw the biggest impact with my son – who was able to share worries with us that he hadn’t felt able to talk about previously. And this is something so many parents have shared with me since – that the structure of the journal leads to some lovely conversations at bedtime, leading children to share worries, including bullying, for the first time,” says Ms Geens.
“My son started sleeping better, communicating with us more about his feelings and being able to appreciate and identify the positives in his day.”
“We have doubled down on our happiness practices as a family,” adds Ms Geens. “We take our time for journalling and mindfulness, we share our ‘top three things’ at dinner every evening, don’t watch too much news and have clear boundaries for social media and screen time.
“What’s been interesting is that, despite everything that’s going on, we have managed to all keep a positive mindset. We’ve focused on those areas we can control – like looking after ourselves and helping our neighbours.
With so much uncertainty and changes to our daily routines, it’s a good time to start journalling. It brings an important structure to the day and allows us a quiet time to reflect and process the day in a positive way.”
2. Exercise for physical and mental health
Some kids love exercise, others are more reluctant. But find the right activity for them and it can really give their mental health a boost, and instill that sense of calm.
“Exercise promotes the release of our internal mood elevators, powerful hormones and neurotransmitters, which – particularly when combined with a little physical fatigue – will have a very calming effect on children,” says fitness expert Laura Williams.
“Add in other feel-good factors, such as green space (the evidence for outdoor exercise and mood is extensive), and the fact exercise is likely to be taken with family or friends, and you have a soothing, calming cocktail.”
If your children aren’t so keen on PE With Joe, try an online class where you bust some moves to a chart-topper.
Try going on a big bike ride together, or start doing Couch To 5K with them. The sense of achievement often gives us all a boost, and makes kids more up for it the next time.
3. Try meditation or mindfulness
At the beginning and end of each day, Priyanka Lugani, founder of ALMA, suggests taking your child through heartfulness practice, which can include breathwork, meditation or simply just being still and listening to some calming music. “Ask them to close their eyes and notice what they can hear (birds outside) and feel (the rug underneath).”
If this doesn’t work for your family, try getting creative. “Sensory stimulation with play also activates the stimulation of inner organs, benefiting our children’s minds as well as our bodies,” adds Ms Lugani.
“Get messy with arts and crafts and be fully present when doing so. This is also a great way for children to burn off some steam, which will aid their development and ensure they are stimulated enough to unwind at the end of the day.”