Namaste Wellness for Kids in the Age of COVID-19
Written By: Katherine Feinstein & Katie Oates
Reviewed By: Julie Wald
The current state of the world threw many adults, parents, in particular, into a tailspin overnight. Our kids and teens are appropriately feeling emotions such as sadness, worry, anger, and grief as they respond to losing the ability to be with friends, hearing and seeing frightening current events, and missing out on milestones. Now more than ever, one of the most important hurdles in regaining stability for our family mental health and wellness is addressing the challenging feelings that we and our kids may be experiencing and figuring out useful strategies and activities that will help us both feel the feelings, and build resilience.
Professor and expert Brene Brown says, “If you don’t feel it, you can’t heal it”.
How to Support Our Children and Their Feelings
Your relationship is a vital, protective, and influential component to your children’s ongoing health and well-being. Kids are resilient, and this resilience can be cultivated by parents. Remember that as parents we aren’t perfect, but how we handle an imperfect situation will be reflected in how our child reacts to that stressor.
Listen, validate, and provide a sense of control. For example, saying things like “When I’m scared sometimes I talk to friends, take a jog, etc.” affirms the emotions your child is feeling and gives options for healthy coping strategies
Create a loose structure. Choose bedtime/wake-up time frames, eat meals at regular times, come up with a simple but consistent schedule of activities (see below), and give kids clear, straightforward jobs (that are not overwhelming) to do at regular times.
Model screen time behavior and cut you and your children some slack as we look to find ways to remain connected throughout the day with digital devices. To ensure that your child is spending their newly expanded screen time in appropriate ways, the best strategy is often to check in frequently and connect with your child over the things they’re interested in.
Provide perspective and reassurances by taking time to talk to your kids about what’s going on. This looks different for each age group, but here are some thoughts.
Early elementary - Simple, brief information; Balance facts with appropriate reassurances; Give simple examples of the steps people make every day to stop germs and stay healthy, such as washing hands.
Upper elementary and early middle school - May need assistance separating reality from rumor and fantasy; Discuss the efforts international, national, state, and community leaders are doing to prevent germs from spreading so that we can all return to a safe environment.
Upper middle and high school - Issues can be discussed in more depth; Refer them to appropriate sources of COVID-19 facts; Provide honest, accurate, and factual information about the current status of COVID-19; Engage them in decision-making about family plans, scheduling, and helping with chores at home.
Take time for you. During this time we can spend a lot of time and energy focused on making sure our children's needs are being met, however, it’s important to also focus on your own personal self-care which serves as the model for our children.
Four Pillar Summer Activities
The silver lining to this collective experience is allowing families the time to slow down, appreciating the simple things, and reconnect with their values. At Namaste, our values are built on the Four Pillars of wellness philosophy that centers on integrating self-care into your daily life. By familiarizing kids with activities and strategies guided by this philosophy early on, we can engrain the values of movement, stillness, connection, and nourishment into how they view their own wellness.
Build a vision board that represents what you and your children want from the week, the season, the year, and/or life! This can be as big or small as you want it to be but have fun with it and allow it to change over time, as life does.
Moving bead with the breath, suggested for ages 2 and up! With some beads on the end of a pipe cleaner, children can move a bead from one end to “inhale” and then back to the other end to “exhale”, or the bead can be on top of a table or desk and can be moved back and forth with inhales and exhales.
Start a window or box garden! Incorporating nature into the home builds awareness and appreciation of our beautiful earth. Another way to do this is by having your kids pick up a piece of nature and make “noticing’s” about it. Children can dictate to a parent or teacher who can record it in a journal. Compile a whole bouquet or box of beautiful nature to keep at home.
As screen time grows so should time for neck, wrist, and finger stretching.
Neck Stretches - Allow your right ear to fall toward your right shoulder and breathe into the left side of your neck, relaxing your left shoulder completely. Repeat on the other side.
Stretch the Fingers - Place your index finger on the edge of your desk, keeping your wrists straight. Gently push into the desk and hold for a few breaths. Repeat with all
Wrist Stretches - Make circles with your wrists to loosen and mobilize the joint. Stretch your wrists by stretching your right arm straight out in front of you, fingertips facing the floor, pressing your palm away from your body. Use your left hand to gently press your right fingers back towards your right elbow, now repeat on the other side.
Setting routines of how to be mindful and calm the body before bed allow for a better night’s sleep. Purchase Books Good Morning Yoga and Good Night Yoga Book and guide children through yoga movements.
Get a fresh sock, fill it with dried rice or dried beans and put a few drops of essential oils (or sprinkle some spices inside), tie the end with a rubber band and use! We recommend using teamwork and a funnel for the rice or lima/kidney beans, which can be easier to manage, especially for younger children. Children can put the weighted sock over closed eyes, on the belly to breathe into, or anywhere on the body. It can also be held and squeezed/manipulated as desired.
Together, make a Spotify, Youtube, or Apple Music playlist full of positive and mood-boosting songs or videos as your summer playlist that can be played throughout this time during activities or chores.
Play with your child, even if it means picking up the controller. Playing the games your child enjoys yourself can give you a better sense of what they’re doing with their screen time. Plus, kids often love to show off their skills and will enjoy teaching you something you don’t know. You might even introduce your kids to favorite games from your own past!
Involve your child in the meal planning for the day or week by having them help ‘cook’ or prep meals with you or helping them choose at least a couple of vegetables and/or fruits to have with their meal. While your nourishment needs will evolve with age and maturity, kids, too, should have an idea of why it is important to care about how you eat- unplugged, mindful, and at times with family.
Have dinner with friends or family virtually, have your kids select a theme such as Italian, Asian, Mexican, or Mediterranean. Set up a Zoom or Google Hangout to cook or eat dinner together and let everyone take turns to share what they love about the food.
These challenging times provide an opportunity to strengthen our resilience and teach our children how to overcome obstacles and adversity. Children experience anxiety and trauma just like adults, but need to be given the tools and reassurance to accept and honor their emotions while learning to work through them. Our children (and we!) are building that resilience as we work to support one another and address discomfort in a manageable and healthy way.