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Helping kids find their inner calm

Like most parents, you may be rushing from place to place trying to maximize your time and fit everything into your day. Perhaps, as you pick one child up from their extracurricular activity, you plan what you are going to eat as you are driving home. Your mind is always on, and your list of responsibilities is never-ending as you do your best to remember school agendas, teacher meetings, work obligations and also try to schedule in a little self-care. This is normal! There are a few things you can try for yourself and introduce to your children to allow for more calm in your day. The truth is, you can do a lot more when you are calm, as it will allow for clarity.

When I am mindful of things that take up a lot of my time, and what my priorities are, things shift and the impossible becomes possible. Children pick up on the energy we have, whether it’s positive or negative, so it’s worthwhile to give it a little attention and make some simple shifts that add up and help your children navigate their days better and with more calmness. When we teach children to have calm time, we teach them to allow their nervous system to relax. Instead of operating from our “flight or fight” sympathetic nervous system, we operate from the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the mind and body to unwind. The stress hormone of oxytocin is reduced in the body and chemicals send a signal to the brain that it’s okay to settle. This is possible to tap into easily by taking full deep breaths in and out of the body. The more oxygen we have in the body, the more we can relax. This is why yoga does wonders for students of all ages as it focuses on breath work.

Scientific studies have proven a mind-body connection exists and that strengthening the mind allows for huge progressions in all aspects of one's life. The one tool that I have found to keep me grounded is finding the calm in my crazy. Yoga helps me tap into this to find calmness. Calmness is when we can take deep breaths and are able to live in the present moment. I believe in fullness of life - that the quality of our relationships brings us joy, and it’s not always quantity of time. When I have mom guilt and feel bad for not spending enough time with my children, I remind myself that the quality and the memories are important and choose to focus on this truth. Here are a few strategies that are helpful to make moments count and strengthen the connection with your kids, increase their calmness and help them develop their confidence:

Ask your children to set a goal in the morning to have a growth mindset. In the morning when you drive your kids to school or get them ready for the day, ask them to set a goal for the day. This gets them in a growth mindset easily. If goals are not on their radar, they are limiting their potential. Just the simple act of getting them to think about something they can work towards, allows them to see what is possible. When this happens, their brain will look for more possibilities during the day that will help them to achieve the goal they have chosen for that day and adopt a growth mindset.

Scheduling in quiet time and no screen time to foster creativity. Schedule in quiet time and no screens on a full day or during certain hours each day. This will encourage them to use their imaginations, embrace play and be creative. This can be painful at times, but it creates space for them to explore and play with each other and enjoy being kids. When kids are creative, they can find solutions to problems rather than just see roadblocks. It’s okay for children to be bored and not entertained all of the time, as this is what creates creativity.

Teach your children communication skills so they can increase their confidence. When you have meals together, have each person share one thing about their day and ask a question to another family member. This teaches children how to communicate. So many of us lack face-to-face, quality communication where we are fully engaged and listening. When we are present, our connection to others is strengthened, which allows our self-esteem to increase.

Teach your child how to be calm so they can self-regulate. Introducing your child to breath work is very important, so they can regulate their emotions and have less breakdowns. Children need to be shown how to take deep breaths and how counting to 3 can allow their body to relax and their mind to reset.

Consider a yoga class. Kids’ yoga classes are amazing at incorporating all of these skills and use games and activities to teach them how to take full deep breaths and calm their mind and body. In kids’ yoga classes, they will tap into their imaginations and learn stretches, postures and poses to bring them balance and harmony, which they can use every day, all while having fun. If you are new to yoga, there are many free yoga videos online you can access to see what it is all about to get excited to take a class. Yoga is a great opportunity to learn mindfulness and tap into calmness and is great for children and adults alike.

These simple tips add up to bring in more calmness and connection to your day. It’s also important to validate emotions and feelings when they come. Introducing children to taking deep breaths when they are upset, anxious or sad allows them to process their emotions and validate their feelings. When children are validated, they gain confidence. Emotions take 7 seconds to be processed through the body after the chemicals have been released. Taking a few deep breaths allows us to process emotions instead of avoiding them. Teaching children how to process emotions is key to being able to connect back to their calmness.

When children are able to experience calmness, have a growth mindset and be able to communicate, it allows them to take on the stress and challenges of any day. When we give our children life tools they can use at any time, it allows them to feel confident about who they are and what they can accomplish. 

Cara is a successful dancer, fitness instructor and yoga teacher and a member of the Alberta Fitness Leadership Association. Check out soulconnexion.ca for dance, yoga or fitness classes for you or your children as they have a variety of classes offered for all ages and abilities. 

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