• Lillian Murray

Mindful Parenting in 2021

Connect with one another

Make time to talk, listen and play without distractions. Be sure children know they are loved unconditionally. This can include taking breaks to check in during the day when learning and working at home, having a special bedtime routine that includes talking about the day, taking walks together, or playing favorite games. Taking time to connect will help children feel secure and validated.

Support children’s friendships

Think about ways for children to play together outdoors. Some families are creating safe zones or bubbles, where they allow children to pick a close friend or two whose family is practicing recommended coronavirus precautions that they can interact with more closely. Keeping and maintaining friendships gives children opportunities to learn from peers and reduces stress, providing support and acceptance.

Find ways children can serve others

Talk about how others are also struggling. Encourage them to donate toys they’ve outgrown, save money for a special cause or help a neighbor with errands like shopping, bringing in mail, doing yard-work or dog-walking. When you do things for others in the community, include your children and talk about why you do it. This helps children cultivate empathy.

Help children stay involved in clubs or groups

Some groups that work well during a pandemic include outdoor youth groups, Zoom clubs and other special-interest clubs such as outdoor sports, fishing, beach combing or biking. Being part of a group helps children feel a sense of belonging and promotes identity development. It can also help build morals and values and even promote academic success.

Stay in touch with caring adults and mentors

Children benefit from relationships with other grown-ups, like grandparents and teachers. They can be another source of support and someone to talk to about problems or successes. They’re particularly important when parents are unavailable due to work or other obligations. Help kids stay connected through Zoom, email, phone calls, FaceTime and special activities like outdoor events. Some social media groups have targeted programs to link children with others to play games or chat.

Keep up with activities and hobbies

Boredom is a parent’s worst enemy BUT a gift to our children’s imagination. Having an enjoyable hobby is rewarding for kids; it provides engaging leisure time and opportunities to master something. Such activities provide connections with others, can teach discipline and how to manage one’s emotions and behavior, and promote self-esteem. Explore art, music, yoga, science projects, writing, chess and other hobbies that develop physical, artistic and intellectual skills while providing hours of enjoyment.

Exercising together has physical and mental benefits.

Be physically active

Make exercise a part of family routines. Take walks or ride bikes, go to the park, stretch or do yoga together. Exercise has many of the same benefits as hobbies. It also helps children handle the physical effects of stress on the body and improves mood and mental health.

Create routines

Routines are a powerful nonverbal signal to children’s brains that they are safe and that life is predictable. Keeping a routine can reduce the number of conflicts, and children know what to do and expect during different points of the day.

Create and display daily or weekly calendars with words or pictures that remind children when learning, playing, eating, resting and sleeping activities occur. Invent little rituals that comfort as well as accomplish goals, especially at bedtime: read, tell stories, sing a special song, say a prayer, listen to a guided meditation or name all your loved ones

Keep realistic expectations for learning

Children’s involvement in schooling varies widely during the pandemic, with some hardly affected and others learning entirely at home. Virtual schooling requires parents to be more involved than before – checking in on assignments, connecting during the day and seeking help when children are struggling.

Learning doesn’t have to happen in a school setting!

While schoolwork is indeed important, not all learning takes place in class. Involve children in opportunities to learn during everyday tasks such as cooking (measuring, timing), gardening, shopping (figuring sales prices, adding), and games (cards, dominoes, board games) that build memory and thinking skills. Read every day with your child Depending on the level of the book, you can read to your child or take turns reading pages.

Maintain a healthy and safe home

Together make nutritious meals, declutter and organize toys, games, hobby supplies and learning materials. Find ways to involve children in preparing the meals, organizing their work and play spaces, cleaning up after activities, and sharing in conversations about family rules. Chaos and clutter are the enemies of calm. Creating safe and organized spaces helps children manage stress. Eating healthy foods together benefits physical and mental health.

Many parents naturally do the things listed above. However, with increased stress and demands on time, these activities are difficult to maintain. Now is a good time to pick a few of these strategies and get back on track.

Every family is different, and what’s appropriate differs by children’s ages, whether infants and toddlers, school-age children or teens and young adults. These important and solid techniques can help everyone make it through tough times and come out the other side just fine.

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