Going back to school can often feel overwhelming for both parents and their children -- from shopping for supplies to adjusting to new schedules to meeting new teachers and friends. Because of the uncertainty and general topsy-turviness of education in COVID times, that's all the more true this year. Mindfulness can help everyone involved feel more settled, and fulfill their responsibilities with more success and joy. "Mindfulness" might feel intimidating to some, but it includes simple tools that can be accessible to people of all ages and levels of experience with yoga, meditation, and holistic health. Here's our list of "must-haves" for going back to schoolmindfully!
1. Regular sleep schedules --
As every parent has likely experienced, lack of sleep can lead to crankiness and general negative behavior outcomes. Families don't need that on top of everything else they're managing this fall! In contrast, good sleep can bring joyfulness, playfulness, and the ability to succeed at school and other activities. Note common sleep hygiene principles such as a wind-down ritual before bed (such as a bath and/or reading together), not eating sugary foods and staying away from devices close to bedtime, and going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. Partaking in enough physical activity during the day can also encourage good sleep. With younger kids, try to keep regular naptimes sacred!
Additionlly, keep in mind that different age ranges need different amounts of sleep -- with less sleep needed as children get older, of course with exceptions (observe what your children need). See this guide from WebMD. It can certainly be difficult to convince children and youth to make changes to sleep. Try positive reinforcement (rewarding positive changes), explaining to them -- on their level -- how the changes you're asking for will make them feel better, and calling upon other behavior modification techniques that you know work well with them.
2. A good stock of healthy snacks
Children and youth might love sugary, fat-filled, and processed foods (because those foods are engineered to be cravable), but those foods certainly don't make them feel good and perform at their best. We need them feeling good and performing at their best when going back to school -- especially this year! The easiest way to encourage healthy eating is to grocery shop mindfully, stocking up on fruits, vegetables, nuts/legumes, whole grains, and proteins (according to your family's dietary choices and special needs).
Send kids off to school with a breakfast that will fuel them strong through lunch, such as oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit or a whole-grain cereal without a lot of sugar, with fruit and nut-nutter toast. For snacks and lunches, try vegetables with low-fat dip, trail mixes, peanut butter and jelly on whole-grain bread (or gluten-free bread if needed), and hummus with whole-grain crackers or pita chips. Encourage successful studying at night through dinners with lots of vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and without added sugar (as noted, which can interfere with sleep).
The occasional fast-food dinner or sugary, fat-filled dessert is okay; it's all about balance and longer-term trends. You could treat your kiddos to ice cream or pastries on the weekend, after a school week of healthy eating.
3. Make learning, self-care, and connection fun
There are great books and products out there to encourage love of learning, self-empowerment, and the skill of self-care. As a simple start, try reading together every night. With older kids, try to take twenty minutes before bed to have a "reading party", everyone reading their own books but reading together -- every night, but even a few times a week or less can be beneficial.
Reading together as a family can also encourage family connection in an age when the hustle of modern life is increasingly chipping away at family time. Books on kindness, self-care, and empowerment, such as Susan Verde's "I Am" series, can additionally guide children in taking care of and feeling better about themselves. Kids and youth might be even more receptive to playing games together, even yoga games, which can also encourage holistic health. Particularly for teens and tweens, teaching the values of kindness, resilience, and adaptability through yogic concepts delivered in ways that are accessible to them, can bring greater ease in a joy -- especially in a hectic time like going back to school.
Practicing yoga together -- even for twenty minutes or less -- can lead to those meaningful outcomes, as well. Poses that encourage strength and confidence can be incredibly empowering, for instance. Practicing poses associated with fall can engage kids and be a whole lot of family fun! All of these tools and practices can bring greater feelings of calm, control, and joy in this hectic back-to-school time of year. Remember also the healing, empowering power of love in a family. Kids and youth need it, and it can feel wonderful for parents to give. It's a crazy time of year, particularly this year --but with yoga, mindfulness, holistic health, and love, it can be manageable.
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