Here are my top 5 tips for parents, stepparents and caregivers to consider while supporting their kids:
- Get back onto the school year schedule: regular bedtimes, regular wake times and regular mealtimes.
- Power down the devices at least an hour before bedtime. Our phones and tablets emit this super bright “blue light” that enables us to see the screen well during the day, but at night it messes with our levels of the hormone melatonin in our brains. It tells our brain its still daytime, and can lead to insomnia and night awakening in all of us. Charge those suckers in the kitchen, not in kid’s bedrooms. Kids need to sleep.
- Creating bedtime routines that tell our body, ‘the day is slowing down, let’s prepare to sleep’, is an important step for the whole family. Depending on the age of your kids, it might be everything from the old ‘bath, book, bed’ routine, to spending special cuddle time with a parent, or a pet, getting ready for school the next day, or practicing some kid-friendly mindfulness meditation techniques.
- Nutrition: Sit down the kids and allow them to be collaborators in their own meal plans. Eating more healthfully is a lifelong pursuit, but let each kid tell you what his or her favorite nutritious snacks are. Are you a mom or dad on Instagram? Follow Instagrammers who create nutritious, safe, school snacks that are kid tested! I like a local: @Wifeofagrocer. Homemade, low sugar and real ingredients are always good bets.
- Supports for your child: If you have a child that you have to work harder to support emotionally than your other kids, a ‘strong willed’ child, or a child who has a diagnosed disorder or learning disability, take the time to set your kid up for success. This might mean sending a letter to your child’s teacher (“All about Sally” with her strengths, challenges and tips from your perspective), going in to meet the teacher before school starts (call the principal), visiting school before the hustle and bustle begins, and perhaps most importantly, teaching your child how to calm their body down (mindfulness breathing) when they get anxious/stressed/worried.
- Persistent, irrational fear or worry
- It interferes with daily life
- Irritability, jitteriness, sleeplessness, weepiness, headaches, stomach aches, chest pain, dizziness
- Can occur with other diagnoses (Ex: ADHD; depression)
- School refusal, avoidance
If you think your child is suffering from undiagnosed anxiety, there is a lot of support available, from self-help sources like Anxiety BC (see below), as well as locally from regional children’s services, private therapists or school-based supports. Many practical things can also be done at home to support kids.
Parents and caregivers can:
- Pay attention to your child’s feelings (don’t minimize their feelings and suffering). Stop and listen.
- Parents need to stay calm when children become anxious.
- Recognize and praise small accomplishments toward improved coping.
- Be flexible and try to maintain a normal routine.
- Modify expectations during stressful periods – this isn’t a new time to throw in something new.
- Plan for transitions (Ex. allow/plan for more time if getting to school is difficult).
- Teach kids how to do mindful breathing to calm their bodies.
My favourite resources for families are these:
- https://www.anxietybc.com/parenting/creating-a-map - A free guide to creating My Anxiety Plan (MAP) for you and your child.
- Region of Peel: http://cmhapeeldufferin.ca/mental-health-information/find-help/
- CAMH Info for Parents: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/understanding/Pages/mentalillness.aspx
- For Tweens & teens: http://youth.anxietybc.com/faq
Good luck next week!
Remember, we’re all human and we need each other for support, especially our students.