From summertime FOMO (fear of missing out) as they saw social media posts with friends that didn’t include them, to being forced to deal with online drama or bullying in real life, kids can have serious worry and anxiety about returning to the classroom and their group of peers. Add in factors like starting at a new school or other academic challenges and many children can feel just plain overwhelmed. Fortunately, there is an easy and effective tool that they can use to calm or even eliminate some of those worries: mindfulness.
Here are some wonderful ways you can share mindfulness with your child as he or she transitions back to the classroom, including spending mindful time together.
Ease Back-to-School Anxiety with Mindful Tools and Activities
1.Visit the school: Familiarity goes a long way to help calm the jitters. Walk the halls and check out the classroom. Do a practice run of the first day of school, then enjoy a special treat together afterwards.
2.Talk about feelings: Try the R.A.I.N. acronym to invite your child to mindfully explore their feelings. Labeling the emotion engages the thinking brain and calms their system down.
R = Recognize your feeling and name it (i.e., “I’m feeling frustrated. I feel upset. I feel scared. I feel angry.”).
A = Allow your feeling to be there without judging it.
I = Investigate gently with curiosity why this feeling is there.
N = Nourish yourself. What do you need give yourself or hear or do right now to make yourself feel better?
BONUS: Change the channel by popping in a positive mental state from a memory. Really feel that goodness for a breath or two to transform it from a mental state to a neural trait. Rewire your brain for more happiness and resilience.
3. Practice deep breathing: Deep breathing calms the nervous system. Guide your child in several deep breaths; try counting to four on the in breath and exhaling for six. Encourage your child to practice at night, in the morning, in the classroom, before a test, etc.
4. Access mindfulness with a physical object: Focusing on an object helps to shift the mind from worrying thoughts. You and your child can go exploring and choose a stone together for this purpose. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just needs to feel nice in their palm and fit in their pocket. Anytime they feel anxious or stressed, they can reach for it, feel its texture, and focus on that physical object instead of their worries.
5. Focus on gratitude: This will help all year. You can’t be grateful and worried at the same time. Little kids can decorate a gratitude jar; older kids can keep a gratitude journal. Write in the journal or put a note in the gratitude jar at least once a day.
6. Learn to meditate: Try family meditation time! You can manage your own anxiety while also sharing a healthy stress-management tool with your child. Try a free mediation app like Insight Timer (my favorite!).
7. Create a nighttime school readiness routine: Encourage your child to have everything he or she needs for school ready the night before – from the backpack and jacket to shoes and socks. This helps the whole family avoid last-minute drama in the mornings.
Mindfulness helps students (and parents!) pause and take a step back from overwhelming feelings. It gives provides a calming strategy for challenging moments, and a plan to help avoid some of them in the first place! Have a great school year.