Supporting our kids and making family wellness part of daily life.
We all know that the last two years have been challenging. Dealing with pandemic life and all the stressors that come with it – illness, job loss, isolation (or the opposite! Overwhelm from kids and spouses being in the same place 24/7) – has meant that, for many of us, our mental health has deteriorated.
And while we say that kids are resilient (and they are), and we’d like to think life is getting “back to normal” with being back at school, studies are showing that our children are still suffering.
Many kids may struggle with separation anxiety after months of being at home, or may feel hesitant to leave their “safe place.” Directives to wash hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart, etc., all while trying to finally be with their friends again, is discouraging, while different schedules, new routines in the classroom, and fewer extra curricular activities can pile up to cause stress, anxiety and depression.
Parents are also having a tough time as we adjust to being back at work, and to the pressure to be productive and get back to life as normal – all while trying to support our struggling kids.
So what do we do?
First, if you have serious concerns about your children or yourself, seek help from your doctor or other trusted professional. Otherwise, taking a step back and focusing on wellness – including mental wellness – is a good strategy.
According to the Child Mind Institute, “the social learning that occurs between peers at school can be just as important as academics.” And while peer relationships can be tricky with all the restrictions still happening at school, parents need to be aware and support relationships with friends when they can.
Do they have a cousin around their age who’s close by and can see regularly? Or someone far away they can video chat with once a week? If your child’s school is running clubs or group events again, encourage them to join. On a family outing or hike, invite your child’s friend along. Have them watch a movie online together (each in their own home), or play an interactive game together. Get creative with how relationships can be nurtured from afar, or safely in person.
Mindfulness, Meditation, Relaxation
Incorporating mindfulness into regular family life is a powerful way to teach your kids to take a moment to stop, notice how they feel, and consciously relax. Try building it into your routine: a two-minute meditation before going to school or when they come home; simple yoga stretches while listening to calming music after a bath; belly breathing or progressive muscle relaxation when they get into bed, are all ways parents and kids can practise mindfulness and meditation together. This practice not only helps us feel better in the moment but also helps establish skills that can be handy during times of high stress or anxiety.
Research is showing that in kids, when the brain is still developing, mindfulness practice can have an even greater benefit, actually making the brain more flexible, and better able to process emotions and handle anxiety.
Mindfulness programs in schools have shown to help lower stress, improve classroom behaviour, and promote healthy relationships.
Spending quality time as a family is obviously important. Coupling that time with exercise that everyone enjoys creates memories, builds bonds, increases physical health, and creates habits that can last throughout life.
But anyone who has kids knows it can be a fight to drag them off the iPad and outside for a walk (especially when the temperatures drop!). So ask your kids what might interest them. What about a walk for charity? Or a new sport none of you have tried and will learn together? How about a night of skating? A weekend getaway filled with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing? Yoga on the weekends?
Try to build exercise and healthy choices into normal activities – walk to the store instead of driving; plan healthy meals and cook together; do some jumping jacks or run on the spot during Netflix breaks; set goals and track your progress (hint! Our MyHealth app helps you do exactly that!); give gifts with a fitness theme – jump ropes, light dumbbells, even an individual mini trampoline for indoors; plan outings and vacays that revolve around being active; or create a family workout playlist and then have a dance-off. The bottom line is, have fun!
Even though the cold weather is upon us, it’s important to spend time outdoors, especially as a family. Put up the Christmas lights together and then go for a nighttime walk to look at the lights. Go for a hike and have a snowball fight. Find a great hill and go tobogganing. If it’s not too cold, how about a game of flashlight hide and seek once the sun goes down? Simply walking together in nature promotes mental health by calming the nervous system and promoting feelings of peace.
A story from the Yale School of the Environment reported a study of 20,000 people that found that “people who spent two hours a week in green spaces — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t.”
“Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning,” says Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, in the same article from Yale.
Your Fitness Buddy
Parents already deal with a lot. The added stress of pandemic life has added to the load. But boosting family health and wellness doesn’t have to be difficult. Just remember that togetherness, fun, and building wellness into your daily routine are the main objectives, and you’ll be well on your way to supporting your kids’ overall wellbeing – both at home and at school.
It’s also important for your kids to see you making healthy choices, and making exercise a priority. To help you on your journey, FitTrack’s Beebo Family Smart Scale allows you to keep track of eight family members, monitoring health metrics such as muscle and bone mass, weight, hydration levels and more. Together with the MyHealth premium app, you get to design what a healthy lifestyle means to you and your family. You can plan meals you all will enjoy, and access personalized exercise programs that you can do together. It even has a pregnancy mode and can track baby’s growth. Understand your body better, track and monitor heart health, and even improve sleep habits. Before you know it, you and your family will be well on your way to happier, healthier, less stressful days.