At Ridgefield Academy and Landmark Preschool, students are supported through social-emotional learning in tandem with academic growth. In addition to a curriculum that teaches self and social awareness skills, relationship skills, and decision-making skills, students learn about the importance of self-care.
Below, Ridgefield Academy school counselor Michele Flowers provides a variety of self-care techniques to engage in throughout the school year. This is an opportunity not only for children but for parents and families to establish safe and supportive outlets together.
In any school year, supporting and fostering resilience for our children is an important skill to bring into focus. The impact of the COVID pandemic on our “normal” daily lives has profoundly increased stress, anxiety, and worry. For your child/children, it is beneficial to provide them with opportunities to have safe and supportive outlets to help ease anxieties or worries during the school year.
Safe & Supportive Outlets for Children
Encourage them to build and strengthen their own positive mindset. Children may start their day identifying something they are grateful for in their lives, reflecting on a happy memory, or thinking of something they enjoy doing. Strengthening a positive mindset for themselves is a powerful coping skill and self-care strategy.
Enjoy the outdoors! Connecting with nature and engaging in outdoor recreational and social activities is highly beneficial for children's developmental health. There are a multitude of social, cognitive, and developmental benefits that may be experienced from daily unstructured play, such as:
- Learning essential social skills
- Cultivating positive self-esteem
- Can improve the quality of a restful night’s sleep
- Supports overall good health
- Increases creative and imaginative thought processes
- Organizational skills
- Communication skills
- Problem solving skills
- Develop a 'feel good bag'. Sit down with your child/children and have them develop a list of things they can do that will promote self-soothing, feelings of calm and relaxation when starting to feel worried or anxious, like with starting a new school year. Some helpful suggestions for one's 'feel good bag’ include: listening to music; talking to someone who makes them feel good, loved or safe; looking at pictures/images that make them feel happy (a pet, a favorite place, a family member or friend). This can be used as a helpful coping strategy.
Engage in mindful breathing. This technique can be utilized without drawing attention to oneself and can be practiced anywhere/anytime. The benefits of taking mindful, slow, rhythmic breaths are numerous. This self-care skill helps to reduce stress or anxiety, lowers your heart rate, and promotes one's ability to think clearly and thus make better choices or decisions for oneself.
When it comes to self-care, focus should be given to all members of the family. For parents, the need to manage and navigate through the challenges and stressors related to COVID has been immense. It is important to, well, be good to you.
Self-Care Techniques for Parents
Build and strengthen a positive mindset. Start each day with identifying something you are grateful for, thinking of a happy moment you shared with a loved one, or giving acknowledgement to something you accomplished recently. As a parent, especially these days, the art of juggling the family's needs to get through the day deserves credit and a nice pat on the back!
Carve out 'you' time each day for at least 15 minutes. Make sure it is a time of day that will be uninterrupted. A time you will be unavailable. A time that is dedicated to you. Honor this time for you. Do something that you will enjoy, is relaxing, or rejuvenating – sitting quietly outside taking in the beauty of your surroundings; listen to music; sit and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee or tea.
Connect with family and/or friends either by making plans to get together or calling them at least once a week. It is so important to remain connected to loved ones. These people in your life are a great support system! When connecting with loved ones, be mindful to give some focus to a positive moment you experienced recently, reflection of a shared joyful memory, or just simply enjoying your time with them.
As a family, there are also self-care techniques you can all engage in together. Finding time to connect with one another and spend time together in a meaningful way as a family provides great benefits, such as fostering positive parent-child and sibling bonds.
Self-Care Techniques for Families
Plan to come together as a family during meals or for a family activity, like game night. During this time, check in with one another. Have each family member, parents you too, identify what they are grateful for in that moment together and/or highlight their 'highs' and 'lows' for the day.
Take the time to ask your children about their feelings with upcoming events, like starting a new school year. If they identify feelings of worry, stress, or anxiety – take the time to review with them some of the highlighted self-care techniques, what has been helpful, what has worked for them, what has not worked.
Connecting with family and engaging in self-care techniques builds a positive foundation for a child’s growing sense of self-esteem, increasing self-reliance, and independence in the years to come.