This last year has been an enormously stressful time for many families. With kids home from school or daycare, many parents had to adjust to working from home with children, or to working outside the home under immense pressure as essential workers. Now with everyone in the U.S. now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and parts of the country opening up, it’s time to establish some new routines to help the whole family recharge, rebalance, and find some calm, together.
1. Move your bodies
It might seem counterintuitive to get your kids wound up to calm them down, but exercise is a powerful tool: it improves mood, decreases tension, and helps you sleep better. (Just don’t do especially active exercise right before bedtime or nap time, since it can take a little while to wind down.)
Everyone’s abilities and access to the right kind of space will look a little different. Ride bikes together, hike a trail while wearing your baby in a carrier, or have a living room dance party. Maybe you do some physical therapy beside your kiddos while they try some YouTube yoga, or your whole family works in some gentle stretches before bedtime. Whatever feels right for your family.
2. Find a mellow or focused activity you can do together
Build block towers, start a challenging puzzle, paint (or color, or do whatever else is crafty and calm based on your kiddo’s age), turn the lights low and make shadow puppets, read together, take turns making up stories, take a nature walk or a neighborhood stroll and do a visual scavenger hunt, talk about your favorite part of the day — whatever feels like the right pace for you and your little one.
3. Meditate and breathe together
Find some quiet time for a different sort of focus. There are a lot of free meditation apps and guided meditations online — plenty that are kid friendly and fairly short — if you want to try meditating as a family. You can also teach your little one to breathe deeply, a calming strategy that they can then use later on their own when they’re feeling upset, frustrated, or mad. Here are three easy exercises to do together that teach kids how to find calm through breathing:
- Lay on your backs with a favorite stuffed animal on each of your tummies (they’ll have to let you borrow one!), then breathe deeply, watching the stuffed animals rise and fall as you breathe.
- Stand or sit upright with each of your hands placed on your heads, and then imagine you’re blowing up like a balloon as you inhale, sending your hands up overhead, and deflating as you exhale, with your hands returning to your heads.
- Hold a hand out in front of each of your faces and pretend that your fingers are birthday candles. With five deep, long breaths, blow them out one by one.
4. Get some rest
You know that your child probably feels their best when they’re getting enough sleep. So even if your schedule is feeling out of sorts these days, do what you can to keep bedtime and naps consistent. Getting enough sleep is also a common struggle for parents — and it might be even more challenging right now — but do what you can to prioritize your own rest so that you can feel your best too.
5. Prioritize quality time together — and apart
Quality time spent with your family is priceless, and certainly something many are feeling grateful for. But since many of us have spent a lot of time with the people in our homes this year (with very few breaks), another meaningful way to recharge is to find some alone time. Even a few minutes can go a long way to help every family member return back to each other feeling calmer.