Written by Li Yang, ND
Now that everyone is back from mid-winter break, most children and teens are getting back into the routine of balancing school, therapies, extracurricular activities and family time. Beyond juggling these activities, this is a great time for adolescents to recognize their stressors and start to develop coping strategies. It is important that parents and role models begin to show their teens how to practice mindfulness, recognize symptoms of stress, and manage any emotional outbursts.
Some physical signs of stress includes:
- fast heart beat, racing heart
- cold/clammy hands
- butterflies or knot in stomach
- tight muscles, especially the jaw, shoulders, back
- trouble falling asleep (especially if the mind has difficulty shutting off)
- emotional outbursts- crying, irritability, wanting to escape
- increase in stomachaches or feelings of panic
I find that scheduling down time after school and extracurricular activities is extremely helpful in recouping from the hectic day. Setting aside 30-40 minutes for your child to relax, listen to music or audiobooks helps them turn off their “constant on the go” mentality. This would also be a great time to practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises with your child.
It is important to help your child recognize when to use these relaxation techniques. Being able to check in with their bodies, scanning for any of the above listed physical signs of stress throughout the day helps them identify when to use the below strategies.
Take a slow deep breath and try and fill your abdominal like a ballon. Place both hands on your abdomen and you want to feel it expand outward while breathing in. Count from 1 to 5 as you breath in and as your breath out.
Take a deep breath in. Scan your body for areas that feel tense starting from the head to toe. The goal is to breathe into these areas as you exhale. Take 2 slow deep breaths visualizing the tense area (top of the head, upper shoulders, etc) and imaging blowing away the tension like a pile of sand in your hand. Do this twice for every tense part of your body.
You are going to use your right thumb to close your right nostril and either your right ring or little finger to close your left nostril.
Sit straight in a comfortable position in a chair or couch. Take a few inhales and exhales, counting in and out for 2 seconds. Start by closing your left nostril with your ring or little finger. Inhale through your right nostril and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat 5x.
Then release your left nostril and close your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale and exhale gently, 5x. Don’t force your breath and if you need to take a break breathe through both nostrils, then do so. This exercise should feel refreshing and balancing.
Remember that practicing mindfulness throughout the day is not about perfection. It is about recognizing how our body reacts when we are stressed or anxious. Learning how to be mindful is a life skill and the more we practice the better we will get!
Great resources for parents and teens:
Smiling mind- can choose programs for different age groups, a great one for children and adults alike. https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/smiling-mind/id560442518?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Now that the dark rainy season is in full effect and playing outside may be less of an option, we wanted to bring you a few ideas for mixing fun and food with these indoor family activities. Round up the kids, a few ingredients, and get playing!
Cinnamon Sugar Snowflakes
Make these crunchy sweet snacks on a cold day with kids aged 3 and up .
- Flour tortillas (regular or gluten-free)
- Cinnamon sugar
- Melted butter or cooking spray
- Clean kid’s scissors
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Microwave the tortillas for a few seconds so they don’t break when you fold them. Fold in half, and fold in half again. Cut out shapes as you would a paper snowflake. Unfold.
- Spray with cooking spray or brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake for 5-10 minutes until golden, watching carefully so they don’t burn.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool, and enjoy!
Rainbow Fruit Skewers
- Wooden Skewers
- Washed and cut colorful fruit: strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes (green and purple), blueberries
- Skewer one piece of fruit at a time onto a wooden skewer in your favorite color pattern.
This is a healthy and fun way to get kids of almost any age to eat their veggies! You can keep some dipping sauces at the table to encourage dunking and snacking along the way.
- Small tortillas (flour or corn)
- A variety of vegetables (carrot julienned and rounds, cucumber spears and rounds, bell pepper slices, cherry tomato halves, etc)
- A variety of cheese slices (shredded, triangles, and rounds work great) or cream cheese
- Place a tortilla on each plate for a head, and lay out the sliced veggies and cheese for creating facial features.
- Place the veggies on the tortilla in creative ways, making silly faces and munching along the way.
Making butter at home is a fun way to teach kids about where food comes from and how it’s made. It will keep a couple of days in the fridge, but it probably won’t last that long because it’s so delicious!
- Heavy whipping cream
- A jar with a tight fitting lid
- Pinch of salt
- Bread (or something to eat the butter with)
- Pour the heavy whipping cream into the jar, making sure it’s about half full. Add a pinch of salt
- Close the lid tightly and take turns shaking the jar. After about 5-10 minutes of shaking it will turn to whipped cream, and the noise of the liquid sloshing around will stop. Keep shaking! A chunk of butter will separate from the liquid soon after.
- Pour the buttermilk off (you can save it for baking), get the butter out of the jar and rinse under cold water to remove the rest of the buttermilk. Enjoy!
Vital Kids Medicine, PLLC
5350 Tallman Ave NW, Suite #510
Seattle, WA 98107