During this time of uncertainty, I offer a few recommendations from my own practice and research. These wellness ideas are to be shared, tried out and re-created as much as you want.
“Courage is knowing what not to fear”. Plato
Dr. Patricia Miller tips for wellness:
1. Watch the news less, turn off the news, only watch and/or read the news for no more than ½ hour per day. Remember your children might be being impacted by the news you are listening to. They have no control in turning it off. Children/Adolescents tend to get moody, quiet or engage more social media/computer activities, when they do not have control over what is in their environment.
2. Find small activities that you can accomplish and share with others that you care about (ie. board games, card games, walk the dog, bake muffins, organize a closet, create a birthday card for someone).
3. Use exercise to reduce stress, take small walks, engage yoga stretching and other house-bound, physical activities. These activities will increase feel good endorphins, while decreasing cortisol.
4. Engage music, knitting, cooking, painting, puzzles, breathing, baths/showers, pet holding, beading, making wellness cards for senior homes, organizing things which all help the right side of the brain reduce stress and decrease cortisol, if done in a mindful way.
5. Use cognitive behavioral therapy strategies such as: identify that you are anxious and worried about something you do not feel that you have control over (ie. the virus and world problems). Once you identify the worry, try to challenge the thought and change it into a more neutral or less scary thought. Do not talk about the virus all the time, say things like: "its being managed by the medical and health professionals that know what we need to do".
6. Engage deep breathing exercises every day in the morning, afternoon and evening. Count slowly to five and breath in and count slowly to five and breathe out. Do the breathing 5-10 times each time, when you breathe in and out.
7. Having to socially distant does not mean to live in isolation, it means to use other means to connect with people such as a telephone, a good supportive chat site, face timing and any other internet mediums that allow you to foster friendships and other ways of connecting.
8. If you wake-up in the morning overwhelmed, know that you are not clearing your anxiety at night. Make sure that you engage mindfulness activities at night, such as having a cup of tea, take a bath, read books to kids, listen to easy-type podcasts, read an adult book, colour a mandala. Your evening ritual needs to be about helping your brain relax, while you try to find a way to be okay with all of the concerns that are happening in your own life, not the world. Keep yourself on a set bedtime and ritual during weekdays so that you brain continues to know your schedule.
1. Having conversations with the people we care about is important during this time of change. Use “we” language as it helps kids/teens feel like they are part of the team. Here are some conversation starters or ideas:
· Since we have more time at home, we would like to talk about how we are going to share chores so that we can each be happy and healthy in the home.
· Since we are having to figure out how to help you find things to do, we would like to make a list of things that we can try to do.
· Being that we care about each other, we will need some boundaries in place regarding time alone. We would like to figure out how to understand each other’s boundaries.
· We know that you are afraid, but we have support coming to help us to .....
· We each have to participate in keeping our family healthy by....
· We each will play a role in making sure our house is organized….
· All feelings are okay feelings, we need to make sure that we do not hurt each other with our feelings and talk through what we are feeling versus yell or hit. If you do not feel that you can talk about your feelings, you can write them down, draw them or even text them to us.
· I know you are afraid of what is happening but there are many good adults that are helping people work through this crisis in our city/community.
· We have good support in our family to help us through this time, what do you need right now to be okay?
· What do you need to feel okay in your life, your feelings and/or body if you are feeling overwhelmed?
· Remember that we love each other, even if we are not happy with each other right now.
Every few days do a check in with your family members to see how they are doing with their fears, sadness, anger and/or other mental health concerns. Remember during this time, people may not sleep as well. This means that their moods are not as stable. Children/teens do not have a lot of control in their worlds and are at risk of being impacted longer-term by things that seem to big to manage.
Please use the telephone supports in the community such as the distress center (403-266-1601)and/or call the community mental health number in your area, if you are concerned immediately about your and/or their mental health.
Dr. Patricia Miller
The Family Psychology Place
Sensory Support for Children
This section is designed to provide sensory support for children. During this time, children may also be feeling overwhelmed or have big emotions in which they do not know how to process. It is important that as adults, we provide children with opportunities to decompress and one way to do this is through sensory input. The activities listed below were designed to be done at home with materials that are everyday household items that you can find, within your cupboards or pantries. Please note that all activities should be done with supervision.
Water play with lukewarm water
Materials: Bucket and water
Optional add ins: Scoups, measuring cups, containers, cups, bath toys and cups.
Let your child explore pouring, touching, splashing within the water. You can explore offering a cold cup of water to their luke warm water to provide additional sensory options.
Materials-Cold yogurt and cookie tray
Optional add ins: cookie cutters, plastic cutlery, bowls,
Place a dollop of yogurt on a baking sheet and help your child to push it around, smear it, tap it, run your fingers through it or whatever sensation feels right.
Materials: Jello, age appropriate toys.
Follow the directions on the packet to make the jello, but before you put it in the fridge to cool, add in clean toys. This could include shapes, farm animals, building toys etc.
Once the Jello has set take it out and let your child tear it apart to find the toys hiding within.
Optional add-ins: baby cutlery, bowls, etc.
Water play with cold or warm water
Materials: Bucket or tub and water
Optional add-ins: ice cubes, frozen fruit, peas, action figures, cups, measuring cups, soap,
Task: Allow your child to explore the different temperatures, using creative play, pouring, mixing with the water and the other add ins provided.
Moon Sand- Similar to kinetic sand
Materials: Flour and Baby oil
2 cups flour to ¼ cup baby oil
Mix all together in a big bowl
Optional add-ins: food colour, essential oils, beach toys, other building materials or toys.
Materials: Big liter plastic ziplock bags, hair gel or shampoo and tape.
Place the hair gel or shampoo in the bag and lay it flat to push out all the air. Put a piece of tape on the top of the bag after you close it to ensure that it will not leak.
Note: this can also be done with food colour with oil and water.
Optional add-ins: food colouring (try adding a few dots of two colors and mixing them in the bag), sparkles, sprinkles, small toys, beads, printed cut outs of fish, cheerios etc.
Materials: Ice cube tray, water, food colouring and paper.
Separate water into bowls, add food coloring and mix
Place water into freezer molds and freeze until frozen
Once frozen let your child paint with them on a piece of paper
Optional add- ins: freeze a popsicle stick into the ice cubes if you want them to have a handle
Frozen Treasures Excavation
Materials: Ice cube tray, water, ice and small toys.
Place water in ice cube molds and add in small toys. Freeze in the freezer. Once they are frozen take them out of the molds and place them on a cookie sheet or in a tub. Supply salt and water. The reaction between salt and water on the ice will help to melt it faster.
This activity can be tailored to your child. If your child loves dinosaurs, freeze small dinosaurs into the ice cubes. It can be done for any toy or preference based on the materials you have at home and your child's interests.
Optional add-ins: hot water, turkey baster for adding water, other toys, etc.
Oobleck- this mixture creates a slime light material that kids that play with
Materials: Cornstarch and water
Use a 1:1 ratio of cornstarch to water to begin with and add as necessary
Optional add-ins: cups, toys, wire racks, ice cubes, etc
Materials: Cornstarch and conditioner
Mix 1 cup of cornstarch with 1 cup of conditioner
If the mixture is too sticky add more corn starch. It should create a dough like material.
Optional add-ins: essential oils, glitter, beads, other small objects, other building toys, etc.
Materials: 2 buckets, dirt, water, soap, small figurine toys.
In one bucket mix water and dirt to create mud. In the other bucket, add warm water and soap. Place most of the toys in the dirty bucket and let your child wash them clean in the soapy water.
This activity can be messy. It is a good activity to do outside in the backyard or to place towels down to catch and mess that may spill from the buckets.
Optional add-ins: brushes, clothes or scrubbers, cups, bowls, etc.
Make sure to have fun with these activities. This time is for your child to relax, connect with you and work through some of those big emotions. And remember there is no wrong way to play within these activities, do what feels natural and good for your family. As well, these activities can be done in between school work to help regulate your child and provide a better learning experience for both of you. And remember, these activities do provide valuable learning experiences, such as fine and gross motor practice, hand-eye coordination, exploration of colours and shapes, building, fosters creativity and play.
Kayla Lisowski, B.Ed
As Ghandi said, "we need to be the change, which we want to see".