Our children are not only dealing with lateral flow tests and friends and relatives testing positive for Covid, they’re also feeling the collective anxiety of a world in the grip of a global pandemic.
They’re living in a world of viruses, hand-washing, sanitiser, masks and isolation and, as much as we try to shield them from grown-up fears and worries, it’s a world that can affect their emotional wellbeing. In fact, last year, after just 1 month of lockdown, parents of children aged 4 to 10 years taking part in the University of Oxford’s Co-SPACE study into the effects of the pandemic on parents, adolescents and children, reported an increase in their child feeling unhappy, worried or clingy¹.
I’m a single mum of a 5-year-old girl and, during the 1st lockdown, I witnessed all sorts of new imaginary friends arriving in our home. I realised that my daughter was missing playing like a 5-year-old and, to put that right, I needed to come right down to her level and let myself act like a 5-year-old, too.
So I did. I took some of the training techniques I’ve learned from my background in performance arts, whizzed those up with emotional wellness tools, added a huge dollop of silliness and joy and – BINGO – my daughter started responding in a way that’s boosting her confidence, making her more mindful and keeping us both full of joy and laughter. And now I’m teaching other parents how to do it…
Here are 8 ways to inject joy into your home every day – and build confidence, presence and resilience in your child…
1. The Start with Intent
For: Framing the day right | Time: 5 minutes | What you need: Notebook and pen
This one’s just for you (all the other activities are for you and your child together).When you wake up in the morning, before you check Insta (yep, I know, I do it too)…
- Take a moment to be present and breathe deeply 5 times
- Grab a notebook and instead of writing all the things you have to do today, write down who you want to be today, specifically through the lens of being a parent. Do you intend to be a calm and happy parent? Do you intend to be a joyful one? We get so bogged down with the doing and forget about the being – but, if you start each morning with the intention, it shifts to a space of consciousness and that’s a great way to start your day!
2. The Energy Injection
For: A start-the-day boost | Time: 5 minutes | What you need: Music
If your child is anything like my 5-year-old, your walk to school in pre-pandemic days was a mix of jumping, running, scooting, shrieking, and stopping to stroke cats and holler across the road at friends. Just as it should be. Now we are locked down, we’ve lost that release of morning energy. This activity is brilliant for waking up our bodies and minds and filling them with the kind of positive energy that set the tone for the day ahead. Choose an up-tempo song with a cracking beat and a happy vibe, press play and…
- Start by shaking your left foot and left leg, then the right foot and right leg (10 seconds)
- Run on the spot like a US footballer (10 seconds)
- Shake your bum like a dog wagging its tail (10 seconds)
- Shake your shoulders from side to side (10 seconds)
- Shake your right arm and right hand, then left arm and left hand (10 seconds)
- Gently shake your hair from side to side (10 seconds)
- Now shake your whole body and jump like a jumping jack; basically, go nuts until the end of the song!
Wooohoooh! By now you should be feeling super warm and energised. When you stop, make sure you ask your child to notice how their body is feeling. If they are feeling fizzy, tell them that’s energy coursing through their body!
3. The Spider Legs Breath
For: Calm and focus | Time: 2 minutes | What you need: Just you and your child
We take it for granted that our body is doing its thing – and only notice something’s gone wrong when anxiety and fear makes our breathing go faster, addles our thinking and makes us feel a bit wobbly. Here is a quick exercise to regulate breathing and concentrate the mind on the present: great as a daily activity or when your child is having a little wobble…
- Ask your child to hold their hands, palms up, like an upside-down spider. You do the same.
- Both of you now curl the spider’s legs (your fingers) up into a ball (scrunch your fingers into a fist) and then uncurl them (open out your hand).
- Continue slowly to curl and unfurl the ‘legs’ like this, breathing in through your nose for 2 seconds as you stretch the legs out, and out through your mouth for 2 seconds as your curl them up
- Repeat for 5 in breaths and 5 out breaths
4. The Super Hero Stance
For: Confidence and self-esteem | Time: 3 minutes | What you need: Just you and your child
How we hold our body affects how we feel. Try slumping your shoulders down, lowering your head and saying “I feel great!” Doesn’t quite work, does it? So shift a slumpy state of mind with some posture positivity…
- Both of you stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
- Puff out your chest
- Put your hands on your hips
- Lift your chin, look proud and smile!
The finished stance should be full blown superhero-stylee! Hold this stance for a while and try saying some of these positive affirmations (you may feel a bit uncomfortable to start off with but it’s amazing how quickly you get used to it – and feel the benefits)…
- “I am powerful”
- “I am loved”
- “I am going to have the best day today”
- “I have everything I need inside of me”
- “Kindness is my superpower”
- “I am happy”
Whenever your child is struggling with a tricky piece of schoolwork, say, “Super Hero Stance!” leap into the pose with them, and see it shift their frame of mind. Then go back to the task at hand and try again!
5. The Gratitude Attitude
For: Positive thinking |Time: 5 minutes | What you need: Notebook and pen
I am obsessed with gratitude as it has made the biggest difference to our home and the mood within it. Get a notebook for your child that you will specifically use as a gratitude journal. Ask them for 3 things they are grateful for – and then they can write them down or you can, if they are too little. Do this every morning as, now more than ever, we need little reminders of the good around us. Remember, you cannot be grateful and fearful or angry at the same time, so it is the perfect antidote to any heaviness they may be feeling. Gratitude really is a superpower!
6. The Sing like No One’s Listening
For: Stress busting | Time: 3 to 4 minutes | What you need: Music
I come from a family of singers. Kitchen singers, shower singers, dusting singers, washing-up singers. And they’ve passed on to me the most powerful tool for wellness. The power of singing is truly remarkable: it’s an endorphin-releasing, breath-regulating, stress-beating, immune-system-strengthening, lung-filling, happiness-inducing superpower that should be diarised in to everyone’s morning routine…
- Choose a song you all know the words to, crank it up and then really give it some welly! I am not talking the local church choir, I am talking 80s boyband air grabs, giving it full face, top-of-your-voice singing.
7. The Mindful Strollsy
For: Feeling present | Time: 20 mins | What you need: Shoes/wellies/coat/hat/gloves
We don’t always have time for this (you know how it is) but, if you can, get outside every day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes for a stroll around the block. Here are some walking activities that activate the mind and allow your child to feel present in their surroundings…
- Point out 5 man-made things you can see and 5 natural things
- Listen and pick out sounds of man-made things and sounds of nature
- Count how many birds you see (particularly fun when a flock flies past!)
- Take 5 pictures of things that make your both feel happy
8. The Laughter Medicine
For: Joy and connection | Time: 5 minutes | What you need: Just you and your child
You could read 20 books on mindfulness techniques, child-focused activities and lessons but the 1 thing your child needs more than ever right now is you. You at your most silly, you at your most childlike, you at your most playful. You’re the energy-setter in your home, so start your mornings with laughter. Here’s how…
- Have a tickle fight
- Have a fake laughing competition. Who can do the funniest laugh?
- Have a crawling race across the living room
- Have a funny voice competition
- Play chase and tickle the catchee when caught
- See how many teddies you can stuff up your jumper
- See who can do the silliest walk
- And on and on and on…
When I got down on my daughter’s level, physically and mentally, we really connected. As I looked across from a huge scramble across my bed with 10 of her cuddly toys stuffed up my jumper, both of us weak and breathless and full to the brim with love, joy and happiness, I realised how simple it is. Just laugh and play with your children. My goodness, they so need it right now.
About our expert Donna Easton
Donna is the Founder of LifeShine and single mother to a little girl called Primrose. An ex-performer and events professional, Donna has combined her performance background, live events expertise and natural ability to generate joy to develop LifeShine’s classes that teach children the principles of performing arts, emotional wellness techniques and confidence – and help adults access their joyful, inner child. You can find LifeShine’s fun, wellness and laughter on Instagram and Facebook or contact email@example.com.
Pics: Getty Images
1 .Children Show Increase in Mental Health Difficulties Over Covid-19 Lockdown. University of Oxford News online. 16 June 2020