You’ve seen a million and one articles about how to relax yourself and your kids. Take a walk! Get proper nutrition! Read a book! Honestly, if those things worked like a charm, would we ever ask the question again: “How can I get my children to unwind?” Some of the tried and true tips are legitimate. They really have been tried, and they really are true; however there have to be deeper ways that we can manage a day to keep our children from feeling pressures and strains. And this is tip one.
- Practice what you preach: The behavior we model is the behavior they learn. If we are harried and hectically scheduled, overachieving parents, then that is precisely who we will raise our children to be. The first rule of thumb for unwinding with our kids is to unwind ourselves! Scheduling downtime is important to everyone, and it’s not wasted time. Use these moments to listen to new music with your child. Toddlers love new music and even your teen may find something interesting in new music. Reading books together is a great way to unwind yourselves, whether you’re reading a picture book with your baby or taking turns reading chapters with your elementary aged child, or reading silently together with your teen. By scheduling time together to actively relax, you will model the behavior you seek in them.
- Prioritize ANY family meal: This one shows up on every list for a good reason. Sitting together and sharing a meal is an ancient way to connect. Don’t feel pressure to make this be dinner, either. You can have a Saturday morning breakfast together, or a Sunday afternoon lunch. Wednesdays may be your best night for dinner, but a Thursday afternoon, after school, may be your family’s perfect time for a trip to a local ice cream store. As long as you’re all together, without “screen” distractions of any kind, it counts!
- Breathe: That’s right. Breathe. We hold our breath quite a lot throughout a day and we don’t even know it. Our children are asked to hustle through so many of their own activities as well as ours, that they forget as well. A great breathing exercise to do together is “pranayama breathing.” Clasp both hands together and bring your fingers under your chin. Breathe in as deeply as you can for a full count of 6 as you bring your arms up next to your face, in a frame. Exhale for another count of 6, saying “HA” with a wide open mouth as you look back and then bring your arms together at the elbows. Do this ten times in a row and your body fills with fresh oxygenated blood. The muscles of your rib cage have stretched and expanded, helping your young athletes to deepen their endurance for sports. And it’s relaxing as well as rejuvenating. Also…I’ll be honest, it’s kind of funny, and laughing with your children is a great way to breathe.
- Map the week together: From little ones to teenagers to the adults, mapping out the week to accommodate schedules is a spot-on way to minimize stresses before they even happen. It’s easy to unwind when you’ve never gotten wound up. If you have to go shoe shopping, then choose a day without 4 or 5 other activities. Looking ahead to the week can help everyone with their own personal “to-do” list and keep the entire family working as a unit towards a singular goal: happiness!
- Bedtimes for everyone: Babies need sleep. Toddlers on up to college students need sleep. Moms and Dad, grandparents and neighbors…all need sleep. Being well rested is another tried and true remedy to helping people unwind. When we are rested, the chances of a total melt-down are lessened from the start. Teens need an average of around 9 hours of sleep, but rarely get it. Their natural rhythms lead them to a “night owl” kind of lifestyle, but school days start near (or before) 7 a.m., so be sure that your teen isn’t staying up till 3am.
- Let your children guide you: It’s a really simple question: If you had one hour to do ANYTHING you wanted, what three things can you think of that you’d like to do? Your toddler may like to play with clay or draw. Your tween may want to go bowling or play video games. Your teen may want to sleep. Be open minded about the answers they give you and see where accommodations can be made. Play one or two video games together, build a Lego fortress, or do a puzzle. Let your teen zone out and get a nap. Allowing them a few moments of their own time will help them unwind, and allow you the opportunity as a parent to give them exactly what they need!