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August 30, 2016

Peace of Mind

By Tampa Bay Parenting

The school year has just begun and life may already seem overwhelming with the demands and adjustments that come with our children going back to school. One thing that can help with reducing the overwhelming stress of the school year, and increase your family’s happiness overall, is to create a wellness plan as early as possible. A wellness plan is a commitment for you and your family to be well in mind, body and spirit. Below are the four steps you can take to establish a wellness plan for your family this year.

Commit to the emotional health of your family members

• Check in often and ask about your children’s feelings. It’s imperative that you ask things like “How was your day?” and “How are you feeling about school/sports/music?” Even though sometimes you may get short answers, it’s important for children to know their parents are listening to them, that they care about their feelings, and that they are willing to take the time to hear what they have to say.

• Schedule times for heart-to-heart conversations with your child. Although it need not be scripted (in fact, it shouldn’t be), you could aim for one-on-one conversations daily or weekly. Set aside time in your calendar and write out how long you plan to spend on these conversations. These conversations don’t have to be at home, and they don’t need to be a grand production either. You can decide to have your one-on-one time at the park, museum, ice cream shop, home or playground. It’s also up to you whether to make it a formal or informal conversation. While you can always be spontaneous in discussions, making a plan to have these conversations helps to keep the lines of communication open between you and your child. It’s so easy to lose track of time and forget to talk with our children, but committing to it by making an appointment in your mind or in your calendar helps you ensure you’ll actually follow through.

• Teach children about gratitude, and make it fun! Help your child create a gratitude journal, download a free gratitude app, or establish a gratitude ritual to help your child appreciate life’s gifts. Studies have shown a correlation between individuals who express gratitude and increased wellness, so get started with your family. When we are grateful for what we have it is easier to be happier in life overall because the focus is on the things we do get to enjoy rather than the negative feeling of what we don’t have.

• If you suspect your child may have a more serious issue related to their emotional well-being, be assertive and get them the help they need. Don’t simply dismiss things as “a phase” or “something that will pass.” Serious issues left unchecked can lead to harder times in a child’s future as a teen and even later as an adult. You may decide to seek out their pediatrician or family physician for referrals to a mental health professional who can help you further. The earlier you can take care of issues, the better because it’s easier to handle them when they’re fresh and/or still small.

Make a plan to increase your child’s academic success

• Design a homework plan for the school year that includes a structure (time and place) for completing homework. Ensure all the materials are in the homework spot you create, including pens, pencils, paper and books. Doing this ahead of time will help to reduce distractions because all the child will need to do is simply sit down and get to work instead of frequently getting up for more supplies.

• Be sure to attend parent-teacher conferences. These conferences are great opportunities for detailed information about what is going on in your child’s academic world.

• Communicate often with your child’s teacher. Find out what method works best regarding communication with them, as teachers’ schedules and communication preferences can vary. If you have a concern, be sure to bring it up to the teacher early so you can brainstorm as a team the best ways to help your child.

Establish a routine for eating, sleeping and exercise

• It is critical for your child to maintain a healthy diet for optimal health and wellness. So often we hear this statement as parents, but we all need reminders that children need healthy foods, especially a plentiful supply of fruits and vegetables. Choosemyplate.gov has a great selection of recipes and menus for healthy options for your family.

• Bedtime routines are also important for your children, no matter what age. While the amount of sleep they get may vary, infants to teens all need sleep to function well throughout the day. Not only will sleep help them focus more in class, it will also help them to have the energy to make it through the day with less stress and emotional fatigue.

• Exercise is a must for children and teens. Commit to a plan to have children engaged in some form of physical exercise. Perhaps your family could work out together – not only will everyone enjoy the benefits that come with exercise, you’ll also have a great opportunity for more bonding time.

Create family time goals

• Many families juggle extracurricular activities, work schedules and sometimes multiple children’s activities, so now more than ever it’s important to get creative with scheduling family time. Again, scheduling it makes it more likely to happen instead of giving it the chance to be an afterthought that may never take place. Some families choose a “game night,” each week. Other families take turns choosing weekend activities to do together such as bowling or going to the movies. There are also some families that aim to eat dinner together as often as possible. Yes, family dinnertime around the dinner table still exists for many families! No matter which option you choose, the important thing is to create goals to spend time together.

• Create a “no electronics” period. This could be as little as 30 minutes daily or weekly where the family is required to spend time together without social media, the internet or television interference. This may seem impossible, but setting aside this time will create a distraction-free zone that allows your family to connect on a deeper level and become a stronger unit over all.

• Remember, spending time together as a family is important, but parents need to set their own wellness goals as well. After all, parents have a responsibility to take care of children, but they also need to take care of themselves to be effective with others.

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