Self-Care and Mindfulness Practices Help Young Children Bounce Back Stronger

As a teacher on the virtual front lines, I can see the emotional fallout from COVID-19 and its toll on families from my daily Zooms with my class and heart-felt conversations with colleagues. Some kids are anxious and afraid, parents are over-stressed, and always on call, especially the moms.

I’ve been working with parents, children, and families in Pennsylvania for more than 15 years, and I pondered if I could create a family resource by collaborating with other mental health professionals, so that families could emerge stronger, more resilient, and happier.

My goal is to help families address children’s coping skills in engaging, fun, age-appropriate ways.

I wondered if families could do more than just survive COVID-19, and this family resource and  Resilient Families Thrive was born.

Join me as I explore fun, creative ways for parents to help their children to curb fear, reduce anxiety, and increase happiness.

Recently, I spoke with Alix Lauren Cozen, Senior Early Childhood Professional Development Instructor at  First Up , located in Philadelphia, the foremost resource for early childhood educators in Southeastern Pennsylvania. When I took her mindfulness classes, I was extremely impressed by what she is doing to help teachers and families that I invited her to share it with my audience. She also has important information about a three-part series on parenting during the pandemic that you can still sign up for.

She believes that when mindfulness practices are taught to young children and their caretakers, it can ground them and help them bounce back from events or situations that cause great distress or disruption.

The world changed so radically since the start of COVID-19.

Do you remember where you were the day COVID-19 hit “pause” and the world shrunk to face-to- face contact with your immediate family in a place where connection with the outside world became a virtual one?

Alix: Well, I had to unpack my suitcase. We were at the airport, waiting for our flight, when I got the phone call that someone was getting quarantined in our hotel, so our long-awaited girl’s trip was cancelled after months of planning, just like that. In early March things changed so rapidly, more restrictions, less restrictions. My biggest fear became the health and safety of my dearest friends and family.

Your class really resonated with me because you led us through  mindfulness practices to reduce stress, helped us develop a self-care safety plan for ourselves and our students, and presented longitudinal studies that support how these practices improve academic achievement, attention, self-control,  memory, immune response, and emotional resilience for children as well as Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness research.

You also explained how a simple mindset shift from “I have to do this” to “I get to do this” leads to mindfulness.

When you walked us through Max Strom’s Breathe to Heal technique

also called 4-7-8. Many of us reported feeling less overwhelmed and clear-headed.

Inhale: 4 seconds

Hold: 7 seconds

Exhale: 8 Seconds

When our anxiety rises we tend to react rather than respond to stress.Could you define mindfulness and explain how parents and children’s daily practices lead to better preparation to handle and reduce stress?

Alix: Mindfulness to me means paying attention to something in a particular way, observing without judging yourself or others or the environment. It’s really a matter of creating a sense of peace, even when you feel uncomfortable, worried, or anxious.

 When it becomes a daily practice that can be used to experience tranquility, calmness, and connection, then it provides you with a toolkit that you could use before you overreact to stress that  will support many aspects of your personal and professional life.

Plant Seeds of Emotional Resilience
Photographer Anna Earl captures building resilience in children.

What is First Up doing to help parents and caregivers to promote young children’s emotional wellness?

Alix: This collaborative effort that my colleague  Jillian Best Adler 

is running consists of a free three-part webinar series called Parenting in a Pandemic: Help in a Time of Need.

This program is geared for parents and caregivers who want to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on their young children. It is presented by early childhood professionals certified in trauma -informed best practices, who explain how brain development from birth to age eight impacts how children might respond to current events and what parents can do to support them. You will learn how to develop or adapt your self-care routine and that of your child’s as well. 

Part one provides an overview, explains how adults versus children respond to stress, and it delves into the importance of self-care and developing a safety plan to ground yourself and your child during these uncertain times. Part two and three equip you with the tools and strategies that support well-being.

More Information

There are multiple times for parts two and three, but just one more chance for part one on Monday, June 29 at 1PM.

For questions, please contact Jillian Best Adler at jillian.adler@firstup.org.

Share this flyer with your network. 

If you liked this article and found it useful, then please comment and share with your network. What are your parenting challenges and small wins?

I would love to share your family’s journey back to health and well-being!

Is your family thriving or slumping? Have you shifted from just getting through your days to finding pockets of happiness and things to be grateful for every day?

If you feel that you have a creative way to empower families, just drop me an email at lyndart09@gmail.com, so I can share it with this audience, and then we can lift each other up on our journey to being whole again.

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