Naturally Calm Kids

With the hectic pace of the world, many children struggle to stay in a calm zone. By helping your children cultivate a sense of calm at an early age, you'll not only be a happier parent, but you'll be laying an important foundation as they grow older. Here are 15 ways to introduce more peace and calm into your children's lives. 
1. Prioritise Sleep    Lack of sleep is a recipe for edginess at any age. Establishing good sleep habits from a young age is essential so make this a priority in the first few years of your child's life. A soothing and predictable bedtime ritual that includes a warm bath helps children unwind and get ready for dreamland.   2. Massage it Out   Trials from the Touch Research Institute, shows infants and children who receive massage therapy have fewer stress behaviours and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Massage is a great way to bond with your little one and help them relax, while also relaxing yourself. Follow your baby or toddler's lead to find out when they are most receptive to massage and for how long.  3. Calm the senses   Chamomile and lavender essential oils have a calming effect, benefiting both you and your child. From three months of age onwards, put one to three drops of oil in your baby's nighttime bath or on their favorite blanket or toy. This will help soothe their senses. After time they will associate these scents with feelings of comfort and security, and you can use them to reduce anxiety in times of heightened stress, like during air travel.  4. Hold them Close   Nothing comforts a child more than being held by a parent. Wear a baby carrier, wrap or sling to create a calm and safe space when the busy outside world drives them into sensory overload. When they are older, a momentary embrace helps them feel safe and release stress.  5. Pay Attention   Children often act out to get parental attention, starting as early as toddlerhood. Carve out quality time when you are physically and emotionally present with your child so they feel heard and worthy of your positive attention. Spend this time with them doing things they enjoy and avoid distractions like checking your phone.  6. Furry Friends   If you don't have a family fur baby, identify other ways for your children to interact with animals. Research shows that even brief interactions with animals affect hormones like oxytocin and cortisol, making individuals of all ages happier and more relaxed.  7. Eat for Calm   Remove foods known to contribute towards hyperactivity in children - sugar, caffeine and certain additives - and replace them with grounding wholefoods. A good starting point is to reduce carbonated beverages and bottled juices and replace with water, herbal teas, and homemade juices or smoothies.  Keep an eye out for food sensitivities and nutrient deficiencies as these also affect behaviour.  8. Zen time   Meditation helps children return to a place they feel safe, secure, peaceful and focused. Learning to cope with stress is an important part of development, and teaching your child to meditate empowers them to manage stress. Guided meditation books and audios are available for children of all ages.  Giving kids a special object to hold during meditation can help them tune in more easily. 9. Kids Yoga   Yoga is calming and can help develop concentration, focus, and self-awareness from a young age. Use a fun book or yoga cards to teach them yourself so you can practice as a family. My Daddy is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste is a popular book for this. They key is to make the introduction fun, using stories and games and drawing on nature and animals.   10. Channel energy    Give children many outlets to channel their energy into. Physical activity and getting outdoors helps children relax. Give them an outlet for their creative energy through art, music, singing, dancing, or projects like creating vision boards or putting on theatre shows for the family. 11. Lead by example    Research shows the level of stress in family life directly impacts how kids learn to deal with stressful situations. Irritable and stressed out children are usually mirroring what they are experiencing at home.  Bring peace into your child's life by leading by example and making a conscious effort to welcome a calm disposition into your life and home. Model healthy stress management by practicing yoga or meditation. Tell them what you're doing and why.   12. Beat the Rush    Make your day much calmer by being extra organised in the morning. Do this by preparing the night before. Create less pressurised evenings by preparing meals in advance over the weekend. A batch of quinoa lasts several days and can be repurposed into many meals.  did you know? Parental stress can be passed on to children with long term effects. Stress in pregnant women has been linked to anxiety, autism and ADHD in children, and research led by Michael Kobor from the University of British Columbia has shown day-to-day stress in early childhood can predict changes in DNA observed into adolescence. 13. Switch Off    Leave work stress behind by practicing deep breathing on your way home. If you work from home, walk outdoors at the end of the day to signal a transition out of work mode. Walking through the front door in a more peaceful state of mind will help you stay calm in the face of challenging parenting moments.  14. Laugh More   Laughing is an easy and powerful way to reduce stress and has many other health benefits. Try laughter yoga or join in whenever anyone happens to be deep belly laughing nearby.  15. Focus on Yourself   Once a month take five minutes to reflect on the main stressors in your life and identify three steps to restore balance in these areas. Also, create child-free 'me time' routinely and do something you enjoy. By actively cultivating inner peace and happiness, you will naturally pass these qualities on to those around you, as well as respond more lovingly when kids are niggly.  DID YOU KNOW? Children are subjected to stress and anxiety at earlier and earlier ages. A 2013 Stress in America report found that teenagers surpassed adults as the most stressed population in the United States. This is concerning as an extensive body of research from Harvard University and other leading institutions shows that prolonged activation of stress response systems in children, in particular the brain, can negatively impact healthy development, including:
  • Learning, cognitive ability and short-term memory
  • Behaviour and temperament
  • Blood sugar levels, weight and digestive health
  • Overall health across lifetime
Catarina Andrade is a Cape Town based health and happiness coach and laughter yoga leader who helps busy women create more time and energy to get everything done with less stress and more balance. Get her free guide to jumping off the stress express at: www.catarinaandrade.com/create-time

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