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Supporting Tweens and Teens As School Begins

Tell us @tryverima or comment below how your tween/teen is handling the start of school. 

Fall has arrived, and with that the return to school. Across the globe, the return to school amidst the Coronavirus pandemic looks differently depending on where you are living. Some kids are returning to in-person learning at school, others are embarking on an online learning journey, some are doing a combination of the two, and others still are remaining at home to complete their learning via homeschooling.

Regardless of which avenue your child is traveling down, there is no doubt that they will likely be feeling rather anxious about school starting back up again. However, how each child is feeling about school starting back up will be quite different. Some kids thrived during the pandemic shut-down, enjoying the slower pace, more family time, online learning, and decrease in peer pressures and expectations. Other children found the lockdown extremely hard, missing the social interaction, struggling with online learning, perhaps exposed to difficult family situations, and missing the routine of school. 

So, how your tween or teenager reacts to school could be all over the place, as they struggle to prepare themselves for the new unknown. Your child needs your support more than ever, even though in typical teenager fashion, they would never let you know that. Here are some ways that you can help to support your tween or teenager’s mental health when we return to school.

Connect and listen

This is sometimes easier said than done in the world of tweens and teens, because they often struggle between wanting us around and wanting their privacy and independence. However, these are uncertain times, and this return to school is going to be like no other your child has ever experienced, no matter what type of schooling they’re doing.

Find ways to connect with your child, and be there to listen to them when they want to talk. Sharing in their interests, spending quiet time together, going for walks, and just sharing their space with them can help to create opportunities for them to open up and talk with you. Often, side-by-side without eye contact (like going for a walk together or taking a scenic drive) can help to take the pressure off and help them feel more comfortable talking to you.

If they do decide to open up and talk, just be an ear for them. Don’t offer advice or opinions unless asked, just listen and be there for them. Often times they are not looking for us to solve their problems.  And in fact, by offering “solutions” they can feel judged or unheard. Remind your child that you are a safe place for them to talk to, and allow them the freedom to express themselves. Acknowledge their feelings of worry, sadness, or frustration, and help them to label their emotions, as this helps them to process what they are feeling.

Get back into a good routine

I’ll admit it, this process is going to be a bit of a struggle. It’s been almost 6 months of very little routine in our house, and the idea of early mornings and rush, rush, rush is not overly appealing to me. However, as parents, it falls on us to create the routine again, because our children truly do thrive on them.

Having a solid routine at home will help your child to adjust to being back at school. Start setting earlier bedtimes for everyone, and have your children get their stuff ready the night before to help make those early mornings a little easier. Even if you are planning on homeschooling, you will want to set up some routines to help your child transition back into school mode. Just like toddlers thrive on routine, so do teenagers. In fact, all children benefit from solid routines at home, as it helps to create boundaries for them and creates a safe space where they know what is expected of them. 

Speaking of boundaries and spaces, it’s also helpful to have defined physical spaces where school work will take place. A quiet area with a table and comfortable chair so their brains and bodies are prepared to learn. Similarly, a place your kiddos can step away from when they need a break or are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. 

Remain attuned to your child

Tweens and teens are known for keeping to themselves, wanting privacy to process all the changes that are taking place within them, and wanting to manage the ups and downs of their lives by themselves. But, this doesn’t mean that they don’t need you. They really do, now more than ever.

Keep an eye on your child, even if it’s done subtly, and remain attuned to their moods and behavior. Watch for any changes in your child, either physical or behavioral. Some indications that your child may be struggling or feeling anxious could include:

  • Stomach aches or headaches
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Lashing out, more easily angered
  • Seeking constant reassurance from a parent
  • Loss of appetite
  • Avoiding or refusing to do things they normally would (activities, responsibilities, etc.)

If you notice changes, try having an honest discussion with them, and see if they will open up and talk to you. This video from Psychologist and author Collett Smart shares some practical tips and strategies for talking to your tween/teen.

Limit their access to the news

While your tween or teen is likely at an age where they can understand what they are hearing in the news, it doesn’t mean that they are processing all of the information correctly, and it can cause overwhelm and increased feelings of anxiety. There is an abundance of negativity in the news these days, as is to be expected in the midst of a global pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean that your child needs to hear all of that.

Limit the amount of screen time your child has and how much access they have to the news and social media. This can sometimes prove to be challenging, as for the most part our kids are used to having a certain amount of screen time. But, if you find that they are tuning into the news a lot and getting anxious and concerned about what they are hearing or reading, then you will want to find ways to limit that. Set some limits to screen time in your home, and make it part of the new back-to-school routine. While they may challenge and argue this boundary, their mental health will thank you.

Don’t stress about the academics

Don’t get me wrong, school is important and so are the academics, but not right now. Not yet. Let your child get into the groove of their new schedule (whatever that looks like) without putting on pressure about the academics. Chances are, they’re already feeling nervous about keeping up with their grades after such a long time being off, and they’re probably wondering how they will fare compared to their classmates.

Eventually the academics will ramp up, but first and foremost is your child’s overall mental well-being. By starting off slow and steady, it will be a positive experience for them.

Set some positive goals

Help your tween/teen to set some positive goals for themselves, even if they’re not related to school. Set up a vision board or a dream board that they could add to, or create one as a family. Maybe you have different places that you want to visit once it is safe to do so. Maybe there is a new hobby that your child wants to try. 

Whatever it might be, encourage dreaming and goal setting with your child, as this helps to create a positive mindset, and it fosters feelings of hope. That is so important at a time when life is uncertain and confusing. Help them to remain focused on their dreams and goals, adding to the vision board regularly.

Final Thoughts

This is going to be a school year unlike any other your child has experienced, and that alone is daunting. But, if we are mindful of our own mindset, and go into this school year with as much positivity as we can muster (I totally recognize that it can be a challenge for us as parents too!), then we can make this a wonderful year.

Point out the good that is happening in the world, talk about how everyday people are stepping up and helping others, making a difference, and combatting this pandemic. Set positive dreams and goals that you want to achieve, both individually and as a family. Stay attuned to your child, and keep the lines of communication open. Let them know you are their safe space and you are there for them whenever they need you. We’ve got this, parents! 

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How to Support your Elementary-Aged Child’s Mental Health When We Return to School

Tell us @tryverima how your child is reacting to school

Parents across the country are worrying about the return to school this fall and what it will mean for their children, themselves, and everyone around them. These are strange times, and we are all feeling the stress from it.

 The coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world in recent months has most people feeling pretty apprehensive about returning to school. With no way of knowing for certain how it will all pan out, parents are concerned about the safety and well-being of their children. But, we have to dig deep during these times, take care of ourselves, monitor our mental health, and keep a close eye on our children’s mental health as well.

 With school just around the corner, your school-age child might be feeling a wide range of emotions and possible stress. Kids process things differently than adults, and it is important during these times that we remain tuned into our children and their emotions. Here are some simple ways that you can help to support your child’s mental health as they navigate this new normal and return to a very different school year.

Work on your own mindset

As a parent who battles anxiety, this pandemic has challenged me tremendously, and I have had to dig deep to find the strength and positive mindset to be a good role model for my kids. I know that they watch me closely and take their cues from me, so I needed to keep my own anxiety in check, in order to be there for them. I focused on a mindset of gratitude, being grateful for our health, safety, and increased family time together. 

 

As parents, we need to set the stage for a positive mindset, and we can do so by modeling our own. It is not always easy, and of course there are times when we are going to feel anxious, sad, stressed, or fed up, and that is perfectly fine and perfectly normal. But, it is so important that we pick ourselves back up and continue onward, modeling resilience and positivity for our kids.

Limit how much news your child overhears

Little ears are everywhere, and children pick up on everything. No, they may not answer when you call them, they may not pick up the toy in the middle of the floor that you’ve tripped on five times, but they will hear you discussing world events or watching the news. Be mindful of what you watch on tv if your children are around, because listening to the news could be quite upsetting for children to overhear. You want them to be aware of what is going on in the world, but you want them to know the appropriate level of information for their age. Hearing constant updates about the virus only serves to increase their anxiety, possibly confuse them even more, and make them worry unnecessarily.

Try to keep regular structure and routines at home

It has been incredibly hard maintaining routine these past few months, but it is something that my children thrive on. When life was all scattered, confusing, and up-in-the-air back in March when we were waiting to hear what the schools were doing, my children’s mental health was not good. They lacked the routine of school, they missed their friends, we were struggling to adjust to all that was being thrown at us, and the lack of structure caused them to worry even more.

 

Once we knew we weren’t returning to school in March, my husband and I got our heads back in the game, and we got our structure and routines set back up at home, with regular mealtimes, regular bedtimes, and some semblance of structure throughout the day – homeschooling, time outside, family time in the evening, etc. As much as you can manage, keep the routines going at home. Once your child returns to school, have that dinnertime, evening, bedtime routine in place so that there is security and structure at home. They may have to struggle through the uncertainty and unfamiliarity of the school day, but at least they can come home to their safe place, full of predictability and reassurance.

Be open when your child wants to talk

Your child may want to talk with you about their day, and they may have questions about how things are being done at school – extra hand-washing, social distancing, masks, etc. Be there when they need to talk, and just be a listening ear unless they want advice or have questions. Your child may just need to talk it out and let out the stresses of the day, and knowing that they can come to you to do that will do wonders in helping them know that they can get through this. 

 

If they have questions about what’s going on, be honest with them and try to help them understand. There are many resources available online that are there for parents to access, when they are unsure of how to respond to a particular question. There’s nothing wrong with letting your child know that you don’t currently have the answer to a question, but that you’ll figure it out together. This is completely new for all of us! So, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t have every answer. Just creating space for your child makes a huge difference, because it lets them know they’re safe and cared for.

 

Limit Screen Time

Many school districts have decided to open the school year with full distance learning.  Whether it’s synchronous or asynchronous, undoubtedly kids will be on the screen. . . a lot.  It is imperative that they are given frequent breaks to go outside, take in some fresh air and bright light as often as possible. Even the short 15 minute breaks in between meetings are beneficial.  And if they can get some exercise while outside, even better.  This will release endorphins and improve overall mood and well-being.  A quick jog around the block, a few minutes of jump rope, hula-hooping or some jumping jacks and burpees are an easy and convenient way to accomplish this.  Play some fun music outside and have a quick 10 minute dance party.  The effects are cumulative and positive.  

Consider enforcing no screen time from dinner for the rest of the evening.  The light from the screen will delay their internal clock (circadian rhythm) and suppress the release of melatonin (hormone responsible for making us sleepy) thus children may not fall asleep until later.  And by now, we all understand the importance a solid night’s sleep plays in mental well-being.  

Stay connected

When confronted with something like this pandemic, children often worry more about the ones they love than they do about themselves. If they are overhearing that this virus tends to affect older people, for example, they may start to worry about their grandparents. Be sure to stay connected to loved ones during these times, especially if you live far apart. Let your kids call their grandparents and chat with them regularly, check in with relatives, and just maintain connection however you can. Having regular check-ins with loved ones can mean so much to kids, and it does wonders for all of us when we connect to the ones we love. 

Final thoughts

These are incredibly challenging times, and we don’t know what this school year will bring. All we can do for now is focus on caring for ourselves and our loved ones, and that includes caring for our mental health as well. These small steps can make a big difference for your child, and they can help to support positive mental health through this transition back to school. Just by being there for your child, and letting them know you’ve got their back, makes a world of difference. 

 

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Mindfulness in a Hectic World

Elaine Mindful

In schools across the country, students are being taught the practice of mindfulness – how to slow their bodies and become more in-tuned with their thoughts, feelings, and breathing. In a world that seems to be racing along at an incomprehensible pace, mindfulness is coming about from a need for kids to learn how to “disconnect” from their world of technology and move away from the over-stimulation that surrounds them on a daily basis. This is a critical step for schools to be taking, as cases of depression, anxiety, and learning disorders like ADD and ADHD are on an exponential rise in children. Mindfulness is linked with positive emotions and better health, and it can be incorporated into daily life with minimal effort.

It is not just children who benefit from mindfulness, however. Incidents of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and insomnia are also on the rise in adults, making it equally important for adults to become more mindful as well. In this world we live in, with the constant barrage of technological stimulation, instant access to information, and increased pressures at home and at work, adults are increasingly unable to handle all of the pressures that modern adulthood demands. As a result, we are a population of unhealthy, stressed out, and unhappy individuals, and if we are not careful, we will be passing those traits on to our children.

Instead, let us all pause for a moment, and think about the benefits of mindfulness and how we can incorporate it into our lives. Now, some may be thinking, ‘here is yet another thing to add to my to-do list, when I’m already completely overwhelmed and exhausted.’ Not to worry, my friend, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. In fact, incorporating mindfulness into your daily life doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. There are a few simple steps that you can take each day to be more mindful, and to model for your children how they can be more mindful as well. 

Elisha Goldstein, of the popular Mindful website, explains how we can take a small moment in our day to simply S.T.O.P. when we are feeling stressed out. Here is what she recommends:

S = Stop: Stop what you’re doing; put things down for a moment
T = Take: Take a few deep breaths; focus directly on your breathing
O = Observe: Observe your experience as it is, taking in to account any thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Notice how your body is feeling and how it is responding to any stimuli.
P = Proceed. Proceed with something that will help you in the moment – have a cup of tea, talk with a friend, go for a walk, etc. 

Getting out into nature can help us to be more mindful: Photo via Pixabay

You can also use this strategy for moments when you’re not feeling stressed, instead use it to focus on yourself and simply calm your thoughts and have a moment of quiet. Taking time to do such things throughout your day, even if it’s just for a moment, can help tremendously in managing our emotions and maintaining a sense of calm. If you have more than a few minutes to spare, then getting out into nature is a wonderful (and easy) way to practice mindfulness as well. The peace and tranquility that one can experience in nature helps us to remove ourselves from the busyness of our lives; it gives us something to focus our attention on (listening to the wind rustling the leaves or the birds chirping, smelling the fresh grass, etc.), and it gives us a quiet place to focus on our breathing, soothing our minds and souls and creating a sense of calm. 

In this fast-paced world we live in, it is crucial that we take steps to protect and care for our mental health as well as our physical health. It is also important that we set the example for our children as well, so that they don’t grow up anxious, depressed, over-stimulated, and stressed. Practicing mindfulness each day is an excellent first step toward preventing that. Mindfulness can help to lower stress levels, improve attention, decrease negative feelings, and even combat chronic pain. Take a few moments every day to incorporate mindfulness activities, either on your own or with your children. Use the S.T.O.P. strategy when you’re feeling stressed, and teach your children how to do the same. As Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, explains, “Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.”

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Bedtime Routines That Work

women in bed sleeping

When we hear the words ‘bedtime routine’, we often think of young children and the process parents go through to get their children ready for bed each night. If you are a parent to babies or young children, you also know how incredibly important these bedtime routines are. It helps your child’s body calm down after a busy day, it relaxes their muscles and their minds, and prepares their body for sleep. We usually give our kids a nice, warm bath, rub soothing lotion on them that smells of lavender fields, read them a story or two, have a cuddle, sing a lullaby, and send them off to their dreamland feeling happy, relaxed, and safe. What a wonderful way to end each day!

But, where’s OUR bedtime routine? Do we take the same time and care every evening to ensure that our trip into dreamland is as peaceful and loving as theirs? Likely not. If you’re anything like most parents of little children, you lovingly get your own kids off to bed, tackle the dirty dishes in the sink, throw on another load of laundry, tidy up the day’s mess, maybe grab an hour to yourself to watch some TV or catch up on social media, and then fall into bed exhausted, likely still feeling stressed, and perhaps even still in your clothes from the day! 

In this ever-changing, busy world we live in, it is so important that we carve out a little time for self-care, as this is often something that gets neglected in our lives. We put all of our time, energy, love, and effort into caring for our families, rarely taking time to care for ourselves. But, adults need bedtime routines too! We need to create a routine that helps our own bodies to settle down after the busy day, calm our muscles and our minds, and prepare ourselves for sleep. So, how do we do that? It’s really rather simple.

Not everyone’s bedtime routine will look the same, as everyone prefers different things. Simply start by incorporating a few small self-care activities at the end of your day to help prepare yourself for sleep. It might be a nice, hot bath where you can soak and relax for a little while. Have some calming music playing quietly while you soak, and just enjoy the peaceful, quiet time to yourself. Let your mental to-do list pause for a while, and just relax your mind. 

Following your bath, indulge your skin with Verima’s Renewal Citrus Trio lotion. Infused with organic CBD oil, this lotion will not only leave your skin soft and smooth, but you will feel relaxed, worry-free, and ready for sleep. With the beautiful combination of white and red grapefruit, orange, and a touch of cedar oil, the calming scent will be perfect for your evening bedtime routine.

If you find it challenging to get that mental list to quiet down enough for you to sleep, try incorporating some guided meditation before bedtime. There are many different programs and apps on the market now, so it may take you a bit of time to find the meditation that is just right for you. But, once you do, take a few minutes to do a guided meditation session to help your mind quiet down and your body to relax. 

By this point, your body should be feeling nice and relaxed, and your mind should be settling down and feeling ready for some good quality, restful sleep. Some people find that it is the evening time when their anxiety tends to ramp up, and they find it very challenging to quiet their minds enough to sleep. If you are one of those people, and your mind is still racing despite the bedtime routine, try a few drops of Verima’s CBD tincture, either on its own or in a cup of your favorite herbal tea. Chamomile tea is a wonderful choice for an evening drink, and adding a few drops of CBD oil to it will help to calm your nerves, relax your mind, and prepare your body for sleep.

You may choose to incorporate this entire bedtime routine, or only a few parts of it, but whichever you choose, make it a point to set aside a bit of time for self-care every evening before you go to bed. Put that same love and effort into your own routine as you do your children’s, in order to make sure that you get the restful sleep you need and deserve, and that you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to be the best you the following day.