Life

Ask the Expert: Mindfulness can help the back-to-school transition

As part of food-store chain Centra's Live Well campaign, mindfulness expert Bridgeen Rea has seven tips to help parents support their children as they readjust to the new school term

Mindfulness is more practical than you might think. Key elements are consistency – ie establishing a routine – and being there. Devoting 15 minutes of deep listening to our children daily can help and support them enormously

SUMMER holidays for children means there's been no homework, no imperative to get up at a certain time, no uniform, no teachers and no rules to break. But September is here and all of this is back with a vengeance. Here's how parents can help, in mindful ways:

1. ROUTINE

The only way to benefit from mindfulness practice is to be consistent. Similarly, establishing a consistent routine is important for kids of any age. Our bodies work on a rhythm so the earlier a routine can be established the better. It's old-fashioned advice but it's also mindful: early to bed, early to rise makes us healthy and wise.

2. BE PREPARED

Some people mange to organise their lives like a military operation. While we can admire such organisation and discipline, just taking a leaf out of their book will support the back-to-school transition. Have backpacks and school bags packed the night before – make this part of your daily routine. Similarly, lunchboxes or lunch money can be ticked off the night before, saving last-minute panic in the morning. Planning the weekly shop to cover lunch and snack needs will allow some peace of mind, helping your morning go smoothly.

3. SCREEN TIME LIMITS

At least an hour or two before bedtime. And, depending on the age of the children, have some ‘quiet time'. Quiet time is not yet bedtime but it's time without TV, smartphones or laptops. Time maybe to read to the children or let them read, play or paint or other creative activity, maybe even study using books and paper (not screens) if they are older. The hardest thing about this is that you as the parent must do it to; it won't work if you take away their iPad but continue to check your phone.

4. BEDROOM IS A HAVEN

Make their bedroom an oasis of calm; enlist the kids in helping to de-clutter regularly. Have blackout blinds, even play soothing music and burn some calming essential oils, such as lavender.

5. DE-STRESSING PRACTICES

Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, bedtime yoga, mindful breathing and mindful thinking can help everyone adjust to an earlier bedtime. There are lots of books, apps and classes where we can learn these techniques. When our bodies switch into 'fight or flight' mode, we engage in shallow breathing. On the other hand, mindful breathing reduces our heartrate and triggers a relaxation response. It slows us down. You and the kids can also follow my Ten Week #LiveWell Mindfulness plan on Centra.co.uk together.

6. DON'T COMPARE YOURSELF

Do what's right for your family and you. Try not to compare yourself to what others are doing. As Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Mindfulness is, after all, the art of being happy and content in the moment. This applies to the kids comparing themselves to others in the classroom. Every child develops differently and at different stages. Let them know its OK to be where they are at.

7. BE THERE

One big lesson mindfulness teaches us is to be present; for ourselves, for the moment and for our relationships. When we know how to really be there we can be a refuge for our children when they are stressed and worried. We can be a safe place for them to return to. It all starts with our own mind and heart as we learn to cultivate calm and let go of our own worries and concerns so that we can really listen and understand our children. If we can devote 15 minutes of deep listening to our children daily, we will help and support them enormously.

:: Centra's a four-strong team of experts – fitness coach Shane McGuigan, nutritionist Jane McClenaghan, mindfulness expert Bridgeen Rea and Olympian and Commonwealth Games competitor Johnny Davis – provide advice on how to get in shape and stay healthy. More at centra.co.uk

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