Your Kids Need a Chance to Transition and Thrive at Home: A Wholistic Approach
It’s been almost a year since our children’s learning environments were completely disrupted thanks to COVID-19. Who would have ever thought? That’s why, now especially, it’s essential that I do my best to empower my kids to thrive at home.
Though this is our ninth year homeschooling, some of my kids had gone back to traditional school right before everything was shut down last March. They are still mourning the loss of their friends, their teachers, their routines and schedules, their sports, their youth groups, their activities, and simply getting out of the house. Though we’ve tried to maintain some semblance of normal, it’s simply not the same. And on top of that, so many anticipated plans, activities, and get-togethers have been canceled. Social distancing feels like a punishment for a crime they didn’t commit. It’s uncertain, uneasy, and just plain unfair.
After homeschooling for so many years, I know full-well how challenging that can be, especially with clashing personalities, special needs, and trauma thrown into the mix. However, I’ve found success with several practices over the years.
Best practices for a successful transition to homeschool
Nurture a sense of worth
Show Ruthless Compassion
I know how much of a challenge this can be, day in and day out. Believe me, I know. Some days, this is a serious struggle. But just as a car needs the proper fuel to run correctly, kids need the right support to be happy, find joy, and traverse this unprecedented time, on top of also trying to pursue academic excellence from home. They need robust doses of grace, empathy, and compassion. They need to express their feelings and feel felt. It’s so easy to have a “suck it up buttercup” attitude because we’re all dealing with major disruptions. But that will simply isolate them further. Instead, validating their feelings and sitting in the mess right there with them is so valuable and necessary.
I’ve tried many different schedules over the years, but it’s always worked best for me to keep a very loose daily homeschool schedule without specific time blocks. It’s not super structured, but it’s predictable. We complete school work in the morning, eat lunch, and then relax and have fun in the afternoon. Yes, we have snacks and sometimes school work runs into the afternoon, but a general plan is crucial for success. All students thrive when they know what to expect in school, and being at home is no different. I’m a huge fan of a relaxed routine with plenty of unscheduled times, but we all need some type of schedule, no matter how loose, to be successful.
Care for your child’s physical health
According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschoolers need 10-13 hours of sleep, school-aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep, and teens need 8-10 hours per night. Sleep is absolutely essential for basically everything, so this is a fantastic time to let kids sleep in a little, though not so much that their entire schedule gets thrown off.
Our instinct is often to reach for the processed snacks and sugary treats in times of stress because those foods quite literally make us feel happier by offering a spike in serotonin levels. The problem, though, is that the initial high doesn’t last and we’re left craving even more. Instead, real foods fuel our bodies properly and help us feel satiated. They also keep us healthy and performing at our best, especially when we consume lots of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. They also support our immune system to keep us from getting sick! Likewise, skipping sugary drinks and staying hydrated with water keeps our bodies content and working well.
Take time to play
Enjoy the outdoors
I wrote a post a while back about why it’s so vital that we get enough time in nature to live a fulfilling life. Especially with research showing that nature can combat depression, I’m kicking my kids out of the house as much as possible to help overcome the sadness of social voids. Also important, nature increases empathy, encourages mindfulness, improves mood, increases energy, increases focus (even for people with ADHD), and improves sleep. It would even be worthwhile to consider telling them to go barefoot when the weather permits!
Positive Body Movement
On the days when the kids can’t get outside or simply need an extra pick-me-up, setting up a free YouTube yoga or workout video may just calm down some of the crazies. Dance parties and nature walks are some other great ways to get people moving. I like to use kids’ yoga videos especially when we get overstimulated and dysregulated because they foster movement, mindfulness, and focus.
Prioritize ways to connect deeply
Now, more than ever, it’s so important that our children feel connected to us. Particularly without being able to spend time with their friends, it’s vital that we prioritize and nurture our relationship with them. Not only does it help them regulate, but it’s also essential for them to feel safe in these uncertain times. They rely on us to set the emotional thermostat in our homes and fostering that connection is necessary to find happiness, joy, satisfaction, and peace. Playing games, talking, cooking, eating, doing devotionals, reading books, or simply being silly are all fantastic ways to spend time together. We really love games that create conversation at dinner – ones like How I’m Feeling, Vertellis or Peacemakers foster an intentional space that’s focused on connection.
Help your child tune in to self-care
Many of our schedules have freed up significantly, offering us a probably-needed break from the rat race. I see this as a positive aspect of social distancing because it affords us the ability to slow down and practice self-care. And given how stressful this current situation is, perhaps some distancing from the news and current events updates is also in order, depending, of course, on what the kids can handle. When possible, this is a perfect time to limit stressors, deadlines, and commitments so they can recharge. It’s also a nice time to encourage kids to pick up hobbies that bring them joy and satisfaction.
We’ll all likely be depending on screens and technology much more for distance schooling and staying connected with our people. While all of that is good and necessary, too much screen time, especially before bedtime, can negatively impact sleep. A screen-free hour before bedtime is a great way to lessen exposure to blue light, encouraging natural circadian rhythms. Alternatively, blue light blocking glasses can be a good tool to use before bedtime if screens are being used.
Activities like deep breathing, praying, meditation, and mindfulness prompts can be so nice to encourage a peaceful presence and support focus. Apps like Headspace, Stop, Breathe & Think, Calm or Mindful Family are easy ways to get started. Likewise, diffusing essential oils during the day can promote a calm environment that helps kids concentrate throughout the day. Some of my favorites are Peace & Calming, Stress Away, my favorite Chillax blend, or a mix of equal parts Cinnamon Bark, Peppermint, and Bergamot. Here’s how you can start your own collection HERE. I also usually play classical music in the background to create a serene ambiance, as I find that music with lyrics can be distracting while tackling schoolwork.
I’d love to hear from you, too … what are some other ways you are empowering your children at home? Share so we can learn from each other!
Nicole Chryst, guest author
Let’s heal our health. Join me in the journey to create natural, holistic, healing homes that offer safe havens where our families can connect, thrive, and find joy in wellness. When we fuel our bodies properly, practice the self-care we need, and experience connecting relationships, we can all resiliently thrive together and fulfill our God-given purposes.
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Please start now with these easy ways to empower your kids, because you want your kids to thrive at home.
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“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. – Mat 6:33 CSB