by Megan Larson: For most of us the past month has been filled with considerably more screen time than usual…
In the realm of online learning, this is uncharted territory, especially for children who are already being stretched both psychologically and emotionally. Our bodies and minds are not used to this type of strain, so the question becomes: how do we consciously support both children and ourselves when most of our daily tasks are now in front of a computer?
As a play therapist and yoga teacher three things feel important: the breath, movement, and being in nature. Combining these three can help us to stay present and aware, while also navigating increased computer time.
To help children find their breath, it helps to collect or buy feathers! Have the child choose one to hold in their hand, then show them how to take a deep breaths in and blow out through the nose, while watching the feathers move. Repeat for 3-5 minutes. You can also make up your own breathing games with cotton balls and straws. The benefits of mindful breathing are vast, ranging from a reduction in anxiety to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the body’s “rest and digest” system. It can help ground our bodies and bring us into the present moment, as it is easy to “float away” and experience mild disassociation from the virtual reality of the internet realm.
Depending on the age of the child, it can help to make the movement sessions a family experience. Any kind of movement is good: yoga poses, jump rope, tai chi, leap frog, dancing, etc. As you do it, focus attention on the breath, and while voicing how the movement feels in your body and the internal sensations. You can ask what’s happening for you inside? This helps to support healthy embodiment development for children and to help them develop a curiosity about their own body’s needs. Share with them how the movement feels, verbalize your experience and how you are caring for yourself.
Last but not least, find ways to connect with nature. This has the ability to help restore children’s attention and relieve stress. Being in nature is an easy way for children and adults to get in touch with their senses and present moment awareness. Nature allows the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s command center, to dial down and rest, like a tired muscle. Even if you live in a city and can’t travel there are many creative ways to get the healing benefits of connecting with the earth. In between screen time, catch some quick sunshine rays on the deck, lay on your backs watching the clouds, bugs or butterflies. Collect rocks outside, climb trees and make up silly songs about animals or flowers.
In this new age of new conditions, our task is to stay connected to ourselves, while teaching our children to do the same.