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How to Make Parenting More Joyful and Less Stressful

How to Make Parenting More Joyful and Less Stressful

Parents these days spend a lot more attention and time on their children compared to that in the past. A recent analysis of 11 wealthy countries estimates that in 1965, the average mother spent 54 minutes a day caring for children, that number doubled to 104 minutes in 2012. And the time men spend caring for their kids has jumped from 16 minutes a day to 59.[1]

Take a look at these graphs that show the trend of time spent with children since the 1960s:

      Every parent wants what’s best for their children. Most, if not all of lifestyle and parenting choices are centered around trying to provide the best opportunities for their kids. Parents are preoccupied trying to ensure their kids are healthy, safe, have access to the best education and are set up to be successful adults.

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      Parents don’t mind going the extra mile to make sure their kids are doing okay. They pick their son up from college in a blizzard because he wants to spend the weekend at home. They insist that their daughter discuss every decision with them–no matter how small to help them avoid making mistakes of any kind. And though these intentions are honorable, the methods could be doing the parents (and the children) more harm than good.

      Protection Going to Extreme

      Think back to a time when you were in grade school. You probably had special school supplies that you loved. It could have been a special notebook or maybe it was a pencil or a special eraser. Because you liked it so much, you worked hard to preserve it.

        Your special eraser became an item that was for show and was never used. You didn’t allow anyone else to use it and you worked hard to keep it clean and in pristine shape.

          Instead of allowing your eraser to serve its purpose and help you erase your mistakes, the item became a source of stress. Whenever you’ve accidentally caused some dirts on the eraser, you blame yourself for it. Not only could you not use, you had to actively work to keep it safe and in perfect condition.

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            Now that you look back on the incident, you understand that these actions were irrational and silly. The eraser was created to be used. You were supposed to erase things with it. It never truly served its purpose. The same principle applies to over-parenting.

            Stressful Kids and Stressful Parents

            Parents have to be careful that they don’t project their own issues and ego onto the kids. If the child isn’t doing well, our culture has a way of making the parent feels as though they’ve done something wrong. Parents are pressured into feeling that their child’s successes and failures are a direct reflection of themselves. Consider the following questions:

            • Do you think that children’s accomplishments are a direct reflection of good parenting?
            • Does a child’s bad behavior signify a failure by the parent?

            If you answered yes to most of the questions above, such parenting is more ego-driven and is less beneficial to the kids than you think it is. The better the kids do, the better the parents feel about themselves as a parent. Parents’ value and worth have become directly tied to the success and/or failures of the children. This creates a mountain of unfair stress and pressure on parents.

            When parents’ focus is completely on their children and their work tirelessly to keep them from experiencing failure and making mistakes, they set themselves up for disappointment and depression. A 2013 National Health Interview Survey reported that five percent of all U.S. parents living in two-parent families with their children, and eleven percent of single parents, report two or more depression-related symptoms.[2]

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            Parents’ world shouldn’t revolve entirely around their kids because it can cause them to lose their own identity. All of parents’ likes, dislikes, hobbies and interest become driven by their children’s interests and needs. They no longer know what they truly enjoy doing, who they are and they can’t take time for themselves.

            Always allowing children to be the number one priority and the center of parents’ joy is unfair to others in the life. Parents’ relationships will begin to suffer and they may be tempted to put their marriage on the back burner as is the case with many couples with children. Over time, if parents continue to neglect their romantic relationship, the relationship will wither. This is a path to stress, unrelenting pressure and unhappiness for parents.

            Parents may believe that once their children are grown, they can focus on themselves a bit more and reignite the romance with their partner. But the truth is that once parents have established a pattern of co-dependence, it doesn’t end with the kids becoming adults. Parents will continue to worry, over-parent and allow their children to rule their universe for the rest of their lives.

            Bringing Back Joy to Parenting

            What is the key to healthy parenting? Relax. Like the eraser example mentioned before, let it do its job and don’t get too worried about making it a little bit dirty.

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              Children are going to make mistakes. In fact, they need to make mistakes. Shielding the children from failure shields them from valuable life lessons, robs them of the tenacity and fortitude failure provides and it tampers with their destiny. Being a child is the safest period to fall and learn to be independent. When children fail early, they learn stuff earlier too.

              When parents accept wrongdoings, for their kids and for themselves, they’ll be less stressful. Not only does this make both parents and their kids happier, children will also grow up handing things independently. They’ll grow up as a real adult who can take good care of themselves in the long run.

              The litmus test of good parenting is not determined by the successes and failures of the children. Preventing the children from making mistakes is an exercise in futility and counter-intuitive. A parent’s role isn’t preventing failure but showing their child how to get up and recover when they do fail. It is parents’ job to demonstrate how they should handle mistakes and cope with missteps with integrity. This is how parents truly impact and shape their character.

              Parents’ job is to love unconditionally, guide and gently correct their children. Parents are not their child’s savior, force-field and life compass. So, relax, stop hovering and have a bit of faith in the process. The kids will be just fine.

              Reference

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              Anna Chui

              Anna is the Chief Editor and Content Strategist of Lifehack. She's also a communication expert who shares tips on motivation and relationships.

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              Published on May 7, 2021

              20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

              20 Energizing Brain Breaks For Kids

              From coaching martial arts to children as young as four years old, I very quickly came to the understanding that if I wanted to help kids progress their skills, I needed to find a way to help them focus more consistently in my class.

              There are two key ways I found when it came to improving my students’ level of focus:

              1. Make what we’re doing more interesting. Nothing is off the table here—from having ninja clowns on the rampage in a lesson to including popular games with a martial arts theme, tapping into the student’s love of fun to help them focus.
              2. Introduce brain breaks.

              Brain breaks are small mental breaks that help the kids stay more focused. Think of the brain as a fuel gauge that shows the information you can consciously hold in your mind at any given moment. When the kids are focused and working hard on their tasks, the meter is usually full. They can easily concentrate and pass experiences into their long-term memory.

              But when the needle starts to drop, you may observe that your kids are feeling anxious or looking restless. New information, experiences, and knowledge are not getting processed from the staging area or working memory into the long-term memory.[1]

              It’s here that brain breaks make the most difference, as they allow us to “top-up the tank” or reset the gauge so that we can continue to learn and focus and at a higher level.

              If you’ve been home tutoring, you’ll appreciate that brain breaks can help kids in many ways. They can reduce stress and frustration. Think of those times when you’re helping your kids solve a difficult problem. It’s taxing for you both and when compounded with the energy loss after a day at school or watching TV. The stress effect can be compounded, and it’s here that brain breaks can be a lifesaver.[2]

              The following is a selection of brain break ideas for kids. You’ll see that some are physical activities while others are more relaxing. It’s always great to test them out to see which ones connect the best with your children.

              It’s okay to repeat the same brain breaks. Having a clear name and mission to a break can help keep your child excited, knowing that they’ll have the opportunity to take part in a future round of the activity.

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              Active Brain Breaks

              Here are some active brain breaks for kids that you can try out.

              1. Swapsies

              Have the participants stand behind a chair. Call out a character trait, like “everyone with brown eyes.” You then swap places with someone else who has the same characteristic. If you have nothing that matches, you stay put!

              Examples: “Everyone with trainers on.” “Everyone who is left-handed.” “Everyone who is wearing yellow.”

              2. Dance Party

              Put five or six different types of songs on Spotify, including a classic like “baby shark or the hamster dance.” Dim the lights if possible and have the kids dance to the tunes. Then, change the tunes and change the dance style. It’s silly and fun.

              3. Freeze Dance

              Similar to Dance Party except that when the music stops, students have to stay perfectly still until the music restarts. You can make this even more fun by trying to make the students smile. If they smile, they are out and have to sit down.

              4. Keep It Up

              Students must keep a balloon from touching the floor. You can add multiple balloons. You can make it more competitive by having different balloons of two different colors and split people into teams. Whoever keeps the balloons up the longest or the team with the most balloons in the air with a timer of 60 seconds wins.

              5. Simon Says

              This brain break for kids is an old favorite. You can also mix it up with martial arts moves, Fortnite dances, superhero moves, etc.

              6. Animal Movement

              Move like different animals. It’s fun for younger children. We use Flamingo where you stand on one leg, crawl like a bear, stand like a meerkat, run like a cheetah, and walk like a penguin.

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              7. Find It Fast

              “Find It Fast” is a scavenger hunt variation. Call an item out in the room and kids have to stand by it. For example, find a clock, find something with a face, find something smelly, find some money, find a phone, etc.

              8. The Frog

              Physical Challenges can be excellent fun. We have one in the martial arts class called “The Frog” where you squat like a frog, then lean forward so your head and feet are off the floor. These are all old yoga poses, so have a look through a booklet or website for some safe ideas. Other examples are grabbing your nose with your left hand and touching your knee with your right elbow.

              9. Pizza Delivery Time

              Give the students paper plates and tell them to hold the plates above their head on a flat hand. They then run around the room and try to keep the plate in their hand. You can make it more challenging by having other students try to knock others’ plates off. There’s usually a 3-star jump penalty if your plate touches the floor.

              10. Limbo

              We use martial arts belts and the students take turns going underneath the belts. Fun music creates an awesome atmosphere here.

              11. Human Knot

              Split the group of people and have everyone link hands under and over. That’s making knots between everyone in the group. Have the other students try to untangle them and return everyone back into a circle.

              12. Feather Balance

              This brain break for kids works well with gentle music, and you can use a balloon or a straw if you don’t have a feather handy.

              13. Stack them high

              The students should have plastic cups and paper squares. The goal is to make a tower as high as possible, or it could be to make a triangle or even a pyramid.

              Relaxing Brain Breaks

              We talked about brain breaks for kids that are being used to energize the students. But they can also be used to calm and relax them. We’re more familiar with the term mindfulness, but it’s the same idea. These are brain breaks for kids that reduce stress and anxiety.

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              14. Meditation

              Meditation

              is a popular way to reduce anxiety. There are lots of great examples already pre-recorded on YouTube that you can follow along with. Below is a useful classroom meditation example.

              15. Kaleidoscope

              Kaleidoscopes are fun ways to relax. They are mesmerizing and like a peaceful vortex that sucks you into them. Below is a great example of a visual online one you can use.

              16. Reading/Listening to a Story

              When I surveyed the members of our martial arts club about how their kids employ brain breaks at home, there was a clear winner among the families—listening to a story or reading a story. The feedback was that the process of daydreaming a little helps the kids to recharge. But it goes without saying that the story needs to be engaging.

              17. Doodling

              My personal favorite way to brain break as a kid was to doodle. Doodling gives your child a few minutes to draw anything they want. It can be calming for them, and it’s a lot more fun if you have different types of pens or crayons available to use. Add some soft music, and you have a simple way to take some time to relax.

              18. Coloring Sheets

              Coloring sheets are another way to relax the mind. There’s lots of great coloring in pads available, but here are some links to public resources shared on the internet that are great examples.

              19. Deep Breathing

              Deep breathing

              is an epic way to help your child slow down. It is a quick way to relieve anxiety so that they feel more ready for the next task ahead.

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              Try this: put your hands on your tummy, breathe in through the nose, and feel your belly expand like a balloon. Hold it here, then slowly breathe out through the mouth while feeling your stomach get smaller. Repeat this 10 times. Use the following counts: breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and breath out for 4 seconds.

              20. Going Outside

              Go outside was the second most popular response from our parent’s survey about brain breaks for kids at home. Fresh air always feels nice. You can combine this with a treasure hunt, looking for different colored cars, types of birds, or even types of trees, if you’re familiar with these.

              My personal favorite is using a mushroom spotting app on our phones and finding a mushroom or toadstool, then using the app to identify its name. This is surprisingly engaging for children. But a few safety rules about not touching them is important. It gives kids a change of scenery and helps revitalize the senses, providing a welcome break from their homework.

              How Often Should You Introduce Brain Breaks?

              The key to brain breaks is their timing. If you can introduce them before you notice that your kids are entering deep fatigue or their loss of focus has set in. You’ll find a great balance between breaks and effort.

              I’ve observed from my martial arts coaching that younger students have a smaller amount of working memory than older kids. My formula is for five minutes of technical training, we provide five minutes of brain breaks for students under seven years old. Plus, we coach to 15 minutes of training to five minutes of brain breaks for children under 12 years.

              Final Thoughts

              Implementing calming brain breaks for kids is a really efficient way of introducing brain breaks. You have a quick way to allow your students to learn about regulating themselves. Balancing their mind and energy is a useful skill, and you can take this with you everywhere you go.

              Our martial arts center revolutionized our approach to coaching by using brain breaks for kids. We found that although we were teaching less technical skills, there was now consistent progress from the students. Plus, everyone was less anxious, happier, and are having more fun. This is a win overall.

              If you’ve been having challenges with your kids focusing at home, maybe try a mixture of the calming and active breaks to see which types work best for your kids.

              Featured photo credit: Robert Collins via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] SimplyPsychology: Working Memory Model
              [2] BrainFacts.org: Kids Need Brain Breaks — And So Do Adults

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