We all know that change can be unsettling. Whether you're 4 years or 40 years old, an unexpected change in our routine can often leave us feeling anxious and overwhelmed. So when our boys began to show small signs they were feeling unsettled at the start of lockdown I wanted to find out how we could help them make sense of those feelings.
I spoke to mindfulness expert Priya Khan and holistic therapist Hayley Everingham to get their thoughts on the importance of mindfulness and the benefits of a plant based lifestyle in keeping little minds healthy.
Soon after lockdown began, I started to notice the boys' sleeping patterns had started to change. With all the family at home, bedtimes had crept later, our gratitude practice (where we each share something we're grateful for) had been forgotten and the eldest had even been found sleep walking on more than one occasion. The change in our daily routine was undoubtedly affecting them, but with our own feelings of overwhelm at the changing situation around us I was finding it difficult to reassure and calm them.
Mindfulness expert Priya Kahn told me "One of the challenges as a parent is learning how to teach our children how to handle negative emotions in a positive way, rather than trying to always prevent our kids from ever getting upset. It’s important for kids to learn the right ways to respond when they feel overwhelmed so that they can manage emotional stress better in the future."
She explained "Mindfulness tools can teach children how to understand their emotions and learn techniques to calm their bodies and minds. A good night’s sleep is important for us all, especially kids, as it helps keep them happy and healthy. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine is one of the best ways to help kids get a good night's sleep and better manage their emotions the following day."
Holistic therapist Hayley Everingham added "I find a bedtime routine has always been really important to my boys. When we’re doing our mental wellbeing exercises - positive affirmations, gratitude lists and breathing practices - we have always done these alongside using essential oils in massage and room sprays. It never ceases to amaze me how a simple smell or sound can instantly transport us back to a place or feeling."
Here, Priya and Hayley share their top 5 tips for getting children into a mindful bedtime routine, helping us all keep our minds healthy and hopefully get a better night's sleep.
Keep a consistent routine
When kids go to bed at roughly the same time each night, they settle into a rhythm. This makes it easier to fall asleep.
Once Hayley's boys have had a bedtime story they like to choose what oils they want in their diffusers. Both love lavender oil so they usually have this bubbling away in their Owl Feather diffusers. Not only does it calm the emotions of our little ones (and ourselves) it is also very soothing to tender skin.
If they are having a spate of bad dreams then Hayley makes her unique blend 'Monster away' spray before putting the story CD’s on. They enjoy the routine of spraying this around their room to protect them from any bad dreams and Hayley finds the visual act really helps to calm them.
Minimise screen time before bed
Did you know that mobile devices emit blue wavelengths of light that are particularly disruptive to the body’s sleep/wake cycle. That means that when they are held close to the face, the light enters your child’s eye and signals are sent to the brain to shut down the production of melatonin, which is the body’s natural sleep hormone. This can really disrupt the body clock and cause sleep delays and disruptions.
Instead of watching the tablet or tv before bed, Priya suggests trying to listen to a guided meditation or podcast to relax the mind and reduce worries, anxiety or stress. Meditation is known as one of the most well-known ways of relaxing the body. It can be difficult for kids to settle their bodies and minds, especially when they are upset, which is why guided meditations can be beneficial. Visualizing a calm and safe space & dipping into all the senses allows our bodies to slow down and enter a more restful state.
Encourage conversation & breathing techniques
Priya encourages us to open up conversation with your children, encouraging them to share any worries or concerns they may have with you. If they struggle with this, try introducing a worry teddy or comforter, or perhaps suggest they start a worry journal or jar - they can write down or share with the teddy anything that is playing on their mind to lighten their load.
Simple techniques such as taking long deep breaths - breathing from the diaphragm or stomach – also send signals to your body that it’s time to slow down. When we feel anxious, stressed or upset our breathing naturally becomes more rapid and shallow. By simply slowing down our breathing, the feeling of being ‘out of control’ gradually dissipates. Hayley suggests trying to fill your mind with positive thoughts, breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 4 and then slowly breathing away all the anxious energy for 6 seconds.
Create a calming environment
How is the lighting, temperature, scent, noise? Can any of it be adjusted to help them settle into a sound sleep? Could you try introducing an oil diffuser or mini massage routine with essential oils?
Hayley has adapted her baby massage as her boys grew older but usually starts by stroking Young Livings Seedlings Calm baby oil across their foreheads, cheeks, chins, down their necks, across the shoulders, down their arms and hands, making sure the gentle movements are slow and you don’t apply to much pressure. The point of this process is that it follows a certain rhythm and flows, you can include the tummy then down the legs and finish on the soles of the feet.
Start a daily gratitude practice
It has been scientifically proven that having a daily gratitude practice with older children can improve sleep. Notice the good things to end the day and the feelings that they bring. Sweet dreams!