Fall is a time of beautiful change in the weather, colors and smells. However, it can also be a melancholy time for parents sending their children away to school (especially for the first time) and a scary time for kids adjusting to a new environment, expectations and many new faces all at once.
Staying aware, grateful, grounded and playful throughout any transition can help us maneuver through and even appreciate a time of uncertainty. Here are a few ideas of ways to cultivate stability from the inside, rather than seeking external sources of comfort during change. Children can benefit greatly from practicing these methods of self-regulation.
Being aware and mindful. Create and maintain practices that keep you in touch with breath and sensations in your body. Find a moment to sit or lie in stillness and just noticing the breath moving in and out. Is it fast or slow? Smooth or uneven? Shallow or deep? Are the inhales or exhales longer? After observing, try to to slow, smooth, and deepen the breath, matching the inhales and exhales. Counting “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” as you breathe in and “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” as you breathe out is a good way to do this. Then try a simple relaxation (children can be led verbally). Start by noticing your toes and relaxing your toes. Notice your feet and heels, and relax your feet and heels. Work your way all the way up your body, finishing with your tongue, eyes, forehead, ears, and the crown of the head.
Gratitude. Think about or mention aloud all of the things you are thankful for either related to a transition or outside of it, helping cast change in a positive light. Try sharing these things around the dinner table or at bedtime to finish the day on a positive note.
Grounded. Practice a few anchoring poses every day, such as Mountain pose, Downward Dog, Tree, Wide-legged Standing Forward Fold (which we call “Ostrich" in kids' yoga), Star Pose (below) or Child’s Pose. Create simple rituals to keep at least part of your life consistent through transition, like going for a family walk and sharing the highs/lows of the day, reading a favorite story every night at bedtime or drawing in a picture journal to lessen the effects of daily uncertainty in your child’s life as they get used to their “new normal.”
Playfulness. Despite busier schedules, less leisure time and potentially, homework, kids still need to be encouraged toward imaginative, unstructured play (without TV/iPads/phones). Children use play as a way to work through things that they don’t understand, and feelings that they may not have words for. It’s a natural, healthy antidote to transitional stress--and a diversion that adults should rediscover, too!
Try this grounding pose, recommended for practice before bed, to soothe the mind, release tension from the hips, and relax the eyes, preparing your body for sleep.
Tarasana (Star Pose--In kids’ yoga, we call it Turtle)
Sit with the soles of the feet together,
toes about as far away as your fingertips if sitting tall and
extending arms forward.
Your legs will create a diamond shape.
Round forward and rest forearms on shins,
release head onto feet.
Stack a few pillows or rolled towels on your feet if your head doesn’t
come to the feet, or if you want a more restorative version of the pose.
Close the eyes, feeling at home and safe in your own body--like a turtle.
Know that you can take this feeling anywhere you go.
Stay in the pose for up to ten minutes.