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Building a stress-busting routine

Consistency helps kids feel safe and nurtured in their environment, allowing them to develop and grow in ways that will help them get through tough times, now and in the future.

 

During times of stress and uncertainty, it’s especially important to stick with normal routines – predictability and structure help kids self-regulate. Here are some tips for setting and sticking to a stress-busting family routine:

MAKE IT CONSISTENT
Consistent wake-up and bedtimes, regular mealtimes and snacks, quiet time for schoolwork and reading, and time for movement are important basics. Hygiene – showering or bathing, brushing teeth, and getting dressed – are also important to schedule for health and well-being.
DON’T FORGET PLAY
Play is an essential part of a kid’s “job.” Build in time – and look for opportunities – for self-expression, creativity, and imaginative play throughout the day. These activities are critical for behavior, learning, and development.
SHARE THE DAILY SCHEDULE WITH THE FAMILY
With older kids and teens, have them help build the schedule. They’ll feel more in control and less anxious and fearful of the unknown.
INCLUDE STRESS-BUSTING STRATEGIES
As we plan or adjust our routines, we can support our families by including elements of the following strategies proven to help regulate the stress response system. In kids or teens who have experienced ACEs already, practicing these strategies over time can help decrease – or even reverse – changes made to the body by toxic stress and help prevent or reduce long-term negative outcomes.

Social support is vital to kids’ development and to reduce the negative impacts of stress. We all need to stay connected to our communities.

  • Encourage connections with supportive adults like mentors, teachers, counselors, and coaches.
  • Help kids and family find meaningful ways to be part of the community, like volunteering. Need ideas? Start here.
  • Turn off media and devices for high-quality family time together. Try making art, cooking, or playing games.
  • During social distancing, help kids schedule video chat hang sessions with trusted friends, write letters to send, text silly pictures back and forth, make video messages, set up online games — whatever keeps them connected.
  • Help kids get involved in collaborative activities with peers like art, theatre, music, and sports. Prioritizing safety during the pandemic is important; this may mean helping your child get creative at a distance or online at times.
Mindfulness can help “rewire” the brain in ways that actively buffer the stress response and help us all regulate our bodies more easily.
  • Plan twenty minutes twice a day for your child — or your whole family — to practice meditation, breathing techniques, or other mindful activities. Apps like Headspace and Calm are easy, accessible ways to get started and both have specialty programs for kids of all ages. Many other meditations can be found online, as well.
  • Take moments throughout the day with your kids to notice and talk about how you’re both feeling, physically and emotionally.
  • Talk about, write out, or draw five or more things you and your child are grateful for each day.
Solid sleep provides an important foundation for our health at every age.
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine, including going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
  • Read a book to or with kids before bed.
  • Create a calm place for sleep that is cool, quiet and free of distractions, if possible. Turn off electronics at least a half hour before bed and limit caffeinated food and drinks, like soda and chocolate.
Being well nourished can help kids combat stress. Here are some tips:
  • Plan a regular time for meals and snacks. It’s helpful for kids to know what to expect.
  • Try to include lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts or seeds every day. These plant-based foods are rich in nutrients and fiber, and nuts and seeds give kids an added boost of protein.
  • Many of us are facing tough times and may feel stressed about coming up with our family’s next meal. If you need help finding food resources in your community, call 2-1-1, visit 211.org, or text “stress” to 211211.

Getting our bodies moving helps us burn off stress hormones.

  • Try to help kids get an hour or so of movement each day — and it doesn’t have to be all at once.
  • Movement can be anything kids enjoy. Dance parties, jumping jacks, hula hoop contests, TikTok dances, power walks around the block, bedtime yoga, double dutch jumping rope – the list of fun ways to move goes goes on and on.
  • Check out Brain Dance! It’s a great warm-up for the day, or when transitioning between tasks. The movements help the brain and body work together while encouraging healthy brain and body development.
  • Try yoga together! Try out a YouTube session together with YogaEd! Or check out these poses designed especially for parents, caregivers, or teachers to help kids or teens relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety, created by YogaEd
Support each other as a family, and seek help from your community or an expert if you need it. Everyone can benefit from help now and then.
  • Have open conversations as a family about emotional and mental health, and be honest about needs as they come up.
  • If you don’t have a regular mental health professional and feel like it’s time to seek help for you or your child, here are some resources to help you get started.
  • If you feel like you or your child is in crisis, you can get help here
  • If you need help with a parenting issue, contact the National Parent Helpline at 1-855-4AParent (1-855-427-2736) to get emotional support from a trained advocate. They’re available Monday through Friday, 10am to 7pm PST.
If you’re able to spend time outside, do it. It’s great for everyone’s physical and mental health and well-being.
  • Being in nature has cognitive and emotional benefits. Studies have shown it increases working memory, focus, and happiness and improves positive social interactions.
  • For those with limited access, finding ways to connect to nature can be part of the adventure itself. Consider exploring new places online as a family. Listen to nature sounds while creating drawings or telling stories set in nature.