Childhood should be a time of laughter, play, and discovery, even in periods of uncertainty like today. Research shows that play helps children develop the tools they need to manage stress. Here are six seemingly ordinary activities that can serve as powerful stress relievers for us to do with children, so we can all relax a little together, without it feeling like therapy (not that there is anything wrong with therapy!).
- Familiar Rituals:
These are tough times, and we feel may too drained to perform traditional rituals. But the familiarity can bring comfort. Amidst this terrible war, Chanuka can feel like a challenge, but simply lighting candles and talking with our kids about the lights in the darkness, and the small miracles we can be grateful for, can spark helpful and healing conversation. Spinning the dreidel for prizes is fun and donuts are yummy.
- Artistic Escapades:
Art activities can be a wonderful outlet for children – and us. From finger painting to crafting, the creative process not only provides a way to express emotions but also acts as a mindful and enjoyable distraction. Setting up an art corner at home with a variety of colorful materials can inspire impromptu creations. And sitting down together to create art projects – such as drawing portraits of each other – can turn into meaningful quality time.
- Nature Scavenger Hunts:
Simple scavenger hunts in a yard or nearby park can be a fun way for kids to connect with the outdoors. Encourage them to search for specific leaves, flowers, or rocks, turning the experience into a game. The fresh air, coupled with the thrill of discovery, helps reduce stress levels while promoting physical activity and a break from being indoors.
- Storytelling Extravaganza:
Stories can transport children to magical realms, allowing them to momentarily forget their troubles. Whether you have books available or not, you can enjoy silly story times by taking turns making up stories together. Or close your eyes and tell them to tell you a bedtime story. This not only provides an emotional outlet but also cultivates a sense of empowerment as they become the authors of their narratives, even if just for a little while.
- Music Magic:
Music has a magical ability to uplift spirits and create a positive atmosphere. Work together to build a go-to feel-good playlist with your kids on your phone so it’s always available when needed. Sing along to the favorites. Music not only serves as a pleasant distraction but also acts as a powerful emotional outlet.
Dr. Naomi Coleman, clinical psychologist and Jeremy’s Circle co-founder adds, “Singing along elongates the exhale, which sends signals to the brain to calm the nervous system, so it’s a particularly good stress reliever. The same goes for chanting and prayer.”
- Movement & Mobility:
Gentle, guided exercise focusing on breathing is a fantastic way for children – and you – to alleviate stress without realizing it.
Jeremy’s Circle, which supports children coping with cancer in their families, together with Kids Kicking Cancer recently held an online martial arts workshop under the slogan of “Power. Peace. Purpose.” The kids were led through breathing exercises, a warm-up, and controlled martial arts movements. (Watch and follow the activity in Hebrew here).
Yoga is another terrific outlet to relieve stress for all ages. Invite your children to join you in simple, animal-themed poses easily found online by searching “beginner yoga poses”. By setting a dedicated yoga time, you create an enjoyable, easily adaptable activity, and give much-needed structure to days, when due to outside pressures may not have any.
(This Chanuka, on December 15th, Jeremy’s Circle will celebrate at trampoline parks across the country where participating kids and their adults can jump and bounce until they wear themselves out. Learn more about the event here.)
Sometimes the most difficult way to help kids with the stress of war, illness, and other challenges out of our control, is to set an example. Our kids sense our stress and pay careful attention to how we deal with it. However, we are not always up to it and that’s okay. In that case, ask another trusted adult or older child to play with them.
By incorporating these seemingly ordinary yet impactful activities, we can help our children navigate their challenges. Together, even in difficult times, we can help make sure our children have the childhoods they deserve.