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On Our Own We Would Try

Back Rubs and Foot Massages

Studies have shown that all human beings need touch from other human beings to feel loved, safe, appreciated and relaxed. Infants who are not regularly touched with love, die or become very troubled adults.

Back rubs and foot massages are a wonderful way to bond with your child or youth. They are a way for him / her to relax and reduce stress. These tension relievers show the child or youth that she / he is loved, cared for, and important. They build self-confidence and teach the child or youth how to give and receive love, caring and attention as well as connecting the child or youth to his / her body in calm ways.

Most children & youth like some form of foot rubs, back massages, back scratches, or hair stroking, especially before sleep. These help children & youth calm down and release tension.

Human feet are remarkable. Rubbing them and massaging them will cause almost instantaneous relaxation. Much healing can happen through skillful massaging of the feet. Check out Reflexology if you want more information.

Massaging the human back also has a great benefit in releasing tension and evoking what is called the relaxation response.

Massage your children or youth’s back, shoulder, spine above the belt line, and arms, hands, legs beneath the knee, ankles, feet. Avoid touching children or youth in the groin area, upper thighs, chest and breast area (male or female). Children get very confused and can get into trouble later in life when they are touched there because a number of nerve endings in these areas gives strong pleasurable sensations that affect emotions and thinking. Always use “safe touch.”

Expressing love to children may be difficult for some parents. Some parents don’t touch their children because they are so afraid of sexually or physically abusing their children. Touching your child or youth may evoke strong emotions which can be frightening and confusing for some parents. Memories of how they were touched in a harmful way as children may make it difficult to feel comfortable touching their children or youth.

Teach your children about good touch and bad touch. Make sure to teach your children as soon as they are old enough to understand that they should tell you when someone touches them with “bad touch”. Teach children where it feels okay with them to be touched and where it is not okay to be touched without permission.

Pay attention to times when children or youth don’t like to be touched. It can be a signal of a loss of trust in you, adults in general, fear or anger towards parents and / or adults, as a sign of isolation and alienation, a time of deep hurt, a time of embarrassment about their bodies. Not liking touch may be a sign of communication breakdown, and / or a sign of some kind of abuse.

You can also ask your child to help you reduce your tension by giving you a rub or a massage. Stick to feet, lower legs, upper backs, shoulders, arms and hands. Children often enjoy helping their parents / caregivers. The important thing is that human touch is happening for the child or youth. This helps her / him calm down, relax, and refresh.

Bedtime Stories and Chats (And Lullabies)

Bedtime stories and chats help relax and refresh children & youth. They teach caring, connection, communication, focus and use of the mind and imagination. Bedtime stories and chats teach children & youth that they deserve attention and caring. They involve emotional education. The nearness of another human, along with the sound of the voice of a person who is caring, is relaxing and creates a sense of safety that builds over time. The routine of stories and chats is very calming for children and youth as well.

Children learn language by hearing it. Words and phrases have to be heard many times before the child will try them.

Children’s ability to read and write is directly connected to how they talk, how much they talk and how much talking they have heard. Being relaxed while talking and listening is the best way for children to learn language. Lying in their cozy warm beds while their parents / caregivers read or talk with them in a soft voice is certainly relaxing.

Studies have suggested that children who are read to and sung to by their parents and caregivers grow up to be better learners. TV shows, radio, and audiotapes do not carry the same effect. The child cannot ask the TV questions about what something means.

Another benefit of reading bedtime stories and having chats is that children & youth fall asleep with less fear and tension. They are more relaxed when they are listening to a live human voice.

Children & youth wake up more refreshed if they sleep calmly and have sweet dreams of things they have heard / talked about. Pay attention to the last things that go into your children or youth’s minds and hearts before they fall asleep. Make sure they are not being filled with frightening or disturbing stories.

The rich language found in stories helps children& youth develop their own speaking skills. Vocabularies increase. Ability to understand the spoken and written word increases as well. Children learn how to understand and use complicated sentences. Children who do not know how to put two ideas in one sentence by the time they start school will have a very hard time being successful.

If you have trouble reading don’t worry about it. Keep doing it. Deep down, your child will appreciate it even if they can’t tell you. You will get better.

The same goes for singing lullabies to your children. Even if you aren’t a really good singer, it’s good for your children to have you sing to them at bedtime. And, experts also say that music helps develop mathematical ability in children by stimulating the part of the brain that is used for math.

Children & youth pick up that you are giving them the gift of your time, your love, your wanting to be with them. They can use the memory for strength throughout their lives and when they get to be parents.

Bedtime stories, chats and lullabies may well be the most nourishing thing you can do for yourself and for your child. You will never forget the feelings of intimacy you experience and neither will your children or youth.

Experiencing this closeness helps children or youth grow into people who know what love and real intimacy feel like. As adults, they can draw on this experience to choose the right partners for themselves. And if they have children of their own, they will be more likely to read to, talk to, and sing to them, too.

Help make your child or youth a successful adult. Read stories and talk with them at bedtime. Let the child or youth pick the stories or topics of conversation. If they can’t or won’t, you pick the topic.

Less or No TV, Movies,

Staying away from television, movies for a few days, or a few weeks—or completely if need be—eventually can help many children & youth calm down, relax, get focused, find other interests, and be more physically active.

Television, movies, can soak up a child’s learning time like nothing else except illnesses. Children can waste enormous amounts of time lulled by exciting action. This is time they should be doing things, trying things, learning things, using language, learning what is interesting, mastering skills, learning to entertain themselves, talking with adults and each other.

Truly being entertained is relaxing and refreshing. TV and movies can make people happy and pleasantly sad. But they can also shock and frighten. Children & youth can get addicted to shock and fear sensations –like putting your tongue into a sore tooth. Shock and fear are irritants.

The Dali Lama once observed that many people in North American were very careful to eat only clean healthy food, but were not so careful about what they put in their minds and hearts.

TV, movies, are great pacifiers. Children and youth enjoy them. They are designed so that children & youth will watch, see advertisements, and bug parents to buy things. One famous movie producer admitted that he would not let his own children see one of his own movies that was marketed to children.

There are some TV shows that are designed to be educational. Children and youth rarely get to practice whatever they are learning because they cannot interact with the characters and images on the screen.

Of course, TV, movies, may have some social value. Children and youth can talk about experiences they have all seen. However, since the content of most TV, movies, is not very rich, the level of conversation about them is usually not very rich either.

If your children or youth have particularly strong reactions to restrictions in these areas try to get directly involved with their experiences. Watch television and movies with them. Play the video and computer games with them. This gives you a chance to have conversations to counteract the aggressive ideas that they are being given. Racism, sexism, materialism, thrillism, are all part of the television / movie / video and computer game experience. Almost all involve conflict, winners and losers. Talk about these ideas as you watch. Notice your own attachment to excitement and stimulation.

If your child or youth have impossibly strong reactions to restrictions in these areas, try to look for television programs, movies and that have some positive value to your child / teen. Some televisions shows, movies and do convey messages of calm, harmony, beauty, loving kindness, and compassion. Others are good sources of quickly absorbed useful information. They are hard to find, but they are there.

Get to know the programs and movies your children like to watch. Become aware of the values that are being taught to your child. Expect great resistance when you throw away your TV or restrict viewing time or censor which programs can be watched or games that can be played. Watch for the activities we suggest that fill in the time in a more positive way.

Long Walks / Hikes

Long walks and hikes reduce stress. They relax the body and mind, improve mood and enhance health. When done together, walks and hikes create opportunity to deepen relationships and enjoy comfortable companionship with your child or youth. They also build self-confidence.

Walk for walking’s sake. Go for a walk. Go for long walks.

Walking is a great healer. Our bodies are designed to move. Walking helps the body stay strong, gets rid of chemical toxins, gets rid of mental tensions, clears the mind, clears emotions, relaxes us and aids digestion.

Walking helps us breathe more deeply. Walking and breathing help control weight, regulate energy and help with overall health. Children & youth who walk regularly have more controlled, sustained energy and less jumpy, jittery energy. Walking appears to help children & youth pay attention and focus better.

Walking helps get us out of ruts. Walking exposes us to new and interesting things that can distract us from our troubles. When possible, have fun. Laugh. Point out interesting things to one another. Play games of “Do you see the ______?”

Children & youth need attention from us and they also need time by themselves. Walking with children& youth gives them company. When they walk behind or ahead, it gives them safe time to be alone because you are still in view. Try to tune in to when they need to be alone and when they desire your company.

Walking without talking is often a good way for children & youth to start talking about things that are difficult or important to them. Sometimes children & youth need to discharge anger, fear, frustration, or sadness. Learn how to listen and acknowledge. Avoid bringing up your own fears, complaints, etc. as much as possible.

Make walking a habit--even if you only do it once a week. Try for once a day. Walk for more than hour if you can. Waking up early to walk can help. This usually means earlier bedtimes, which usually means less TV, which is good.

If possible, walk in nature where there are no cars or trucks. The body and mind can relax a bit more. Seeing live trees, flowers, bugs, and animals appears to help children & youth relax--especially if they already have the habit of being in nature.

Traveling to interesting places to walk helps children & youth learn to notice novelty. However, walking the same route often can be interesting too--observing the subtle changes that nature provides can be great topics of conversation.

Walking works when it is enjoyable. If walking with your children or youth becomes an ugly chore you need to re-evaluate and ask yourself what needs to change for it to become an enjoyable experience. Remember that children & youth’s behavior and attitudes are languages that can help you know what is going on with them. Learn Nonviolent Communication skills to help you break through communication blockages that may be making walking less than enjoyable.

Above all, avoid making walking / hiking a competitive activity between yourself and your child or youth. Keep their physical limitations in mind and set a pace and find a place that is comfortable for everyone involved.

Walking can become a lifelong habit that can reduce stress and bring pleasure. Do it!

Nature / Beauty / Harmony

Nature / beauty / harmony heals, relaxes, reduces stress, reduces worry and anxiety. It also aids in thinking and calming the mind so clear thinking and concentrating are possible. It engages all the body, not just the mind.

Being around life in nature can help children and youth both calm down and get energized. Children & youth who are around nature / beauty / harmony appear to have an easier time growing up. Children & youth can slow down and relax when they have beauty and when life is harmonious without drama and excitement. They are happier and more focused.

Sometimes children and youth need encouragement to expose themselves to nature, beauty, and harmony. Children and youth might feel awkward being around nature, beauty and harmony. Many children and youth love fast-paced television, movies and loud, pulsing music because it temporarily distracts them from their tensions, frustrations, sadness, and depression. Persist. They will usually get hooked on the relaxed and alive feelings that result from turning off the distractions and tuning in to a calmer environment.

Being in nature, around beauty, and in harmony may take some practice and learning for parents as well, especially parents who spend their own lives in a fast-paced, urban environment.

Exposure to nature, beauty and harmony can be easy: a bunch of flowers in a vase; walking on a beach, in a park or forest; gardening; habitat restoration. Traveling to beaches and parks as a family can be part of the fun, but even if money or time doesn’t allow for a long vacation, a short time in a neighborhood park just lying in the grass with your child or youth and watching the clouds or the stars overhead can be relaxing and bonding.

Pets

Pets can be great fun. They do the unexpected, they react, and they interact. Pets can do amusing things that cheer up children & youth and adults, as well.

Pets are very good for children & youth who have suffered from abandonment, betrayal, loneliness, depression, hopelessness and abuses of all kinds.

Pets can help families reduce stress, loneliness, and boredom. If the pet is a dog, take the child with you when you walk the dog. For a traumatized child or youth, pets also can be very soothing. By acting as an emotional anchor, they can become one of the constants in a child or youth’s life. Since they need to be looked after in a regular fashion, they can create routines to help structure day-to-day life.

Horses, ponies, cats, dogs, ferrets, rats, budgies, snakes, chickens – and other animals which can develop a relationship with humans can also give children & youth attention when they need it.

Animals seem to have a way of receiving emotional energy from humans and of giving affection, love, or at least reaction. Children & youth need the unconditional love, affection, and comfort that pets can give.

When choosing a pet for your child or youth, be sure and consult them about what pet they want. But also remember to be realistic and that a pet is also an additional responsibility for you as well. Choose carefully.

Regular Physical Activity and Fun

Regular physical activity and fun reduces stress, promotes relaxation, improves mood, increases vitality, promotes health, stimulates the brain, increases capacity to learn, and contributes to love of life.

Children and youth do much better when they exercise their bodies and when they enjoy themselves. Finding what is fun for them can be difficult for some children & youth who have had too many worries and troubles. Fun is sometimes mistakenly connected with feeling good after discharging tension in a negative way. For example, bullies enjoy being bullies because being a bully passes their pain to someone else.

Parents / caretakers have to help children and youth find what is truly fun for them. The child or youth needs to be encouraged lightly, not pushed into activities. Trying lots of things may be necessary before the child finds interests that are fun.

Thinking up things that are fun for children has become a very big business. Advertising on television creates the illusion that fun comes from buying expensive and complicated toys and games or going to expensive theme parks. Try to help your child or youth find simple things that are fun, rather than costly things that are faddish, demand little from the child or youth in terms of imagination or creativity, and are only popular for a short time.

Daily physical exercise is best learned when the whole family is active physically, for fun. Going for walks and hikes with your children & youth, playing simple outdoor games--like tag--with them, swimming in pools or natural bodies of water, or throwing snowballs are all fun, inexpensive and easy things to do.

Replace Sodas, Juices, Sugars, Fats, Fast Foods With Water, Veggies, Whole Grains, Nuts, Protein, Fruit, Slow Food

Fast food slows children and youth down.

Sugars, refined processed foods, caffeine, excess salt and not enough water make children anxious, grumpy, over-active, and tired. These things also slow learning and concentration a great deal.

Try an experiment:

  • For one week, feed your child or youth lots of chocolate, sodas, cookies, and pre-cooked food, sugar-coated cereals, fruit juice.
  • Keep a record of the number of times you have to deal with her / him having temper tantrums, being grumpy and uncooperative, having too much energy, not being able to stay focused and concentrated, having to be reminded to do simple chores.
  • The next week, feed your child or youth lots of water, vegetables, whole grains, protein from meat, fish, beans, or nuts. Cook the food yourself from scratch and eat meals together slowly. If he / she really wants fruit juice, limit it to one half cup per day.
  • Take as much time as you can cooking and encourage your children & youth to join you in the kitchen. Even very young children can help with some food preparation if you have the patience to teach them.
  • Avoid sodas, fast food meals, pre-cooked and prepared foods and meals. Avoid chocolate, sugars, sugar-coated cereals, breads, and dairy products. (Expect rebellion. Try to get cooperation by saying it is all an experiment.)
  • Keep the same record listed above.
  • Notice how much more relaxed, focused, energetic, and cooperative your child or youth has become after just a week of this wholesome diet.

Many studies similar to this one have been done and the results are always the same. Children & youth and adults function much better in every way when they have a wholesome diet. Schools are beginning to respond to these studies by feeding their students more wholesome meals and taking out vending machines full of candy and soda. Many schools now have gardens on their grounds where students and parent volunteers work together to grow organic vegetables. Parents and caregivers can encourage the schools their kids attend to take these actions if they haven’t yet done so.

It is not easy to change eating habits of children & youth or adults, but it can be done. And once you and your family have witnessed the benefits of doing so, you are more likely to do your best to make sure everyone eats the freshest, most wholesome food you can afford. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that some wholesome foods—a pound of oatmeal say, versus those little pre-packaged servings full of sugar and additives—are actually less expensive.

You can also save money—and resources—by buying an inexpensive water filter and using refillable bottles to supply your family with pure water rather than buying bottled water, soda, or juice.

If at all possible, grow some organic fruits and vegetables of your own with your children & youth. Even if you only have a small porch, you can usually grow a few containers of herbs or tomatoes. Children also love to care for a few hens if you have space for them. If available, take your children & youth to farmers’ markets to buy fresh produce. Establishing a link in children & youth’s lives between where their food comes from and how it gets to their tables will increase their enjoyment of wholesome meals.

Wholesome Pleasures

Wholesome pleasures include regular, predictable shared family meals, predictable routines, playing board, card, or outdoor games, doing art and craft projects, rituals, celebrations, and religious observances--all with extended family if possible.

Wholesome pleasures reduce stress. They provide the opportunity for family interactions, relaxed conversations, for doing things together, and for emotional and social nourishment.

Doing simple activities that the child or youth enjoys together as a family really helps the whole family. Activities don’t have to cost money. Wholesome pleasures just have to be as free from stress as possible. Even routine chores such as washing the dishes, preparing food, doing the laundry can be enjoyable times in which relaxed conversations can happen.

Wholesome pleasures are simple, everyday activities that bring the child or youth joy and pleasure. They can be done alone, together, with family, friends, or organizations. The experience of joy, pleasure and happiness is deeply healing. Everyone needs this experience every day or as often as possible.

  • Regular, Predictable Shared Family Meals
  • Sitting down together to a nourishing, home cooked meal that everyone has participated in preparing to whatever extent possible—even a very young child can snap beans—and talking over the day’s events at work and school is a time for sharing, caring, and pleasure. Try to make sure that everyone has a chance to talk if they’d like to, but don’t force anyone to talk if they’re not feeling like it. When it comes to table manners, try to set a good example and avoid criticizing a child’s or youth’s manners or eating habits. Also, when you are introducing a new food that the child or youth may be timid about tasting, present it in a way that makes the child or youth eager to try it.
  • Regular, Predictable Family Routines
  • Unpredictable family life creates stress. Predictable routines like regular meals, homework, fun and bedtimes help children & youth relax and refresh themselves. Predictable family routines reduce stress.
  • Rituals, Celebrations, Religious Observances
  • These reduce stress and can give confidence, build self-esteem and give children & youth good ideas of who they are and a sense of belonging to a particular family, religious or ethnic group.
  • The routine of rituals, celebrations and religious observances are good anchors for children and youth. They teach the children& youth spiritual values while being a break in the routines of everyday life. Special times like these can be a great time to learn more about a family’s original or adopted culture. Learning how to make special times enjoyable – and not a tedious chore, is a skill worth knowing and passing on to your children& youth. And again, giving every member in the family some part—no matter how small, in creating the celebrations is another way of building family unity.
  • Extended Family And Friends
  • Children and youth can benefit from connection with extended family and friends because they can get support, other perspectives and ideas about solving problems and feel part of a multi-age social group.
  • Keep in mind, however, that some family members or friends may not know how to behave appropriately with children & youth. Parents do need to respond immediately to any indications from the child or youth of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from extended family members or friends.
  • Knowing that you are part of a family and a network of friends helps children and youth learn to socialize, to give affection and to receive it.
  • Other Ideas Of Wholesome Pleasures
  • Other examples of wholesome pleasures include playing games together, having arts and crafts nights, working picture puzzles, baking bread, making cookies, creating family photo albums and scrapbooks together. Drawing your child or youth a nice hot bubble bath is a simple but special and calming treat that demonstrates your care. Volunteering to perform community service of some sort in a project that interests both you and your child or youth is both fun and rewarding.
  • Use your imagination and knowledge of your child’s or youth’s special needs and interests to come up with your own wholesome pleasures.
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