Choose ears over fears this summer: Part 2
Check out Part 1 of this post on why my advice to parents this summer is to choose ears over fears.
Taking a cue from the Earth Rangers 5 E’s to drive eco-action and reduce eco-anxiety, here are some specific ideas for practicing listening, getting outside, alleviating fears, and finding stability this summer:
- Build EXCITEMENT using your family calendar: post a family calendar for the summer months so your children can visually see the time passing and see what events they have coming up. Anxiety is reduced when we can anticipate and plan in our heads and have something to look forward to. Children feel uneasy and adrift when they have nothing to do and nowhere to go. But a few items on a calendar, even as simple (but exciting) as a trip to the ice-cream store, flying kites on a beach, or a soccer day camp at your neighborhood park can feel like there are concrete plans and little outings to look forward to. You can do this for a daily schedule too, and make sure that there is a balance of in-door and outdoor activities each day. Yes, there is time for tech, but also non-tech time, physical activity, chores, hobbies and family fun time.
- Support ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP by getting out of the house: Kids have been inside our safe, cocooned homes way too long. To regain a sense that life is safe and getting back to normal, children need first-hand experiences. They need to be outside playing in the park, going for a hike, witnessing buses driving down the streets, seeing people going in and out of stores and a exposure to the bustle of life. Start with some small activity like identifying the plants in the local park and make sure it’s not too overwhelming. With anxiety, the goal is to create challenges that involve exposure to experiences that make us feel anxious, but that are tolerable. With repetition, the feelings of anxiousness fade. When they do, you increase the intensity of the next exposure challenge.
- Grow EMPOWERMENT by sharing the activity planning: 2 months of no school is a long time! Parents hate hearing “I am bored.” But parents don’t have to take the brunt of the load for coming up with things for the kids to do. You can delegate the job of “activity director” to each child in the family. Kids love to be creative and in charge. They can use their imagination, Google activities, and see what the Earth Rangers app has to offer. Let them take full ownership and go along with their suggestions. Alternatively, you can have a family brainstorming session and list as many things as possible that they like to do. Post it on the fridge, so whenever they come complaining they are bored this summer, you can simply point to the list.
- Listen and EMPATHIZE: Whether you wear the animal ears or not, spend time listening to your kids, acknowledge their worries about the environment and help kids learn to be good stewards of our planet. This can be restorative for the whole family. There are also apps that help kids with anxiety such as Calm’s sleep stories, or check out the guided meditations for kids at kidevolve.com. Do these together as a whole family.
- EDUCATION with play dates: I have been surprised how hesitant some children and teens have been to re-connect with their friend groups. Perhaps it’s just harder for the anxious ones. Parents need to encourage re-connection and remind them how fun it is to hang out with people again. If there’s too much silence or awkwardness, point them to watch a video about endangered species or books on rare plants. Learning together can be an easy way to break the ice. Keeping safety measure in place, make it a priority to set up opportunities for kids get together safely again so they can remember it is fun!