Life can be stressful! For children and parents alike. The increasing demands of modern life leave us with short fuses, we tend to argue more and just when we manage to all get on top form you can guarantee one or more family members will come down with something like a cold or flu to send us back into the chaos. At times it’s overwhelming.
It often feels like there is no relief but you can’t stop; the children need to get to school and you need to get to work, meanwhile, there is a house to run and food to cook and washing to do, the list goes on.
While there is little we can do about the external pressures there are a few tips we can use to help our children cope better with the increased daily pressures they face.
Create a ‘glitter jar’ and watch your stress levels lower in front of your eyes.
Glitter jars are a wonderful and simple way of helping children to pause for a moment, giving young minds a break. For some children and adults too, it can be hard to express feelings in words and a glitter jar can be a great tool to help articulate what is going on inside of us.
You can make these at home and children of all ages love making them themselves. Take an old jam jar and add 1-2 tablespoons of biodegradable glitter and fill it with water. Screw the lid on tight. That’s it. You have made a glitter jar.
A glitter jar is a powerful tool that reflects the chaos that we so often feel inside and as it settles it can also reflect the calmness we experience – by pausing and breathing and being still for a few moments.
Shake the glitter jar and explain to your child that the chaotic glitter circling the jar represents what is goes on inside when we feel under pressure. Encourage your child to provide a few examples of how they feel when they are really stressed, such as how they feel when they don’t understand something in class; being late for school; fighting with a sibling; having to do homework; having to turn the screen off etc. Swirl and turn the jar again and ask your child what they normally do when they feel stressed. Do they shout, lash out, use bad language, slam doors, throw things? These are all normal reactions, for children, but they really don’t help things to settle down both within themselves and for those around them.
Explain to your child that the jar is like our mind. As the chaotic reactions unfold, it’s tricky to think and see clearly, difficult to keep on track, our emotions are all over the place and we just can’t think straight. Our vision is literally blurred.
Now place the jar on a table or the floor and watch as the glitter settles to the bottom of the jar. It takes a few moments and there is nothing we can do to speed up the process.
Watch the glitter swirl around the jar more slowly, watch the glitter settle until all the little bits have dropped to the bottom.
Explain to your child that the only thing we can do to get the glitter to settle is to be still. To be still until the storm inside the jar has calmed down and we can see clearly again. Once our thoughts are clear and our emotions are calm we can make the right choices about how to act, what to say and how to behave in a way that we can be proud of. That is to say, more reflective and less reactive.
The glitter hasn’t gone away. It’s still in the jar, just as our feelings are always there. But by being still we can have clearer thoughts and we have more control over how we react and how we want to be as a person.
Sometimes it’s enough to have them watch the glitter settle a few times for them to settle themselves. There is something so soothing about watching the chaos unfold and the calm settling in.
Dani Binnington is a cook, yoga teacher and wellness warrior dedicated to providing practical steps for physical and mental wellbeing for the whole family.