The start of a new year at primary school can stir up lots of emotions for children, including excitement and anticipation as well as nervousness and anxiety. Of course, it is completely normal to feel this range of emotions and everyone feels a bit of apprehension at the start of the school year (even teachers!). Here are a few fun mindfulness strategies that children can use to help ease those back to school nerves.
1) Star Fish Breathing
Hold your left (or non-dominant hand) up and stretch out your fingers like a star-fish. Now take your right pointing finger and place it at the base of your left thumb. As you breathe in, run your finger up the side of your left thumb. As you breathe out, run your finger down the inside of your thumb. Move your finger in time with your breathing. Continue until you have traced around each of your fingers. If you like you can do the other hand too!
Focusing on the breath in this way can help to calm and soothe the body.
2) Five Senses Count Down
Take a moment to notice each of your five senses, counting each one off on your fingers as you go. What can you see around you? How many sounds can you hear? What can you smell? What are you touching and what does it feel like? Is there any taste in your mouth right now?
This activity helps to refocus the mind away from worries and back into the present moment.
3) Balloon Breathing
Place your hand on your tummy. Feel how it moves in and out and you breathe. Now imagine your tummy is a balloon. As you breathe in the balloon expands. As you breathe out, the balloon shrinks. Do this for five breaths.
Sensing the breath in the abdomen helps to bring the attention back into the body and prevent rumination.
4) Helping Others
Think about how other people might be feeling on the first day of school. Is there anyone who you think will be feeling a bit nervous? Perhaps there is a child who is just joining the class? How you might make them feel welcome? There will probably be some younger children just starting school for the first time. What you might do if you see one them on their own in the playground? How can you help other people around you to have a happy first week back at school?
Focusing on others shifts attention away from individual concerns. Plus, carrying out an act of kindness increases self-esteem and happiness.
5) Looking for the Good
It is normal to be a bit nervous when starting something new. However, it is possible to feel nervous but also happy at the same time! Look for five things you feel happy or excited about. Maybe you are looking forward to seeing your friends or excited about a school trip. Count off five happy things on your fingers.
Thinking about positive things reduces stress levels and help re-establish a sense of balance and perspective.
The start of the new school year is an exciting time: there is a lot of change to get used to but there is also so much to look forward to. Having a few quick activities like this ready to use when needed can really give children the confidence to make the most of the first week back.
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