As the summer begins, so do new parenting challenges arise. We want our children to keep evolving and acquiring skills, but we no longer have the support system to rely on. We want them to have fun, but we also want to maintain some discipline so that the inevitable back-to-school transition will be easy on everyone. And, as Mental Health Awareness month draws to an end, we may think of the ways to use summer to lay strong foundations not just for physical health, but for emotional well-being.
Technology is readily available to keep our children occupied with seemingly educational content. However, every minute spent in front of the screen is a lost opportunity to learn valuable social skills. While school environment may be quite regimented, summer provides unique opportunities to interact with peers of different ages and different adults in various social settings. Besides, less sitting around with a device in little hands equals less risk of obesity.
More and more kids born today exhibit heightened levels of restlessness, stress and anxiety. Too much or poor quality screen time has been linked to behavioral problems, loss of social skills, irregular sleep schedule and violence. Immersing your child in a real-life peer group led by caring adults is one of the best gifts a parent can give.
What Skills Shall I Focus On?
While school year has your math and SAT covered, why not use summer time to develop skills that will foster personal wellbeing?
Sports is a great place to start – the healthy body – healthy spirit formula has been known since the times of ancient Greeks. There are many benefits to developing a fitness routine at an early age. Being involved in martial arts and physical culture from 8 years old helped me channel my creative energy, kept me focused on goals, and gave me a productive outlet for my pent up frustrations.
Competing in martial arts also taught me a lot about not just winning but learning how to accept loss and defeat. Looking back it was a great turning point as a teenager to know that life will not always go as you want it to, and how important it is to learn from mistakes, make adjustments and to keep on moving forward in life. Any and every sport can teach this with the proper coaching.
Mindfulness and mindset coaching is another avenue to consider. With meditation going mainstream in the last couple decades, it has been slowly seeping into kids space with some impressive results. In fact, 1.6% of children in the U.S. meditate – a number that is small, but steadily growing. Meditation helps children to manage issues like stress, depression, ADHD and hyperactivity. Using technology for a family meditation routine could be one of the best applications of the Internet out there.
Thinking As a Skill
Awareness of emotions is a great first step, but how do you foster your child’s ability to shift focus from thorns to roses, from negative feedback to words of self-encouragement? Helping children understand that we ALL have total control over the most powerful smartphone known in the entire universe, our own minds is the key. Too often we are taught WHAT to think instead of HOW our minds work. If a child could learn HOW to think as early on in their life as possible, the benefits would be amazing. Learning how your mind works will give them the proper tools to take on life’s challenges.
Our minds operate on a default setting to focus on negative and dangerous scenarios to keep us safe. As a martial artists for 35 years, what I have come to learn is that we all battle the 7 Dictators of the mind throughout our entire lives. Self-doubt, fear, disappointment, hardship, confusion, negative self-talk and ego must be kept in check using a C.H.A.M.P.S. mindset.
Arming kids with thinking skills early on will help them when life decides to hit hard. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when it will. When Hurricane Sandy almost destroyed the Rockaways it was devastating to many residents. For me, I’ve been knocked down or out in the ring before, and Hurricane Sandy was like being counted out by the ref and asking him, “what hit me?”. Everything a fighter deals with in the ring is exactly the same as what we all face in everyday life. Being aware of the 7 Dictators and being able to resist their control is the key to winning, whether it is in ring or in life. If kids learned to focus on what they WANT instead of what they DON’T WANT, their lives would be directed with more purpose.
My wife and I are parents operating the gym. We created CROM summer camp curriculum, a 5-day intensive for children and teens, with a goal to build champions in and out of the gym. To do that, we have combined martial arts with mindset training and nutrition education. What sets apart CROM summer camp from others is that we are not just attempting to build physical attributes in the participants, we are building true strength that comes from a mind, body and spirit connection.