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Family Yoga: Swap Screen Time for Face-to-Face Time

Do you ever look at someone in your family and think, "You don't get what I'm saying"? Whether you're a kid or a parent, you're not alone. It's easy for family members to forget how to really listen to each other. We get into patterns of relating and assume we know what the other person is going to say. If you're a parent, you may feel like your kiddo completely tunes you out, especially if you ask about chores or homework. If you're a kid, you may feel like your parent doesn't really listen to what you say, or assumes things that aren't true for you. But how do you get out of that rut, and get heard?

Your family's life is probably very busy with school, work, sports practice, tutors and social events. So there's no time for heart to heart conversations. And if you're a kid, you may not want to sit down for some long chat with your parent. Perhaps that usually means you're in trouble, or maybe it just sounds weird. Plus, different family members may have different schedules, which means you barely see some members. Yet we tend to assume we know what's going on with those closest to us, or think that they know what's going on with us (or wish that they did).

Add electronics to the mix, and it's even easier to feel isolated and disconnected from the people we love. My experience as a certified yoga therapist working with kids & families is that screen time can play a big role in distancing family members from one another. Not only that, screen time can impact a child's overall mental health. If you google "electronics and kids depression," a slew of articles pop up with titles like "Screentime is Making Kids Moody, Crazy and Lazy." A 2017 NPR article highlighted a study linking teen depression especially in girls with the rise in use of smartphones, tablets and other devices. There's a general rule that 1-2 hours/day of screen time is fine. (In fact, it's hard to imagine a kid OR adult who doesn't need to spend at least that much time on homework and other tasks.) But once kids spend 4+ hours/day on electronics regularly, problems seem to crop up. Kids become more depressed, irritable, unable to focus and may even express suicidal thoughts.

On the other hand, the NPR article states that face-to-face activities like sports, parties, or hanging out with friends seem to be protective. From a behavioral perspective, physical activity and in-person interactions are two separate protective factors that, when combined in activities like sports or play time, can have a lasting positive impact on kids' mental health. Some of the benefits of these activities include increases in focus, motivation, self esteem and social skills. Kids become more confident, happy and learn to relate in positive, prosocial ways.

And guess what? The best way to help your kids unglue from the screen is to role model the activities that can help them. So get moving! Activities like taking a bike ride or walk, throwing a ball, kicking a soccer ball or going to the park don't cost money. But they do add to what we call in behavioral health your "relationship bank." A relationship bank is like a bank account. Happy memories, acts of love and kind words are like deposits into this account, whereas fights, unkind words, negative actions or even lack of quality time together are like withdrawals. When you spend time with your child or parent doing a physical activity, it's like you're making a deposit in that relationship bank account.

One activity that combines the protective factors of face-to-face and physical activity is family yoga therapy. Family yoga therapy is very different from a regular yoga class. Family yoga is a fun, interactive, multi-family group experience for families. Individual families work together to create partner poses and the group as a whole engages in laugh-out-loud activities (like an obstacle course created by kids or musical yoga mats). Participants learn breathing techniques to calm themselves before interacting with each other, co-listening skills that increase effective communication, partner poses that help them work together and problem solve, group activities that remind everyone to have fun, and deep relaxation techniques that bring all family members a sense of calm. We always end with a fun exercise like mindful eating or co-listening (that helps family members see each other's perspectives).

Benefits of family yoga therapy include increased social emotional awareness, confidence and self esteem. Kids and adults alike learn tools that help them relate better with one another. And participants learn individual coping skills tailored to needs like better sleep, decreased anxiety or depression, and better body image. After participating in family yoga sessions, I hear parents say they feel more connected to their kids, and kids say they have fun.

Embodied Youth is hosting a complimentary family yoga session on Saturday, May 18, 2019. Ideal age range for kids is 8 - 12 years old, but is negotiable if your child is older or younger. Yoga therapy for youth helps kids, teens and families reduce stress and increase confidence, focus & coping skills to live a more balanced life. This session is a one-time, free event. And we'll end the session with a mindful eating activity featuring yummy (surprise) treats!

Details for your calendar:

Embodied Youth Family Yoga Session

Sat., May 18, 2019 from 1-3p

at A Living Arts Centre (medium studio)

REGISTER for the Family Yoga Event by following these steps:

1) Email with the exact number in your party to reserve your spots

2) Look for email from Michelle confirming your reservation and detailing formal registration process

Be aware there is only space for 15 people total, and reservations are first come/first served. Feel free to forward this blog to friends who may be interested in joining you. It's super fun to do family yoga with people you know.

Hope to see you there!


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