September is always bittersweet. The idea of putting away the beach bags and dusting off school bags can leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Transitioning from summer’s fun and freedom, into school’s structure and expectations can be a challenge for children. At Dream Candy, we know every child has infinite potential and the ability to overcome any challenge, and heading back to school is no exception.

Since January 2017, Dream Candy has introduced youth in Pictou County to wellness practices that are scientifically proven to increase happiness, self-esteem and resiliency. The children in our weekly groups have explored meditation, mindfulness, gratitude and creative expression in exciting ways, and have already seen huge benefits in their lives.

Jami, an 11 year old girl in the Confident Girl by Dream Candy program says “Meditation has helped me get my mind off things and has taught me to relax. I’ve learned so much about taking a break from day-to-day life, to take time for myself, to meditate and compliment myself, but also do things for other people.”

Whether your child is starting school for the first time, transitioning from middle school to high school, concerned about bullying, or worried about fitting in, each young person is facing a time of change and uncertainty and Dream Candy wants to help sweeten the school year with these tips.

Give & Receive Compliments

Bullying is an epidemic in schools and we often hear about children being hurt by unkind words both online and on the playground. While there is no simple cure for this problem, we can teach children to fill their schools, snapchats and minds with loving language.

Complimenting friends, teachers, bus drivers, school aids as often as possible, and reaching out to people who need positivity the most are excellent habits to instill. Nothing will boost confidence more than giving or receiving a beautiful compliment.

Encourage children to notice the GOOD things that people say about them. Though it can be hard to receive compliments, they should be accepted as graciously as a gift.

Most importantly, make sure children are giving themselves lots of loving language. Jami says “Complimenting yourself is very important. It makes you feel great to sit down and write everything good about yourself.”

Often our internal dialogue can be negative and self-critical. Learning to shift that self-talk in a positive direction drastically increases self-esteem. Encourage children to compliment themselves internally and be as kind to themselves as they would be to their friends. Teach children to smile at themselves in the mirror and give themselves a compliment before they leave for school.

Meditation & Mindfulness

Back to school can mean back to stress, as students return to tests and social pressures that can cause anxiety. One of the best ways to increase peace in our lives is to incorporate a daily meditation practice and enjoy mindful moments throughout our day.

Meditation is scientifically proven to boost brain function and ease stress, depression and anxiety. Noticing our breath, tuning in to our senses, and being present in the moment are the building blocks of a meditation practice.

Encourage children to use their senses to perceive the world, especially during times of stress. Get them into the habit of noticing what they hear, smell, see, taste and feel to get grounded in the moment. Ask them to notice their breath as they inhale and exhale. They can do this while listening to their favourite song or while enjoying a guided meditation on YouTube.

Creative Expression

Each child is a unique and special individual with a combination of gifts and talents unlike anyone else on the planet. However, the self-esteem of these unique young people often suffers as they try to “fit in” with a group of peers.

To raise children to be the impassioned leaders that the world needs, it’s paramount that they are encouraged to explore and creatively express their interests and abilities without fear of judgement.

Just as every child is unique, the way they creatively express themselves will be too. Encourage children to write, draw, act, dance, sing, play instruments, paint and express themselves through their hairstyles and fashion.

Taking time each day to focus on creative pursuits helps children express their feelings, think outside the box, feel a sense of accomplishment, self-reflect, develop their interests in a positive way, respect the ideas of others and create their own path in life.

Gratitude & Random Acts of Kindness

An attitude of gratitude is one of the most valuable gifts we can give to ourselves. Since our happiness level is drastically impacted by how we perceive the world, giving more focused attention to the good things in life, rather than the bad, allows us to see our lives in a positive light.

Imagine your child does really poorly on a test, they lose their lunch money, then come home and stub their toe. Many children would consider that to be a really bad day, but a child who practices gratitude would perceive that day differently. They would write a list of great things that happened to them that far outweigh the few negative things they experienced.

Children can practice gratitude by writing a daily list of things they are thankful for, writing thank you notes to people when they do something kind or thinking about a handful of things to be grateful for before getting out of bed in the morning.

One of the only practices more valuable than gratitude is giving others a reason to be grateful. Random acts of kindness radically uplift our perception of the world and are an instant mood booster for the recipient.

When Jami’s mom came home after having a rough day at work, her day was instantly turned around by her daughter’s random act of kindness. “I put sticky notes around the house telling my family that I loved them and appreciated them. When I saw my family read them, I saw joy and happiness in their facial expressions.”

Kindness is free to give and should be shared at every opportunity. Each child has unique skills and talents and can use them to make a difference in their homes, schools and community. A child who loves to write or draw could send a note or picture to a lonely person on their street. Or a child who loves to bake could make cookies for someone going through a difficult situation.

Even the smallest acts of kindness can make someone else’s day and positively impact your own.

Dream Candy is a youth self-development organization created by Camilla MacDonald and Deelle Hines. To learn more about Dream Candy please go to dreamcandy.org or contact them at info@dreamcandy.org.

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