This week tens of thousands of students in Dubai start their new school year. As the term begins it’s essential that parents track the healthy well-being of their children and introduce systems that protect them, says education consultant and author David Bott.
Writing in Al Arabiya English today, Bott explains that the most important thing that parents can do is to provide a foundational layer of certainty. Through clear, predictable patterns of behavior a steady routine is vital.
The idea of spending time to connect with our children, pursue activities together, whether this is to play or to learn, is obvious, but it’s easy to forget how important it is.
Research from the New Economics Foundation has identified ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ that can be used to provide a simple framework to help guide family routines in the coming weeks and months. Here are some ideas that you might incorporate into your family routine.
Having a ‘what went well’ conversation with the family each night over dinner allows everyone to share good news and experiences from their respective days. Having an ‘R U OK’ family routine for when family members seem stressed is a simple pattern of checking in, and can help to reduce any weirdness or stigma.
Then of course, touching base with other parents to talk about common struggles, and understand what schools have in place for children support services all help.
Time to be active
It might seem a chore, but you will start enjoying a short 15-30 minute post or pre-dinner family walk each evening.
The older we get, the more difficult our creaking bones become when pursuing high-energy sports, but kicking a ball about on the grass with your kids is easy. The thwack of the sound as your cricket bat hits a soft ball will still bring the joy you felt when you were the same age as your child you’re playing with.
Designing a weekly exercise plan that includes yoga, stretching, aerobics, or dance is great for children.
If you allocate five minutes before bedtime for gratitude journaling it’s very beneficial for your child’s mental wellbeing. Try putting on some quiet music and taking note of small things at home or school that people are grateful for.
Encourage them to practice short mindful mediation sessions every morning and listen and understand what’s on your mind, but it’s important that they can contribute too.
It can be difficult to expand the taste buds of lots of children, but with encouragement and patience a ‘New-Food-Friday’ night where you cook a new meal together is great for bonding and camaraderie.
Following up with this, try a ‘New-Film-Friday.’ It’s always a winner. Letting an adult and child alike take it in turns to choose a different genre of movie to watch as a family is great.
Learning can also include outdoor activities such as gardening. As we spent so much time indoors during the pandemic getting outside is more important than ever before for everyone’s wellbeing. Pottering about with plants and flowers - whether in an exotic garden or a tiny balcony - really does help to unwind and relax.
There’s a philosophy to giving. Many of us think that to give means to pass a physical object, but building a family practice of always smiling at and thanking anyone who supports your family is a good start.
From the food delivery person to the Uber driver, we might offer tips, but it’s generally a simple gesture, and that’s it. Encouraging your child to interact socially with people and to smile is the best gift they can offer.
Giving time to support school community activities, and charity work keeps the family well balanced.
Routines can be really effective in creating a sense of certainty and wellbeing. But of course, please only engage in routines that are appropriate in your family and cultural context. And if you or your child is experiencing acute or chronic anxiety, please seek medical opinion, Bott says.