Backpacks and loose-leaf folders slide into the seasonal aisles of your favorite retail chains when the start of the school season approaches again. Millions of parents across the country are excited to have their children in the classroom after the strangest year of their lives.
If you are one of them, you can customize your home to support this overdue transition to normal. “Sitting in front of a computer was exceptionally difficult for most children and teenagers because they are stuck at home all the time as an added stress factor,” explains the Connecticut-based child psychologist and author of It’s Going To Be Good: Proven Ways To Improve Your Child’s Mental Health, Roseann Capanna-Hodge.
San Diego-based interior designer Susan Wintersteen has years of experience designing healthy homes for families. Both professionals pitch in with wellness design tips from their unique perspectives to help your students prepare for an unprecedented new school year.
1. Reorganize and update
“Freshening up or creating new learning and play spaces is a good start to the new school year,” says Capanna-Hodge. “Thinking about which activities they do while studying and which rooms they then need is a great starting point.” Perhaps it is a redesigned homework area or a newly made closet for new school clothes, says the psychologist: “When we go back to school , we should also think about what our rooms need to help our children be ready to learn. ”
2. Support a sound sleep
Children need even more sleep than adults, and stress, excitement, and electronics cannot help many. Wintersteen notes, “Making a child’s bedroom sleepier is about good lighting control.” She recommends adding dimmers to your bedroom lighting to make it easier to fall asleep and wake up. (A smart home system could work in this regard as well.) It also points out the need to block outside light from shining into the room. “Window covers that darken the room create opportunities for relaxation and let in light when opened.”
3. Create a kid-friendly kitchen space
Capanna-Hodge has seen an increase in children’s emotional eating since the pandemic began, she reports. “When it comes to stressful eating, it doesn’t just mean changing what, when and how much we eat, but also how the kitchen is set up. The elimination of easy access to snacks and the availability of healthier options can be a start. ”She suggests creating a child-friendly kitchen zone. (To be on the safe side, this should be placed outside the work aisles, e.g. between the sink and the hob; the outside or the end of an island are often ideal locations.) “Having space for children to prepare their food increases awareness of the environment Eating and building up self-esteem “, notes the psychologist and adds:” The way your kitchen is set up can not only promote healthy eating, but also children, who are responsible for their own health. ”
4. Personalize your rooms
Wintersteen advises children should have an influence on the design of their rooms, which can include their kitchen-based children’s zones, bedrooms, bathrooms, play and study areas. “Surrounding yourself with things that bring us joy and comfort can be beautiful and functional. It’s important to add elements of colors that they like, texture that they appreciate and give them the opportunity to be part of the design process, ”comments the designer. This is easier with children who are old enough to communicate their preferences, she stresses. For younger family members, she suggests using visual cues, such as photos, to help them make their choices. From there, parents and designers can create functional, kid-friendly and welcoming spaces for them that take their personality into account.
5. Create safe spaces
Most of us have experienced some level of emotional stress during the pandemic, as have the country’s children and youth. “The greatest stress factor for parents and children when re-entering school is the fear that we will have another quarantine and that all the progress we have made will be lost,” says Capanna-Hodge. “Making our home an oasis is a way of putting children and their parents in control at a time when the world is so out of control,” she suggests. This can include device-free zones that focus on mindful activities such as arts and crafts, yoga, prayer, and meditation. (Exercise and exercise would be another option.) “Whether it is a room or a room dedicated to an activity that helps regulate and calm the nervous system, when children help create these spaces and use them as families, it becomes self-care a priority that your child will hopefully go on alone, ”she adds.
6. Help children clean up
Mental health experts say clutter can be stressful, and designer Wintersteen agrees. “Clutter in children’s rooms – and let’s face it, they are messy by default – is an added burden on their mind and eyes.” The designer points out how difficult it can be for children to organize without a system in place. “Usually a child longs for a place for everything, where they can find their books and see the titles, where they put their laundry and a place for their favorite toys.” Establishing this before school can help with their hiring process .
7. Promote independence
Capanna-Hodge recommends that you rethink your space to give your children more autonomy. “Think about what needs to be changed so that children can do their tasks and ‘things’ on their own. Do you need to remodel the toilet or desk in the kitchen so that you have a place for your belongings without having to “nag” them? ”Since you haven’t been to school in a long time, the return to the routine won’t come automatically she predicts. Posted checklists, schedules, and timers are great tools, she suggests. “If the environment is structured visually and logically, children can learn to follow routines independently without their parents being asked too much, which helps to reduce friction losses and definitely build self-confidence.”
8. Address physical health
Millions of children have allergies, asthma, and other serious illnesses. The pandemic is particularly tough for their families. If yours is one of them, think about what to add to your child’s bedroom to support their health. “If I were asked to work on a room for an immunocompromised child to get it back to school, I would start with the larger areas and how they could play around on allergies, lighting controls, and ventilation,” says Wintersteen, who offers their services free to such families through their nonprofit organization Savvy Giving by Design. The designer points out floor coverings: “Do we have to replace the carpet with a green-certified mineral material floor?” Then she answers questions about indoor air quality: “Do we have good ventilation in the room without the windows being blocked? Have we installed an air purifier? ”Lighting is another concern:“ Is there adequate work lighting to reduce eye strain when reading? Do we have general ambient light to wake up in the early morning when the days get shorter, or do we illuminate the room at night in autumn to get ready for bed without the risk of bumping into objects? ”Looking at this list, It is easy to see that these tips can also benefit family members without existing health problems to help prevent future problems.
Even if your household is unable to remodel, rethinking, reorganizing, and re-inspiring your children’s living quarters for a new school year can have wellness benefits.
Editor’s note: Wintersteen and Capanna-Hodge will provide insights into wellness design on July 21 (4:00 p.m. East / 1:00 p.m. Pacific) and answer related questions about the start of school. Wellness Wednesday event in the clubhouse.