What better gift can you give your children than the ability to be able to face fears, problems, concerns, stresses and be able to deal with them and regulate their emotions. Mindfulness training can give children coping mechanisms and tools to do just this and take care of themselves in a variety of situations whether it be to manage anxiety for a test, deal with conflict, needing to calm down or needing to find courage to try something new to name but a few.
“Mindfulness involves learning to be able to direct our attention to our experience as it unfolds moment by moment with open-minded curiosity and acceptance. Rather than worrying about what has happened or what might happen, it trains us to respond skillfully to whatever is happening right now, whether that be good or bad”.
Mindfulness in Schools Organization
Over the years I’d like to say that we have all become much more aware and educated regarding looking after our health. However, I feel that a big piece many of us are perhaps still missing is giving ourselves the time for stillness and silence in our lives.
Our lives are becoming increasingly busy and more demanding with ever increasing pressures to achieve. The tension is palpable now. Stress levels are soaring and our children our not escaping this:
- In 1967 the average age of the onset of depression was 54 years, in 2014, the average age is now 13 – 15 years
- In the USA one in five kids now suffer from some form of mental disorder. Accordingly to Linda Lantieri author of “Building Emotional Intelligence”, something has to be wrong with the culture that one in five children are not emotionally healthy by the age of 17?
Now more than ever, especially with the proliferation and pervasiveness of technology, we need to be unplugged and unwired and do something to increase the connection we have with ourselves and give ourselves the peace, stillness and quietness that we all so desperately need. We need connection, not connectivity.
In certain schools children are being exposed to developing Mindful practices through programs such as MindUp, spearheaded by Goldie Hawn. I feel that as parents, we can supplement this and encourage and implement family Mindfulness practices. Also, if children see their parents doing something, they are more likely to embrace it and take it on board for themselves; monkey see, monkey do.
What can we do at home to develop Mindfulness?
- Create a Mindfulness practice of your own
- Teach your children Mindful techniques to equip them with tools to develop resilience, cope with pressure and stress and self-regulate
- Encourage your children to be mindful and talk to them about it
- Create a peace corner in your home where you can go to seek calm, you can also think of this place as a place for Time IN rather than Time OUT
- Engage in Mindful rituals together as a family
- Practice a Mindful techniques with your children
- Incorporate being Mindful into as much of your daily lives as possible ie. while eating or going for a walk
A young child in a Contemplative Teaching program wrote this when asked to reflect on using the Peace Corner:
It’s where I can think
It’s where I can practice
It’s where I can just
According to Elisha Goldstein, PhD, Psychologist and author of The Now Effect, these are some of the things that she has noticed that people do differently as a result of being Mindful:
- Approach everyday things with curiosity and savor them
- Forgive their mistakes – big or small
- Show gratitude for good moments and grace for bad ones
- Practice compassion and nurture connections
- Make peace with imperfection inside and out
- Embrace vulnerability by trusting others and themselves
- Accept and appreciate that things come and go
The notion of being more present in our lives is gaining momentum; we are seeing sports teams, elite athletes, musicians, some large organizations such as Google embracing it and recognizing the enormous benefits that it brings them.
I will leave you with some quotes from K – Grade 2 children of Chatsworth Elementary School reflecting on how contemplative teaching (Mindfulness / Social and Emotional Learning) has helped them:
“If we don’t do mindfulness we would just be too worked up the whole day mindfulness kind of calms everyone down”
“I use it to calm down and when I’m a little wild and when I’m feeling sad I can use it”
“The peace corner is where I can go when I’m worked up and it makes me calm”
“With the death of my Grandmother and three very close friends I needed to use the peace corner a lot. Mindfulness is very helpful”
“The first time you do mindfulness you are not going to be that good at it. You are not going to do it perfect; your mind’s going to wander probably and whenever you are sad you can use it, even at your house when you’re feeling a little cranky. It’s very nice to have mindfulness then you can always feel happy”
If you have any questions about anything I have written about this week, please drop me a line. If you are interested in learning more about Mindfulness, here is some recommended reading and resources:
Mindfulness – An 8 week plan for finding peace in a frantic world by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
Numerous books by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Building Emotional Intelligence by Linda Lantieri and Daniel Goleman
For readers in Vancouver, I will be running Mindfulness classes for tweens and teens ages 11 – 18 years starting in the New Year. I will also be offering this program to families wishing to learn more about Mindfulness.