Dr Manisha Sarup Kohli
Adversity comes at us from the moment we are born. Children deeply struggle with their emotions and mostly act out by kicking and screaming expletives most of the times, it is because they do not understand what they are going through and cannot find a better way to release their feelings. As children develop through adolescence to become teenagers, life grows ever more complicated, developing relationships, navigating school and exercising independence—the very stuff of growing up-naturally creates stressful situations for every child. As an elder—-a parent or at eacher, we must know that when a child acts out, it is most likely because they are struggling to understand complex emotions that perhaps they are feeling for the first time.
Families and schools must give an urgent start to tackle this problem in a new way, and that is by teaching mindfulness and meditation in the classroom to improve their overall mental health. In all the schools across the state, children must be taught how to meditate, techniques for muscle relaxation and breathing exercises for mindfulness. This will help the students to practice calmness and will fill them with more positive energies and increase their resilience.
The secondary school students, who are already under the influence of adolescence-the period of stress and strain, will also get a more hands-on education to learn about awareness and how to increase this in their everyday lives. Some breathing and stretching exercises, will surely make a way to keep the students calmer in classroom. To authentically teach mindfulness to our children, we as guardians of these little angels, need to practice it ourselves. The intension behind teaching mindfulness to our children is to give them skills to develop their awareness of their inner and outer experiences in their bodies and to recognize when their attention has wandered and to provide tools for control. There is an emerging body of research that indicates mindfulness can help children improve their abilities to pay attention, to calm down when they are upset and to make better decisions. It helps with emotional regulation and cognitive focus.
So where do we start
*Establish your own practice. To authentically teach mindfulness to our children, we need to practice it ourselves. We can start slowly with a meditation practice of just five to ten minutes a day and find our own ways to incorporate mindfulness into our daily life.
*Keep it simple
Mindfulness is a big word for youngsters to understand, so we need to learn ways and methods to put simply to them. We have to teach them that mindfulness is awareness, it is noticing our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and anything that is around us and happening to us at the present moment.
*Check your expectations
The purpose behind teaching mindfulness to our children is to provide them skills to develop their awareness of their inner and outer world experiences, to recognize their thoughts as just thoughts, to understand how emotions manifest in their bodies, to recognize when their attention has wandered, and to provide tools for impulse control. It is not a panacea, and it will not completely get rid of tantrums and loudness and whining and exuberance, as they are normal kid behavior.
*Let’s not force it If our kids aren’t interested in our lessons or activities, we must drop it
Here are some suggestions for how we can begin to introduce mindfulness to our children:
*Listen to the bell therapy
An easy way for children to practice mindfulness is to focus on paying attention to what they can hear, listening to bells, a set of chimes or instrumental music with various sounds. Make various sounds for the children and help them learn to focus at them. This will help them increase their focus and concentration.
*Practice with a breathing buddy
For young children, to simply pay attention to their breath is hard to follow. The breathing buddy exercise can be of great help to make them learn and practice mindfulness: In this exercise each student grabs a stuffed animal, and then lies down on their back with their buddy on their belly, then teach them to focus their attention on the rise and fall of the stuffed animal as they breathe in and out.
*Make mindful walks
with your kids
“Noticing walk” can be your children’s favorite thing and a good relaxation therapy for them. Stroll with them in neighborhood, playgrounds, in gardens, outside classrooms and teach them to notice things which they have not observed before. We may designate one minute of the walk in silence and simply pay attention to all the sounds we can hear—frogs, woodpeckers, a lawnmower etc.
*Establish a gratitude practic
Gratitude is a fundamental component of mindfulness, teaching our children to appreciate the abundance in their lives, as opposed to focusing on all the toys and goodies that they crave. Teach them to share one thing they are thankful for the day.
*Try the Spider Man
The spider man meditation is right up the alley of children. This meditation teaches children to activate their “Spidey-senses” and their abilities to focus on all they can smell, taste, and hear in the present moment.
*Check your personal
In sitting still like a frog Eline Snel encourages children to, “summon the weather report that best describes their feelings at the moment.”Sunny, rainy, stormy, calm, windy, tsunami?
This activity allows children to observe their present state without overly identifying with their emotions. They can’t change the weather outside, and we can’t change our emotions or feelings either.
All we can change is how we relate to them. As Snel describes it, children can recognize,” I am not the downpour, but I notice that it is raining; I am not a sacredly -cat, but I realize that sometimes I have this big scared feeling somewhere near my throat.
*Make a Mind
Jar A mind jar is a bit like a snow globe-shake it up and watch the storm, but soon, if we sit and breathe and simply watch the disturbance, it settles. As do our minds.
*Practice mindful eating
The exercise of mindfully eating a raisin or a piece of chocolate is a staple of mindfulness education, and it is great activity for kids
While practicing these mindfulness activities, we have to remember to have fun and keep it simple. We can provide our children with many opportunities to add helpful practices to their toolkit—-some of them will work for them and some won’t. But it is fun to experiment. Children are uniquely suited to benefit from mindfulness practice. Habits formed early in life will inform behaviors in adulthood, and with mindfulness, we have the opportunity to give our children the habit of being peaceful, kind and accepting—-In a way sharing the skills of happiness and acceptance with our new generation.
(The author is Associate Prof Department of Psychology Govt PG College for women Gandhinagar)