Anxiety management, Meditation facilitator training, Meditation home practice, Meditation teacher training, mindfulness, stress management

How busy is busy?

“I am so busy”, or “I am too busy” are statements you will probably hear at least once a day.  But are we just busy being busy?  And how busy is busy?   Is being busy just fashionable or do we feel that we are expected to be busy?  Are we defining our worth by how busy we are?

I was talking to a past student of the Chilled Out Child meditation and mindfulness facilitator programme earlier today about how healthy and essential it is to take a step back and slow life down a little.  We both agreed on this simple question “how we can know who we really are, if we are rushing through life and not giving ourselves enough time to reflect on where we have been, where we are now and where we might want to be going?”

Children learn by example, which can create some hilarious moments.  Think of the toddler who picks up a toy phone loudly announcing “hello, hello, I am too busy to talk now!”  or the three-year-old who struts around the room flinging a scarf around it’s neck loudly exclaiming that it is in a rush and cannot find it’s car keys.  How many of us can recognise ourselves in these role-play moments?  Hilarious yes, but not so hilarious if you are that busy throughout your life well into adulthood and dashing around your house frantically seeking the car keys and flinging your phone around, shouting commands at it saying you are too busy to speak now is part of everyday life…. and your normal way of being.

Eventually all this dashing and flailing about is going to lead to feelings of stress and then develop into anxiety.

Now might be a good time to create low stress environments for yourself and your children.

Here are some basic ideas to think about;

  • To start with do not over schedule yourself or your children.
  • Ask yourself and your children which activities bring you all joy and stick to the activities which are having a positive emotional and psychological impact on your lives.
  • Make sure family downtime involves relaxing and chatting to each other.   Staring at the TV might not be good enough down time.
  • Make sure you all get enough sleep.  Tired grumpy children, lead to tired grumpy parents and vice versa.
  • Eat well and healthily and the occasional chocolate treat is good too.  I met a mum once who was so strict she banned her child from eating chocolate!  That would be devastating in my household.
  • Listen to what your children are saying.  This goes back to sitting and chatting to your children.
  • Take the time to talk about what you like and do not like about life right now.  If you all share your perceptions on things you will all understand each other better.

Remember that in order to take care of your children you must take care of yourself. 

With this in mind, the Chilled Out Child meditation and mindfulness facilitator training programme starts with looking at what stress is and the development of your own meditation practice and then move on to how you can share these skills with children and teenagers.

If you would like to know more about developing your own meditation practice and how you can live life mindfully on purpose follow this link.

Anxiety management, Meditation, Meditation home practice, mindfulness, stress management

Managing your reaction to your child’s mood when it turns stormy.

Helping your child learn to recognise the feeling of “oncoming anger” and teaching them to deal with their anger healthily will have many benefits not only for the child but for the whole family.

When children learn how to manage their angry outbursts they will learn to solve problems and cope with their emotions in a balanced and safe way.   It is a good idea to explain to children that anger is the problem, and it is not them that is the problem.  You could give the anger a character, or name and ask your child to draw what they think this angry character looks like.  Ask them what colour he/she would be, what kind of face would they have, what specific features will the “angry character” have and what have they decided to call him/her?   Anger need not be a character; it could be a volcano or a raging sea, it could even resemble a weather pattern such as a tornado or wild storm.  With your child, think of some creative ways to describe and depict anger and if you can aim to make this amusing, it takes the edge off.

The way you respond to your child’s anger will influence how they continue to respond and feel about their angry outburst.   Talking to your child and identifying early warning signs that an outburst might be near will be very helpful and help your  child to recognise what triggers them and how to manage there reactions, or if they can, avoid the trigger altogether.  Encourage your child to walk away from their triggers or get them to do simple things like counting to ten or taking three or four belly breaths.  It is worth remembering that children model our behaviour, so this is good advice for us too.

Positive feedback is important, so it would be helpful to praise your child’s efforts to manage their anger even if they really struggle to manage how they feel and still end up erupting like a volcano. This will build your child’s confidence in the battle against anger. It will also help them feel that you’re both learning together.

Anger can rise quickly and can be a frightening and unsettling experience even for the angry person.  As frustrating as it can be to have to deal with adults and children who regularly display angry behaviour, patience and perseverance and a big dose of loving kindness can go along way to helping them get to grips with this unruly emotion.

 

Anxiety management, Meditation home practice, mindfulness, stress management

Parenting an anxious child.

It can be very disconcerting for parents when they are faced with an angry and distressed child, especially if you cannot see what could be causing so much distress.

Most children have occasional tantrums or meltdowns and may sometimes lash out if they’re frustrated, but when children continue to have regular emotional outbursts, it is usually a symptom of distress and children who seem angry and defiant on a regular basis may be suffering from anxiety. The first step to helping your child manage their anger is for you to understand what could be triggering their outbursts.

If your child is suffering from anxiety,  they may have a hard time coping with situations that cause them distress which may result in them lashing out when demands at school or at home put pressure on them that they feel they can’t handle.  In an anxiety-inducing situation, your child’s “fight or flight” instinct may take hold and they may have a tantrum or refuse to do something to avoid the source of acute fear.

Activity:   It might be helpful to keep a journal of the times when your child has an outburst or expresses that they are feeling angry or anxious.  Also note down what they were doing before the outburst or what they were planning to do prior to their unhappiness.   By jotting all this down, it should help you put together an emotional map of what might be triggering their outbursts, which will eventually help you to help your child recognise when a problem might be about to occur and they can be better prepared to manage their emotions before they are triggered.

Here are a couple of useful links relating to parenting an anxious child:

What to do and not do when children are anxious.
https://childmind.org/article/what-to-do-and-not-do-when-children-are-anxious/

Nine things every parent with an anxious child should try.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/9-things-every-parent-with-an-anxious-child-should-try_b_5651006.html

Cognisance coaching, Meditation, Meditation home practice, mindfulness, stress management

Building stronger connections with our subconscious mind and emotions.

Writing in a journal helps our conscious mind build stronger connections with our sub-conscious mind and emotions.  This helps us to sort through any mental clutter which may be upsetting our emotions and get in the way of our understanding and clarity.

Journaling is a great way for adults and children to “download” their thoughts and daily life experiences on to paper and then refer back to these thoughts later if they wish to for self reflection.  During the Chilled Out Child meditation and mindfulness facilitator training one of our modules covers the benefits of encouraging journaling as part of a children’s and teens mindfulness class.   We spend some time exploring creative ways of incorporating this theme into the structure of the overall class.

Like adults, when journaling, children need to be careful that they do not use their journals as a ‘negative dumping ground’ and ideally they should be encouraged to think about their feelings as either better or worse and not positive and negative.  Creating and decorating a journal with beautiful words and imagery can be very uplifting.  Writing in a gratitude journal can be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what you are grateful for in that moment.

Journaling should not be confused with keeping a diary.  Writing in a journal could be viewed and approached as an opportunity for children to be creative.  If you are teaching meditation to children,  a journal can be a great space for participants to express their thoughts on how they felt about the guided imagery meditation or overall experience of the class they have participated in.   The versatility of keeping a journal means this activity can also be incorporated into many different areas of learning which includes subjects like math, science, social studies and english.

Here are a few journaling ideas for you to do at home, school or incorporate in to a children’s and teens meditation class:

  • Make, or decorate your own individual journals.
  • Use a “journal jar” and each week pick a “topic” to reflect on and journal about.
  • Use positive affirmations – it is a good idea as a group to come up with positive affirmations which turn daily challenges into an opportunity to look for a positive and empowering solutions.
  • Start a “feelings journal” – enabling children to identify their current emotions, draw a picture, write about it and then link it to the idea of “my personal weather report”. For example, stormy (angry), rainy (sad), sunny (happy).
  • Choose a feeling from a feeling poster or wheel and write about or draw about it and if it is a negative emotion look for the positive affirmation to “balance it out” and bring a positive aspect to it.

Encouraging children and teenagers to take a moment to move out of their “minds” and reconnect with their hearts through the process of journaling about what makes them happy, or grateful can be very therapeutic.   Writing or drawing in a journal can help them to channel their energy into something creative and enable them for that moment to focus on the positive, removing the tendency to focus on thoughts that create or encourage anxiety.

Anxiety management, Connecting to nature, Mandalas, Meditation, Meditation home practice, mindfulness, stress management

Meditation and ADHD

The brain is the most complex organ in the body and has approximately 100 billion neurons, which are nerve cells.  These neurons gather and transmit electrochemical signals.  Between the neurons are chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that trigger responses in the transmitting and receiving neurons.  It is the neurotransmitters which are at the root of ADHD, as these messengers do not go where they are supposed to go and they often react erratically.  When acting erratically, they either cannot bridge the gap between the neurons, take too long to convey the signal or they connect the wrong two neurons. This is what leads to ADHD behaviour.

Recent research has shown that mindfulness training can be adapted for people who are diagnosed with ADHD and in trials mindfulness training has been shown to improve the concentration levels in individuals with ADHD, as well as children without ADD/ADHD.

If you have already worked with children or have your own children/grandchildren then you will know that anything that encourages children to self-regulate their sometimes unsettled emotions is a very helpful skill,  especially so in a formal  classroom environment where one child’s unsettled emotions can set a few of the other children off as well.

If you follow this  link , you can read a study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies which discusses the effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and simultaneous training in mindful parenting for the children’s parents.

With a few small modifications to some of the mindfulness exercises, like starting a meditation practice by meditating for shorter periods of time and practicing mindfulness exercises which use visual aids (many individuals with ADD/ADHD are visual learners), mindfulness can be enjoyed by children with ADHD and be of great benefit to them.

Here are some simple mindfulness exercises you might like to try:

To introduce mindfulness to your family or children at school ask them to sit quietly and try to observe the following:

  • Sounds in the environment.
  • Details of their breath.
  • Body sensations, for example a sore foot, uncomfortable shoulder, or aching stomach.
  • Looking closely at their immediate environment. What do they see now, that they may not have seen before.

Introducing mindfulness to your home environment has to be approached in a unique way as unlike adults, not many children will just sit down on a mat, close their eyes and start focusing on their breathing bringing their awareness to the present moment.

Activities which require movement such as yoga or tasks which focus on the five senses are all appropriate means of teaching a child to be more mindful.  Guided meditations such as the body scan are all helpful in teaching individuals to live in the present moment and be more aware of how they feel and how their feelings and reactions to stimuli will impact the word around them.  Remember to keep this shorter for more energetic children.  They will not want to sit or lie down for long.

Other ways of cultivating mindfulness in children are, practicing a musical instrument, reading a book and doing artwork.

Colouring mandalas or pictures from a colouring book are great ways to be mindful.   These activities are considered mindful as they require the individual to be “focusing in the moment”.  If your child prefers building things then building with lego, or building something outside in nature, like a hide, or mandala made out of items found in nature can also add an element of adventure as they run around looking for the correct materials to build with.

Do you remember this game from your childhood?  I do!

Memory game  – noticing the finer details.

Select a number of objects which you can lay out on a tray.  Ask the children to memorise the objects for a minute and then close their eyes, whilst you pack the objects away.   How many objects can they remember? Can they describe the objects in detail – colour, size?

This memory game will encourage children to focus and pay attention to things in detail as opposed to just casually noticing something and not really noticing the finer details around them.

It is worth remembering that mindfulness is an enjoyable and natural skill and we need to provide the right environment and encouragement to the children in our lives to enable this skill to develop. 

Children are very distracted by how busy our lives are with televisions and radios blaring, traffic noise, constant talking, phones ringing, text messages, Facebook and various other app notifications going off and noise in general.  If you live in a city and you sit quietly for a moment, notice just how many different noises you can hear.  Our lives are filled with noise.   All this noise makes it more difficult to stay focused and comes between our natural ability to be focused on real life.

 

 

 

Meditation home practice

How do I create a meditation space at home?

If you are a busy parent you may not have the luxury of being able to attend a yoga or meditation studio for your daily or weekly fix of calm and tranquillity.  But with a bit of thought, you might be able to find a space at home, however small, which you could dedicate to your own meditation practice or a family meditation practice.

In an ideal world it would be wonderful to have a spare room which you could de-clutter and convert into a meditation room.   In a busy household where space is scarce, you might not be able to “lose an entire room” to the purpose of meditation, but you might be able to create a multi-purpose room which can be used by the whole family.

Here are a few ideas for “room-sharing”.

You could turn the room into a reading room by day and meditation room in the evening or morning before school and work.  The room could also be a “non-electronic playroom”.  By this I mean a space where children can do puzzles, colour-in or build Lego.  This is exactly what I did in our previous home.   I encouraged my daughter to use the room but for relaxing and reading, or games which did not require electronic gadgets such as iPads, phones, X-box, Play Station and so forth.   I had a sofa in the room, but otherwise it was pretty much empty which meant there was lots of floor space for Lego building.  When children came over to visit, they tended to congregate in there and spread all the toys out to play with as they enjoyed the simple clutter free space.   Clearing up was quick too.  With some clever storage to reduce clutter and minimal furniture the space can be quickly converted into a meditation room once play time is over.

Designing your meditation room can be great fun and needn’t cost a lot of money.  With a few pictures on the walls, a small table or shelf for a couple of candles and incense and an empty corner to stand a few yoga mats and cushions in until needed, you have your space.   If you do have the luxury of a dedicated room, then you can enhance and deepen your quiet time by creating just the right atmosphere for you by painting walls and accessorizing the room to your taste.  You could choose a minimalist theme, a cosy warm theme using deeper colours, or a room which is open, spacious and full of natural light.   When choosing a room in your home, try and choose a room where noise is at a minimum from TVs, the kitchen, children playing outside and traffic.   Traffic noise can be the most distracting and depending on how busy the road is, completely disrupt your meditation practice as a beginner.  As you become more used to meditating, noises will recede and be far less noticeable.

But what if space at home is really scarce?

If space in your home is at a premium, you might need to find a “quiet corner” where you or you and your family have enough space to sit on a couple of yoga mats or cushions during meditation time.   If you do not have any space at all to dedicate to a meditation practice, then sitting in bed to meditate will do just fine.  Just try not to fall asleep, but do not beat yourself up about it if you do.   Children can practice their breathing and listen to guided imagery meditation whilst lying in bed before they go to sleep.   You can also practice mindfulness as an individual or a family which will not require you to have anywhere special to meditate at all, but instead encourages you and your family to bring awareness to how you feel and pay more attention in any given moment regardless of where you might be at that moment.

If you would like to know more about how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into family life, join me on the next Chilled Out Child programme or contact me to discuss individual mindfulness coaching.   Contact me here.

Creating a space at home for family meditation