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.

 

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

What is meditation?

Meditative practices have existed for centuries and have evolved from Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism.  In the last couple of decades the number of people in the West who meditate has greatly increased due to the rise of stress and anxiety experienced in daily life.

So what is meditation?

In its simplest form, meditation is the act of sitting quietly with our back straight and focusing our thoughts inwards or just acknowledging our thoughts and letting them pass “before us” without attaching too much emotion to them.  In other words, you do not sit in a meditation pose and brood, creating worry in your mind and focusing purposefully on things that have upset you during the day or in previous weeks/months.  On a conscious level it is a simple skill that helps us to de-clutter the mind.   On a deeper level meditation is a powerful skill that supports us to “be in the moment” and develop our “sense of self”.  Regular meditation practice can help to bring our mind, body and emotions into a peaceful harmonious state which will encourage mental and physical healing, relaxation and a greater clarity of mind in everyday life.  It is the improved clarity of mind which helps to take the “edge off our mental anxiety” as you are able to better problem solve and more easily see solutions to life’s challenges. Meditation can help us with every area of our life, teaching us to stop resisting and embrace the “flow of life”.

Here is a short list of how meditation benefits children (and adults):

  • Better stress management.
  • Improved focus and concentration at school.
  • Less sleep problems due to reduced physical and mental tension.
  • A reduction in anxiety specifically during exam time.
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence in challenging situations.
  • Increased creativity and mindful self-expression.
  • Development of emotional, social and physical growth.

A meditation practice is a lifelong life skill, it is not something you learn in five minutes or even an hour and then think, OK I have got this.   Meditation is experiential and will change daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.  It is something that grows, develops and changes as you live your life and face life’s challenges specific to you and your environment.

Contact me here to find out about developing your own meditation practice and learning how to facilitate mindfulness in children and teenagers.