Mindfulness – A Useful Tool for Children
Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder and More Compassionate, says that when children are over-tired, anxious or stressed out it affects everything they do. This can even come down to effecting how they feel. Therefore it is clear that teaching children to manage a hectic daily life (which has now become normal unfortunately) is just as important as teaching them any life skill.
Mindfulness is this skill. It is important for children, as well as adults, to “develop an awareness of their emotions”. It involves being able to listen to our bodies and to understand our thoughts and emotions – which is important in tuning yourself to the world around you.
For children, this skill will help them to calm down. It is common when children are upset, that their normal ‘thinking brain’ is taken over by emotion, meaning they are unable to think clearly. This explains a lot about my own brothers, who would hit each other out of frustration on a daily basis. And I am sure they aren’t the only children who have done this. So being mindful can help children move away from this ‘acting without thinking’ when they become emotional, and moves them on to being able to understand and regulate their emotions, and calm themselves down.
Soothing is easy – it can even be as simple as identifying your own breathing. The most useful technique that Greenland has discovered is counting your breath. Yes, that’s something we have all used in our past. Breathe in and count to three, then breathe out and count to three. It’s so easy, and it’s something children can remember to use when they are in school or at a friends house, and it works!
Greenland is the creator of the “Inner Kids Program” which is taught internationally, and helps children to understand the ABC’s of attention, balance and compassion. It’s a way of teaching children to REMEMBER that they have the tools they need to calm themselves down.
Something I stumbled upon yesterday is a curriculum held here in Hong Kong called Superflex – but this too is international. It is a social thinking curriculum in which you see yourself as Superflex, a super hero who sets off to defeat the ‘unthinkables’ of the world. The curriculum encourages children to take on the role of a social detective, in order to solve the many challenges they may face in day to day life. There are 12 unthinkables in the world, such as ‘Mean Jean’ the bully and ‘Worry Wall’ who makes people nervous and worried. As a social detective, Superflex must learn ways to defeat each unthinkable, and identify social situations where each unthinkable may appear.
While I do not know an awful lot about either curriculum, any way of making this process more fun and easy to do is a plus in my books. I certainly wish I had a chance to complete a social thinking curriculum when I was in Primary School. One boy that I know attends the Superflex course, and it was so nice to hear him explain the ‘Blob Tree*’ to me after his session, and ask his mum if he can make a happy cloud when he got home. It isn’t even set just for children who have learning\developmental disorders, any child can take part and learn just that little bit more about how to tackle the modern day world.
So I encourage you to just take a look at both of these curriculums – you don’t need to sign your child up for them, as you can even use them at home yourself. I think it teaches us ALL a little more about being mindful.
*The Blob Tree is a picture of a tree full of different Blob people showing no age/gender/race, developed by Pip Wilson. Each one is showing a different emotion, such as swinging on a tree swing, or sat on it’s own looking grumpy. The child looks at the tree and points to which Blob they identify with the most at that moment in time. It is a useful teaching tool in many situations, and it is fun for the child as well.
Written by: Philippa Berry
- Teaching Kids to Be Mindful (psychcentral.com)
- Technology Integration Spectrum. (melaniehazelip.wordpress.com)
- How We Can Teach Our Children Mindfulness (allowinglove.wordpress.com)
- Helping Students Deal With Stress (howtolearn.com)