O.K., let’s sit down, get comfortable and take a deep breath. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. In and out, counting to 5 before you inhale and again before you exhale. That’s right, slow it down. Focus on that breathing… For many of you, this may sound like the beginnings of a Yoga class or perhaps an adult retreat of some sort. Nope. It’s actually the way a parent or teacher may begin a mindfulness exercise with children. What? They’re too young to be able to concentrate that way, right? Actually, no, they’re not. And for argument sake, today’s children may need these skills more than any other generation of children have. The stresses faced by our kids today is phenomenal. From competing to get into that ‘special’ school, to homelessness, and bullying, our kids face a new level of challenges. Studies are showing that participating in mindfulness activities can help children to lessen the effects of bullying, improve focus and social skills, reduce attention deficit problems, and promote overall mental health.
As a result, teachers and parents all over the globe have begun to use these mindfulness activities in the home and classroom. These activities can be fun, easy, and provide long lasting and essential skills your kids can use into adulthood. The first thing to remember is that self-care is important. It is imperative your child learns that they have to take care of their body’s physical, mental and emotional needs, especially in times of stress or trepidation.
One activity that can help is called “Mindful Posing”. Here, you can get your kids interested in performing certain ‘poses’ that assist them in feeling strong and confident. There’s the Superman pose where your child practices standing straight up, with legs out slightly wider than the hips, and arms straight out at the side with fists clenched. Similarly, the Wonder Woman pose involves standing up straight with legs out slightly wider than hips, with hands and fists placed firmly on the hips. Make sure kids hold these poses for several minutes at a time, concentrating on how strong and capable they are feeling.
Next, there’s the classic sensory mindfulness practice sometimes referred to as “Spidey Senses”. It’s important to note here that, although these exercises have a super hero theme, they can be used with children of a variety of ages. For this sensory lesson, children focus their attention on the senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. They describe their surroundings based on these senses. This encourages them to pause and focus their attention on the present, noticing even the smallest details that might otherwise be overlooked.
Finally, you can turn an ordinary walk outside into a mindfulness experience. It’s called the “Safari Exercise” and involves using the imagination, combined with physical exercise to promote a heightened state of awareness in the present. You can imagine you’re going on a safari. The objective is to use detail to describe any kind of creepy critter that can crawl, swim or fly that you see while on this ‘safari’.
These are just a few of the ways mindfulness can help you and your child practice self-care. Our bodies and senses are tools we can use to help us cope with today’s unique challenges. Both child and adult can benefit as we take a few minutes to slow down, breathe deeply, and have some fun learning these new activities. Finally, please remember that we, at Dynamis, want to help all children achieve their potential. Contact us as soon as you see your child facing challenges in his academic school year.