By Greg Graber
To help safeguard our students from added anxiety and fear during the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, I've provided a few mindfulness tips that will help restore some of their calmness and confidence during this trying time. They are great for children of all ages, and their parents!
1. Kids pick up on our vibes and energy. They are symbiotic creatures. If we are nervous and anxious, they will be, too. Model the behavior you want them to emulate.
2. Name it and tame it. Let them process their thoughts and emotions, instead of suppressing them. Talk them through what they are feeling. Children need to learn how to deal with difficult thoughts and emotions. Resisting them doesn’t make them go away. It only makes them stronger. If they can name it, they can tame it. Have them label how and what they are feeling and thinking. This builds self-awareness. In doing so, they are more apt to deal with what is going on in their minds.
3. Breathe to Succeed. One of the most simple and effective ways to get “unstuck” when fear or anxiety takes over is to take deep breaths. There are numerous benefits to this type of conscious breathing. When we breathe deeply, slowly, and fully, our bodies relax. When we relax, we allow space for greater absorption of oxygen into our body’s cells. More oxygen into our bodies means we have greater energy. Also, this helps to activate our parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which calms us down, as opposed to the “Fight or Flight” branch which “speeds up” our minds and physical sensations. As a result, our stress hormones and our heart rates are lowered and we can function more rationally. Encourage your child to take deep breaths when he or she feels stressed or anxious. Our favorite breathing technique in our middle school is 5-1-7:
4. Meditation. Once we demystifying it, meditation is simply “self- observation.” Sitting with our thoughts and emotions daily teaches us how to be the “observer of our thoughts.” In other words, it enables us to learn how to be more responsive instead of reactive. Meditation also shows us that our thoughts are “mental activity,” not always absolute truths. There are some wonderful apps you can explore with your children which will help you get started on a daily meditation practice. I recommend the Insight Meditation app, Headspace, and Calm.
5. Journaling. Journaling is one of the best ways children can learn to deal with inner and external chaos. I highly recommend you encourage your child to start keeping a daily journal. Not only can this process be therapeutic, but it can also spark their creative energy. A bonus is that it can make them better writers.
6. Flip the Script on Stress. A lack of self-awareness often renders us clueless when we are stressed out. The first step in dealing with stress is knowing when we are stressed. Teach your child to listen to his or her body. Our bodies have “built-in alarms” that tell us when we are stressed. One of the most effective ways of lessening our stress is to simply be aware of it. Trying to mentally resist only makes its grip on us stronger. Instead of trying to fight it, bring your attention to these areas of the body that tend to respond to stress:
When we are stressed, we may feel one of these feelings or several of them. By bringing our attention to it and simply saying to ourselves, “I am feeling stressed right now,” we can learn to loosen its feeling over us.
These are just a few mindfulness techniques to help your child. For more information, feel free to email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.