ABCs and Rice, Cambodia
Seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet – About Children
Being Mindful with Children
The pressure to be the perfect parent, teacher or caregiver can feel daunting. You organize to be on top of drop off and pick up, homework, conferences, fundraisers, activities, and sports.…plus working to pay bills, managing housework, family meals, and outings… the list never seems to end.
They used to tell you the key to balancing work and family life is an organized system. Check. You have that down (pretty much).
Now they are talking about mindfulness for improved learning, better parenting, career advancement, better health and quality of life.
Holy cow. (No pun intended). Now I have to learn Eastern meditation just to be a good parent or teacher?
Actually, mindfulness practice is more accessible than you might imagine. Though rooted in Eastern philosophy, mindfulness is a practice that can be easy to absorb into your daily life.
What is Mindfulness, Exactly?
The core concepts of mindfulness in daily life are surprisingly simple derivations of the high moral and personal standards practiced by Himalayan monks for thousands of years.
For the non-monk, achieving mindfulness boils down to everyday life practices that
- Build awareness of the physical responses to triggers
- Overcome physical responses through breath work
- Replace reactions with curious, nonjudgmental consideration of triggers
- Apply compassion to all circumstances and people, including self-compassion and self-love
Scientific evidence confirms that these practices reduce stress levels, improve cognitive functioning, help build immune system strength, and help reduce conflicts. Mindfulness practices are now being used to successfully remediate intransigent social and personal problems, such as conflict resolution, chronic anxiety and depression, PTSD, and addiction.
I get that Mindfulness is powerful. How can I be more mindful with children?
Bringing mindfulness into parenting, teaching and otherwise dealing with children is something that benefits you and the children in your life.
Compassion is your starting point. Children today have been born into a world vastly different from the world you knew as a child. They face a future most adults cannot even imagine. Yet they are children, still wondering and in need of affectionate guidance that nurtures their innate abilities and gifts.
All compassion starts with self-love and self-inquiry. Meditation will help uncover where you lost trust in your gifts, where compassion for the child was broken and will provide an opportunity to heal through self-love.
Mindfulness practices with children can be as simple as co-breathing – a practice through which you can reduce stressful situations by matching your breathing pattern to a child exhibiting challenging behavior. Start with matching the child’s breathing pattern, then consciously regulate your own breathing. You will see the child begin to shift his or her own energy then to match your own.
Another mindfulness practice effective with children is a nonjudgmental presence. Children, like anyone else in a time of stress or crisis, need the compassionate presence of someone who cares, in order to transition from flight-or-fight reaction to open, trustful communication. Nonjudgmental presence is a quality built upon your practice of self-compassion, extending to compassion for others, as well as your own life experience,
Becoming adept with mindfulness practices is a goal that can Improve your relationships with children and even adults, through a transformed, crystal clear, compassionate understanding of their life stories – starting with your own!
You may give them your love but not your thoughts
For they have their own thoughts
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet – On Children
In the delightful 2014 film, Chef, there’s a scene in which a parent, Carl (the Chef in this story),is walking through an open market with his precocious 10 year old son, Percy. This bright young boy asks for kettle corn. Carl is a bit distracted with picking just the right produce to create an impressive dinner for an important food critic expected at his restaurant that very evening, but still tries introduce Percy to a better choice of snack. Dad picks up an orange and extols the beauty and freshness of the fruit. In the next frame, we see Carl and Percy walking out of the market with a bag of kettle corn.
Of course, you saw that coming. (By the way, although Chef is a terrific film about family and food, it also features colorful language – so it’s family-friendly viewing if your kids are teenage and older!)
Mindful Eating events and programs are springing up around the country, mainly catering to (no pun intended) adults, who sense the need to slow down, appreciate life’s simple gifts, and become an active part of the change towards a healthier, more sustainable world. Indeed, Mindful Eating has gained great traction through the efforts of nonprofits focused on social justice, local and organic food movements, and spiritual well being.
While Mindful Eating may call to you as an adult, is it possible to bring the benefits of this beautiful practice to your children. Mindful Eating is a cultivated practice, not one built on natural tendencies. Yet, if we look back at our own past, into customs of one or two generations back in our own family histories, most of us can recollect times of Mindful Eating, that featured true enjoyment of preparing food and eating together, sharing stories, and deep love.
Nature and nurture can actually work against Mindful Eating. When we are hungry, we eat to refuel our energy, as most humans have done all over the world for millennia. In our modern world, some of the food we eat carries meaning, based on our learned associations.
Mindful Eating gives both you and your children important life values, and can be successfully integrated into your lifestyle in ways that can be transformative in your lives and for future generations.
How exactly? Take the SAGE approach:
Mindful Eating programs often teach adults to put down their forks between mouthfuls to really feel and taste the food they’re eating. Children already know what they taste and feel and make their comments known at the table – not always sounding the way we think “Mindfulness” should sound, but mindful nonetheless!
Your children’s reactions to the food on their plate offer you an opportunity to practice Mindfulness and Mindful Eating. It starts with non-judgment. Learn to simply hear their comments without offering an immediate response. Instead turn your attention to your own plate. Pull off a leaf of the infamous Brussels sprout or unloved spinach from your plate. Just one leaf. Be fully aware of its taste and texture. Put down your fork and chew. Your children see what you are doing, even if they say nothing but “ewww!” Mindfulness is a practice free of the need for immediate results. Just enjoy. They are watching. Enjoy meal after meal, day after day; over time they will enjoy, too.
The same idea holds true if their reactions are positive, but these situations offer an opportunity to share your savoring of the crispness of the salad, the rich tomatoey-ness of the pasta. Sometimes there will be a response, sometimes not. No worries. You have started a tradition of savoring.
This is a part of Mindful Eating that doesn’t involves tasting or chewing, but is nonetheless equally important. In generations past, children learned from an early age the arts of preparing meals. Your younger children are probably quite eager to help wash and prepare vegetables, mix ingredients and stir pots with careful supervision. Teens and preteens can be great helpers in more complex tasks of mincing ingredients, spreading layers of a lasagna or casserole and with proper tools and protection, taking food out of an oven or off a grill. All of these tasks are important life skills to teach your kids. Montessori preschools teach cutting fruit and vegetables to build fine motor skills and life skills,
Food preparation can also teach mindfulness. The colors, textures and aromas of food change as we process our food, whether by cutting, mixing or cooking. Slow down enough to experience with your child the changes that take place as you prepare each part of your meal. Even the busiest families, who often order meals can have opportunities for Active Contribution: once or twice a month you can bake bread or make yogurt from scratch – both easy, fun ways to contribute to the family’s food, while learning scientific concepts.
The sense of gratitude for the food we eat has come a long way from simply saying Grace before meals. Farm to table dining, agro-tourism and even the trips to the local farmers’ market build true appreciation for the great effort that goes into getting the food that nourishes our bodies and spirits.
Other opportunities abound for building your children’s sense of gratitude. If you have a yard or even a patio, work with your child to grow something to eat. Just growing your own culinary herbs indoors from seeds is an amazing experience for kids – and makes a surprising difference in your food budget and quality!
Children enjoys outings to go fruit or berry picking; if a local farm offers this activity be sure to make it a priority for a weekend day trip. Also, visit fields where farm workers are harvesting produce. But remember, Mindfulness is compassionate non-judgment. The lectures kids heard in bygone years (Children in Africa are starving…finish your plate!) haven’t really resulted in a strong tradition of healthy attitudes about food in our society. Instead, observe peacefully, releasing blame or guilt, simply appreciating the work of others that feeds your family. Your children can sense this, so trust in your intentions and visit again, as often as you can.
Although food is a source of pleasure and happiness it is above all our nutrition. The bureaucracy may require teaching kids about the food pyramid, or whatever geometric shape fits their current learning standards, but you can explore further with your children.
Each food item they love has some nutritional quality – even kettle corn! Your caring, well researched, compassionate and non-judgmental approach can make Mindful eating habits an easy choice for your children. Your own preferences for less-than-healthy choices – as a child or adult – is an place to start. Investigate and identify how some of your choices – chocolate, coffee, French Fries, etc. – are deeply connected with positive experiences. Simply observe without judging, and be truly compassionate toward yourself.
Now look at one not-so-healthy food your child loves. Again try to go back to positive experiences connected with that food. Remember also to remain non-judgmental about negative reactions you’ve seen negative reactions – hyperactivity, lack of focus, low energy. These are signs that your child is suffering, and needs your compassion. Gradually replace those foods with healthy, delicious alternative that trigger the same positive feelings. As gradually as needed to make the change as easy and conflict-free as possible.
Mindful eating with children is a journey, not a destination. The time it takes to build a strong foundation of conscious choices, appreciation and healthy enjoyment of good food in your child’s life is well worth the effort.
And that’s the takeaway from Chef you may really appreciate. Without giving away too much, it’s enough to say that the film inspires us to bond with our kids through the love of good food and Mindful Eating.
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Start Today! Fun Kid Activities for Mindfulness-Focus
Mindfulness is the buzzword that promises advantages to everyone, from business managers to classroom teachers to parents around the world. You’ve done your homework on child development (and maybe part of your child’s homework, too – that’s OK, we’ve all done it!) and now you want to bring mindfulness practice into your child’s life today.
So today, are your kids tearing around and bouncing off the walls? Glued to an electronic device? On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “impossible” and 5 being “no sweat,” does starting a mindfulness practice look closer to 1 or 2? Even zero?
Worry not, loving parent! If you are committed to raising a strong, focused, smart and happy child, know this. What your beloved child is doing right now is, in fact, purpose-driven.
Children of every stripe are driven toward joy, dreams and possibilities. Do you remember “flying” down a flight of stairs, “hiding” behind the living room drapes? Your fleet of airplanes and Barbie doll dramas?
Mindfulness is as normal and natural as life itself.
The closer we are to our birth, the more naturally mindful we are: noticing without judging, being aware without reacting negatively.
Your job in teaching mindfulness practices is to guide your child’s natural attention to the joy and happiness of learning, and to help your child evolve into the peace-filled, curious, focused and inventive adult that resides within. The beauty of choosing mindfulness for your child is that the practices can revive your own memories of awareness and noticing without judgment, creating a powerful foundation for your life, your child and generations to come.
Should you talk to your child about mindfulness? Yes! But start with games and practices that appeal to your child’s own sense of joy, creating a family habit that you can later build into a concept of mindfulness appropriate for your child’s age and disposition. (We’ll give you tips on talking to your kids about mindfulness in a future post). For now, just be with your child and enjoy of their capacity for awareness! Here are some practices to try.
Preschool to elementary school age mindfulness game: Blowing soap bubbies
On weekends or after school, just say “Let’s blow bubbles!”
Dip a wand into a bottle of soap bubble water (available commercially or a 50/50 mixture of dish soap and water). Holding the bubble wand about 4 inches from your child’s mouth. ask your child to breathe in through the nose to the count 1…2…3. Then breathe out through the mouth to the bubble wand – 1..2..3. Regulating our out-breath is far harder than regulating in-breath. At first, your child and you will see many small bubbles. Chase just one with your child. Ask, “What colors did you see in that bubble?” You already know all the colors in the spectrum are in each tiny bubble.
Go back to the wand. Breathe in with your child 1…2…3. Let your child breathe out to the wand – 1…2…3. What colors did your child see now?
Go back again. As your child has masters out-breath, fewer and bigger bubbles will appear, and the colors will be more easily visible.
Twenty to thirty minutes of mindful bubble play with your child teaches:
- Regulation of in and out breath, the basis of life balance.
- Focused attention, by chasing just one bubble, while knowing other bubbles exist.
- Calm awareness through simply noticing that more colors are visible as the out-breath balances with in-breath.
For the active, martial arts kid, athletic or older child
The art of Tai Chi offers a treasure box of mindful activities perfect for your active, athletic child’s focus on success in martial arts and other sports: balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance.
An important core practice will teach your active or older child to use Tai Chi training to become aware of his or her own energy, a great advantage in succeeding in their chosen challenges.
Ask your child to sit on the floor in a cross-legged or kneeling position, with a straight back, palms resting upwards on their knees facing upwards. You will sit behind your child, practicing full nonjudgmental awareness to support this activity.
Start with breath awareness. Count the in-breath 1…2…3, and out breath 1…2…3. Notice particularly the out-breath. Continue counting for your child until the in-breath and out-breath are equal in speed and regularity. Don’t comment on or correct your child’s breathing. Just continue the counting, and the regularity will come.
Next, ask your child to bring their awareness to the palms of their hands. The palms have a strong capacity for energy and healing, As your child focuses on the palms (a key center of healing energy or chi), he or she will feel a tingling sensation in the in the hands. Tell your child to pay complete attention to the tingling sensation.
Start the breath counting again 1..2…3 in, and 1..2…3 out. Direct your child’s awareness to the increasingly strong sensations in the hands as he or she continues to breathe.
Gently support your child’s straight posture if needed, without breaking the count. Continue for 5 minutes for the first session. Children always experience and understand the sense of energy immediately. Gradually increase the timing for the breath work and the entire practice each time you support your child in this activity.
This simple practice teaches your active or older child
- The power and value of stillness
- How balancing breath increases focus, power, and stamina
- Awareness of their own internal source of energy
These easy mindfulness practices are a lifelong gift to your children. Start today, and see how their lives – and yours- begin to transform!
Gratitude is one of the most powerfully fulfilling emotions in human experience. As the flip side of selfless contribution, gratitude shares all the positive energy of human compassion, Gratitude is not simply a concept – it has measurably strong energetic vibrations that can alter your day to day life experience and long-term outlook.
Moment of pure gratefulness perfect moments. They allow you to experience something greater than yourself — the very act of selfless giving, whether you are the giver or the receiver – is a timeless gift from the deepest, most beautiful core of humanity’s ability to express compassion. When compassion takes shape in someone in your life sharing, caring and showing their empathy for you, sometimes unexpectedly, your gratitude completes the circle of love, bringing you happiness – if you choose to accept it wholeheartedly and give expression to your gratefulness.
Positive psychology research indicates that gratitude brings greater happiness. Gratitude helps you connect with positive emotions, improves your health, inspires you to deal with difficulties and strengthens your relationships. Gratitude build your resilience in troubled times.
What can you do today to increase gratitude and become happier?
Thank someone directly
Make a call, pay a visit or send a card or email to someone who has made an important contribution to your life. Your loved ones and friends stand by you when the going is rough are not doing so because they pity you. Realize that their effort is inspired by their faith in your abilities and strengths. Release unneccesary feelings of shame and self-doubt, and let gratitude do its magic!
Thank someone mentally
Sometimes it’s hard to quickly connect with someone who has helped you. Perhaps it is someone in your past who you’ve lost touch with or has transitioned beyond this life. A powerful distance healing technique inspired by the deep Tibetan practice of Tonglen, provides a wonderful and easy path to happiness,
Choose and hold a teddy bear, stuffed animal, doll, a photograph or some item that represents someone you want to thank.
Sit quietly, going back into your memories to recreate a special loving gesture that really moved you, perhaps from your childhood. Allow your mind and body to feel again the great happiness of that time. Stay there for some time.
As those memories and feelings arise, so will a powerful sense of gratitude. Remembering the person who evoked these feelings in you, let the feeling of being genuinely loved flow to the object in your hands.
This object is now attuned to your gratitude. Let it be your loving-kindness prop from now on. Hold it to increase your gratitude to those close to you, and then to neighbors, coworkers, and friends. Go back to your gratitude object, again and again, to flow positive feelings toward those you don’t know well, people in need and, when you are ready, anyone who has hurt you.
Count your blessings… or rather, make your blessings count
If you already take time to count your blessing – and even if you don’t – follow the advice of spiritual author and teacher, Eknath Easwaran, who proposed that the way to happiness is reducing our needs.
Take a moment to reflect on this. Reducing your needs makes complete sense!
Sot what do you really need to be happy? When you are honest with yourself and really look within, you’ll probably discover that it’s actually less than you are currently striving for.
Much of what you need is already in your hands! Open yourself to gratitude for what you have now.
Which among the things you don’t have are fairly easy to get? Can you manage a hiking day, a gathering of friends, or a few hours to yourself? Be grateful for the choices before you, and give to yourself life’s simple gifts.
Spend time in nature
A mindful retreat into nature is a wonderful way to increase gratitude and happiness. A personal retreat does not have to be a long or complicated endeavor. If the area you live in is close to nature, a day trip will do the trick.
The day you choose is just for you, so plan ahead to expect reduced cell phone connection. Leave your laptop and any other devices at home.
Go slowly and explore, taking in every tree, plant, creek. Stop to look at the sky and breathe.
Make this time just for breathing and being aware of the power of nature around you. If thoughts or worries arise, let them go. All you have to do now is just be and breathe.
Meditation lets you focus on the present moment, where you can focus on small thing that make you feel grateful: the chirping of birds, the blueness of the sky, a wonderful scent. Just sitting peacefully for ten minutes, releasing thoughts and judgments, gives you the time to not just fell gratitude, but to be gratitude.
Waking up Grateful
The yogis teach that the moment you awaken is the most important moment of your day. Just getting out of the bed can be hard if you immediately feel pressure about the day ahead. Here’s a way to use gratitude to wake up to a brand new day feeling refreshed and optimistic.
Stay laying down in bed, and begin to flex. Stretch on arm over to the opposite side as far as it can. Then stretch the other arm to the opposite. Do the same stretch with each leg.
Breathe deeply. Now arch your back, then move into a kneeling position. Drop your body over your folded legs, drop your head down and stretch your arms forward.
Sit at the edge of your bed. Sit straight and tall, with your feet flat on the floor.
Visualize a spectral light entering from above through the crow of your head flowing downward into your body, flowing into every cell.
Now, visualize a warm glow entering from your feet, flowing upward, mingling with the spectral light from above. Keep your focus just below your abdomen, where the two energy sources meet. Remain there for a few minutes; as you start your day sense your gratitude for the earth and air that sustain you. With a few minutes of practice each day you quickly gain gratitude for the gift of life, which is the ultimate source of happiness.
There are plenty of actions you want to take in order to protect your preschooler from getting hurt or feeling down. There are also a lot of things you want to say to him especially when he is going through something tough. Sometimes, however, you end up being unable to control yourself and you say things you did not mean to say. It is a rather difficult task to always be mindful of the things you say and do in front of your child. You know that these could have detrimental effects on your child. That is why this article is made in order to help you become a better parent when it comes to teaching your child emotional intelligence.
Why is it that telling your preschooler not to be sad is something that you should not do? Or teaching him how to control his feeling of sadness is not emotionally and mentally healthy? It is because doing so is equivalent to discrediting his feelings, which are supposedly valid. Of course, your child is allowed to feel sad. He is allowed to cry. He could feel down about something. He will be upset. You can never avoid this. As a parent, you only want what’s best for your child and you want to save him from pain and displeasure. However, there is very little that you can do about a human being’s emotions. He is normal if he experiences sadness. He is not normal if he doesn’t. At this point, you must accept that there are so many things in this world that you cannot control, and one of those is the way your child is supposed to feel.
More than that, you are taking away your child’s chance to express himself by invalidating his feelings and not allowing him to label them. Bear in mind that a child’s awareness of how he feels is the first step to proper emotional management. When he does not know what he is feeling or what predominant emotions are inside of him, there will be no way for him to know how to attack these emotions and to control them. Moreover, he will just always end up invalidating his feelings every single time he feels that way and he will never know the proper way to cope. By allowing your child to feel that way and by telling him that whatever he’s feeling is valid, you allow him to express himself. One of the best results of this is his ability to be empathetic. Not only that. You will also be surprised as to how open he will become about his feelings. He will cry less and talk more about it instead.
Instead of invalidating his feelings, it is best for you to simply recognize them. Get to know your child more so that you will know what makes him happy, sad, disappointed, or scared. Understand him and do not prejudge him right away. Let go and do not be too overprotective. Do away with the “I want my child to always be happy”, because you know that this is highly improbable. If you cannot do these things, you will only hinder your child’s growth and maturity. You will cause him to find it rather difficult to go out into the real world and deal with the realities of life. Before all of this happens, you should take this unsolicited piece of advice: recognize your child’s emotions. Treat them as valid. Label them. Allow your child to embrace them. That way, he would feel human and he would understand what it actually feels like to live.
The next step to recognition is to teach him how to properly manage these emotions. Young as he is, he may be innocent and unaware of how these feelings are dealt with. Be his guiding light. Tell stories about yourself when you were feeling the same way and what you did about it. Show to them that they are not the only ones going through that phase, and that they are not alone in feeling sadness. Many people experience sadness of varying degrees. It’s inevitable, but it can be managed. Teach him that despite the sadness, there can be plenty of good things, and all it takes is to have a positive perspective.
When what makes them sad is something that can be solved, help him come up with a solution coupled with contingency plan. Do not be the one to provide the solution yourself. Allow him to explore his options and assess his emotions and the situation. This will slowly teach him emotional intelligence. Just be there to guide him and affirm or correct whatever his suggestions may be. The contingency plan will be for purposes of backup. Explain to him that things do not always go the way he wants them to, and therefore it is always best to have a backup plan in hand. This is so in order to lessen casualties and further emotional damage.
Do not always serve as a safety net for your child. Allow him to experience discomfort. Although it is quite hard to be “not always there” for your child, it is necessary for him to learn how to handle things on his own. When he wants to cry, offer your shoulder and give him a hug. When he wants to rant, just listen and get him ice cream afterwards. However, this does not mean that you make all decisions for him. Give him enough discretion in order to allow him to learn. Give him space so that he can make his personal assessment of what his feelings are and what he should do about it. Again, just serve as his guiding light. Teach him what is right and wrong and how to differentiate one from the other. Help him at every step of his discernment process. Present to them the possible consequences of his actions or decisions. But at the end of the day, balance is still key. You must make sure that he is given enough room to still make personal considerations and evaluations.
Some days, we wake up totally forgetting about the events that took place, the people we talked to, or even the food we ate the day before. Sometimes, we get phone calls from our parents or siblings where we mindlessly answer their questions and as soon as they hang up, we do not remember what the call was all about. There are also moments when we order dinner at a restaurant and find ourselves looking at an empty plate after some time and wonder how we finished everything without even noticing. Sometimes, we are too scared of what is to come that we have the tendency to prepare so much for the future and forget to live in the now. This is the state of mindlessness—the state of us being on autopilot. This hinders us from being present in our own lives. We do what we got to do, we say what we got to say, but we never really pay attention to what is happening around us. Even worse, we never pay attention to what is happening within us.
Mindfulness is the exact opposite of mindlessness. It is a human ability to be fully aware of the present and of our emotions, actions, and surroundings. It is our capacity to be in a disposition where we give more importance to what is happening right in front of our eyes and do not worry too much about what is to happen tomorrow, next year, or 10 years from now. It is our eagerness to seize the day, experience many things, learn from our shortcomings, accepting our weaknesses and failures, and making good decisions. It is more than just a habit, it is a way of life. That’s why it’s best to start young. Children even at a young age have to be taught how of this way of life because it has plenty of benefits and it can mold them into better individuals.
Benefits of Mindfulness:
- It reduces behavior problems in the classroom. When a child is aware of what he is doing and how this makes him feel, he will be more capable of understanding such act and reaction. When he pays attention to his act and how other people surrounding him react to it, he will be able to assess the situation properly. His mindfulness will also extend to his ability to listen intently to lectures, class discussions, or his classmates’ recitations. Research has it that mindfulness also increases students’ happiness levels and reduces anxiety.
- It helps kids in their discernment. Although mindfulness is the state where an individual becomes aware of what is happening around and within him without judging whether it is right or wrong, turning this into a way of life will help a child see a whole situation clearly and objectively. Mindfulness, although at the outset does not require judgment, is an important factor in a child’s discerning process. This is because when he knows of his actions, other people’s reactions, and the effects of his actions, he gains a deeper understanding of himself, his life, and his environment. These are essential in honing his decision-making skills. He has to make a lot of decisions every single day of his life, and you want to make sure that he makes good decisions. In the process of discernment, mindfulness of his internal feelings, thoughts, and the effects and consequences of his decisions, will help him know what choices he should make. If the process is done properly, he will most likely feel more at peace with his decision and he will stick to it.
- It teaches both teachers and students how to handle stressful situations. Mindfulness has the effect of changing a person’s perspective into a more positive one. A mindful individual is one who sees that no problem is too big and too complex to be solved. He is one who understands that in fixing a complicated or stressful situation, blames do not have to be thrown at someone else, but solutions have to be formulated in a calm and graceful manner. A lot of people do not know how to react when faced with a stressful situation. All of us have the tendency to break down, especially students who are not used to this, and even teachers. A mindful teacher, however, will be more capable of giving a full and objective assessment of the situation and provide an effective solution. A mindful student, on the other hand, will gain the ability to stay calm and relaxed while thinking of ways to fix the problem. Mindfulness allows us to see things from a different light. Because of this, tension in the classroom is reduced.
- It improves the child’s emotional and social intelligence. As mentioned earlier, a mindful child is more capable of understanding his actions, the reactions of the people toward him, and the internal movements or feelings. He will be able to gain full control of his emotions when he is aware of them. He will understand that it is all right to feel a certain way at one point, and know what to do about it afterward. More than that, he will become more cautious of his words and actions, especially if he knows that this will hurt other people. He will also learn the value of his relationships with his parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, even strangers. He will know the meaning of what it is to be kind, loving, empathetic, compassionate. He will grow and become a better person.
- It teaches the child to focus at the right time and place. Mindfulness will teach the child to listen attentively to classroom lessons because he knows that he will benefit from it. He will pay attention to his parents when they are talking to him because he values what they say and respects their authority. He will lend both ears to a friend who needs someone to talk to because he understands the friend’s pain. But he is aware that there are instances when he deserves to play outside, be one with nature, laugh, and live for the moment.
There are just days in your life when you feel like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You spilled coffee on your shirt, you’re stuck in traffic, you left your wallet at home, or you accidentally put pickles on your ham and cheese sandwich. How you react to these events may vary depending on your point of view or perspective. Generally, you would think that you were having a bad day. You could get angry and frustrated, curse the wind for having such a rough day, or not talk to anybody because you are grumpy. You could also be the kind of person who can easily shrug these off, carry on, and think that it doesn’t really matter. Several researches and experiments have been conducted to determine how the brain reacts to negative things. Scientists have been trying to prove that the overt acts you make or the feelings you develop after something negative has been said or done to you are necessarily connected with your brain’s scientific behavior.
Human beings have negativity bias. This means that you have the tendency to focus on what frightens you or what threatens you. Your brain has the tendency to build greater sensitivity to awful and unpleasant things. It reacts more strongly to negative stimuli. Take as an example a Person A randomly scrolling through his Facebook feed. When he sees a picture of a delicious-looking plate of sushi, his reaction is normal. But when he sees a picture of a badly-beaten up dog, his negative feelings are stirred. Such negativity bias is not really a surprising trait of humans. The bias is almost automatic when something unpleasant comes along the way because human beings have the natural instinct of staying away from anything harmful. However, this could get in the way of you living your life without worrying or fearing too much. As an adult, you are at a better position to evaluate bad situations thrown your way. Children, on the other hand, still find this quite challenging as they are still in their formation years. As a teacher, you have to be careful of the things said and done in the classroom, and you have to know how to deal with a situation where a child’s negative feelings are aroused. To better understand this, let’s talk about apparent ways on how a child, or a child’s brain for that matter, reacts to negativity.
- Negative things could trigger a child’s anxiety or fear. Because of the brain’s scientific structure, negative stimuli produce more neural activity than the neutral and positive ones. The more frequent a child sees or hears something negative, the more susceptible he is to developing anxiety disorders or a lot of fears. Thanks to the amygdala, the almond-shaped region of the brain, negativity is stored more easily than positivity. And when a child gets to keep too many negative memories and thoughts, he will not be able to attain a balanced life. He will not feel accomplished, or he will always doubt the good.
- He would have low self-esteem. It is true that happier people are more capable of reacting to negativity in a more positive way. Children, however, seem quite too young to fully understand what it means to be happy. Therefore, they cannot deliberately make the choice to be happy each single day they get out of bed. Add to that the fact that children are still in the process of formation. This means that the environment where they are raised is a big factor as regards their attitude and mindset. If a child often hears negative things about himself, it is not improbable that he will have low self-esteem. He will doubt his capabilities and he will often wonder about his worth. It could get worse when he starts to lose faith in himself and even in other people.
- There is the fear of instilling pessimism in a child rather than optimism. Too much building of walls so that he could save himself from threats and fears could actually make him lose buckets of hope along the way. Even the most minute details could upset him. He would not be able to see the world as a bright and happy place. He would not be able to make sense of the tough times he has to go through because he would easily give in to the thought that his whole life is a joke. He will not be able to realize that in life, it is not all good stuff, but it is not all bad stuff either. Even the way he sees positive things could be greatly affected.
- Negative things cause brain disruptions, and one of the worst effects to a person could be depression. This mental disorder is not uncommon these days. As a matter of fact, the number of people who experience depression has increased over the past years and continues to rise up to today. Depression could also be associated with a person’s childhood. If he does not experience love at home, is being cursed a lot, is bullied at school, or is left out of place, he could be affected tremendously. His growth could have setbacks, and his emotional intelligence could be obscured.
- He could live an imbalanced life. The secret to a good life is a balanced life. Since the brain reacts more attentively to negativity, it is a bit difficult to offset this. Research has it that for every negative thing that happens, five positive things have to compensate for it in order for a person to live a balanced life. People who have attained balance have the same amount of neural energy with negative stimuli as the people who have not attained balance yet. This goes to show that even happier and more balanced people are aware of the negative things that are happening around them. They just really know how to react to these. In the classroom, it is all right to reprimand, give negative feedbacks, or expose a child to a negative thing. You just have to make sure that this does not happen all the time, or else he will have more difficulty finding the balance.
At the end of the day, it’s all just a matter of perspective. Teach the child to view things objectively. Teach him the ability to isolate himself from the situation and find ways to fix or solve problems if need be. Show him that there is always a brighter side to everything he will experience in life. Lead him to live a healthy and balanced life.
All About Diversity
A lot of communities today are composed of people coming from different races, religions, ethnicities, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Even in primary schools, there is diversity. Sadly, many people still do not know how to react to these differences. That is why it is important that children, while at a young age, are taught how to look at diversity as a strength instead of a weakness. As teachers, you are part and parcel of a child’s formation. You have a role to play in molding a child into becoming a better person not only towards the people who are quite like him, but also towards those with whom he has apparent differences. Let me help you turn diversity into strength in your school. Here are some tips:
- First and most important, evaluate your own cultural values and personal biases. If you think you are unable to set these aside, you will have difficulty in teaching your students how to respect differences. These biases could get in the way of teaching and learning. One way or another, they will become apparent. Your lessons will lean towards a particular perspective only, and you will not be able to be as impartial as you need to be. You must not forget that what a child sees an adult is doing, he ought to follow. This calls for you to set a good example. It could be quite a challenge, but you can start opening your mind through interactions with your neighbors who are of a different race, joining organizations for a cause regardless of the members’ religions, or by simply observing the differences you see every day and looking at them through a more positive approach.
- Get to know your students. It is one thing to know that a student is in your class, and another to actually know him at a personal level. Ask one student per day to stay after class and talk to him. Give him an assurance that you are there to listen and understand. Make him feel that no matter how different he thinks he is from the rest of his classmates, there is nothing wrong with it. This will also open your eyes to bigger realities. On your end, there will be recognition that indeed, there exist differences and these differences are beautiful things. When you are more open-minded, you will have the capacity to teach the same value to your students. When you understand the behavior of every student, you will know how to address diversity issues and explain why things are the way they are.
- Do not play favorites. Favoritism happens even in schools where there is not much diversity. Eitherway, do not play favorites. Make sure that every child feels safe in your classroom and that there is enough space for him to grow. Allow each child to learn and take things at his own pace. Do not compare one with the other. When you feel like one child is having difficulties in the classroom, extend more help. You can either do this yourself, or assign two or three classmates of his who will serve as his “guardian angels”.
- Do not tolerate bullying. At the beginning of the year, establish ground rules. Emphasize on how a child could get seriously reprimanded if caught bullying. Teach students to think before they speak or act. Instill in them the habit of first asking themselves, “is it necessary? Is it kind? Is it the truth?”, before they say or do anything. Developing this habit will help the students be able to evaluate themselves and have a deeper understanding of respect. They will be able to recognize that no matter where they are in this world, there will exist differences, and these differences are not reason enough for them to be rude, disrespectful, spiteful, or violent.
- Encourage group work. Structure your teaching style in such a way that there is more than just passing on of information to each individual student in the classroom. Make your lectures dynamic and interactive. Allow your students to work in groups where they will be encouraged to get creative and listen to the ideas of their group mates. Foster an environment where each opinion is given regard. This will make your students understand the importance of a healthy and positive intellectual discourse. This will teach every student to acknowledge that while each one of them has the right to speak up, their opinions could be opposed by someone else and such opposition is not a problem as long as it is done in a respectful manner.
- Have a food-for-the-day activity for a month. Assign one student per day to bring food which best represents his culture or ethnicity. Food is one of the things that bring people together. It is also one of the ways to tell stories. Giving each student the chance to bring one dish to share with his classmates also means allowing him to share a piece of his life. More than this, each of his classmates a chance would have a better understanding of their differences and learn how to respect these differences. This activity teaches respect in a very fun and exciting way. You may do this for a shorter or longer period of time.
- Have a cultural day. Save at least one day for an activity where the kids get to talk about their cultures, practices, traditions, and customs. Let them come to school wearing a costume that speaks of these. Allow them to share stories and experiences they’ve encountered in their own homes, communities, churches, or countries. Not only will this activity open the eyes of every other student while listening to his classmate, but this will also make each one of them feel that they are being heard and welcomed in school.
- Teach your lessons from different perspectives. Be as impartial and unbiased as possible. For example, when you are going to talk about the Cold War, make sure you cover both sides of the story. Lecture on both the Eastern bloc, which is composed of the Soviet Union, and the Western bloc, which is comprised of the United States. Most times, the children ought to tell to other people outside of school whatever they are taught in the classroom. More than that, you are the one responsible for instilling in them their mindsets because they come to your classroom with a clean slate. Whatever lessons you teach them and whatever actions you show them, in one way or another, are going to affect how they behave growing up.
What you teach your students matters a lot, especially in the kind of world we have today. You, as a teacher, have the capacity and the power to teach them how to be good, loving, and kind people. Show your students that in the world we live in, differences are inevitable. Until your students are able to embrace that fully, they will never truly know the meaning of respect. It is all up to you. Do not forget, you have so much power in your hands that you can turn differences into strengths.
Mindfulness is more than just a habit or a trait to possess. It must be a way of life. To master it means to be able to live a life that is not composed of too much stress, anxiety, and irritation. A person who is often mindful gets numerous benefits and advantages such as efficiency and productivity, less stressful days, emotional intelligence, and a happier life.
Teens nowadays have their own set of problems. Sometimes, people tend to misjudge them and think that their problems are petty or trivial. What they do not know is that teens are susceptible to depression, loneliness, and the like. Teenage years are also part of a person’s formation years. This means that these years of a person’s life are crucial. In other words, teenagers have to be given proper guidance and taught valuable lessons that they will need when they go out into the real world and live their lives on their own.
To be of help even just a tad bit, here are some activities that promote mindfulness for kids:
- Adult coloring books. This has become a trend today. May adults use adult coloring books to relieve themselves from stress. These coloring books are more complex than the ones kids use. They require more concentration and focus.
- Play Sudoku. Don’t get mistaken. This game is not only for math geeks and nerds. Science has it that Sudoku even lessens the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease in older people. This could only mean that playing this game as a teenager would help in exercising the brain.
- Take morning walks. This activity will clear a teenager’s mind. He can take this chance to stop everything going on in his life and just enjoy nature, listen to the sounds of the surroundings, and notice his breathing and heartbeat. This is also one of the ways to be grateful to be alive.
- This is one of the best ways to explore what the world has to offer. Seeing different parts of the world will make teenagers realize that there’s more to life and that it is better lived with fun, happiness, and adventure.
- Try yoga. Yoga does not only make one lose weight, it is also a meditation exercise. It improves a person’s ability to clear his mind off things and be free from worry. This exercise, if done regularly, will help improve a teenager’s well-being and disposition.
- Do breathing exercises first thing in the morning. Before a teen goes of to doing what he does, he must take 5 minutes of his time as soon as he wakes up to do some breathing exercises. When this is done in silence, this activity will help a teen be more mindful of what his goals and tasks are for the day.
- It may be an old way to be reminded of the good things that happens to a person’s day, but it is still one of the best ways. A teen may keep a diary or a journal and simply jot down one or two memorable things for a certain day. When he re-reads his journal or diary, he will remember what he should be thankful for.
- Make mind maps. This is one of the best ways for teens to have a visual aid of their goals, wants, desires, and the ways in which these are to be achieved. Looking at their mind maps will remind and affirm them that they are on track.
- Listen to music. Although there is the danger of one listening to music mindlessly, alpha waves and delta waves are a few of the kinds of music that are to ensure a person’s optimal productivity while listening to it.
- Play board games. Other than the fact that board games are fun especially when played with friends, these games stimulate brain activity. They teach players how to think and strategize in order to win. They also help in concentration and focus.
- Physical activity helps a person by producing more endorphins or happy hormones. The happier a person is, the better his outlook in life. Exercising is one of the best ways to convert one’s energy into something productive and beneficial. Instead of just laying in bed or lazing around the whole day and being idle, a teen could instead get up and jog or go to the gym.
- Watch documentaries. They are educational, informative, and relevant in more ways than one. Not only will these documentaries develop a teen’s knowledge about something, but they will also teach them how to be more observant the next time they encounter anything they see in these documentaries.
- This is one of the more creative ways to jot down what one feels, thinks, or says. Doodling or drawing helps a teen being mindful in such a way that it makes it easier for him to put into paper what his emotions or thoughts are.
- Have a break occasionally. Teenage years could be stressful too. There is nothing wrong with relaxing and taking a break from school, from the stresses at home, or even from the drama in the friendship circle. The break periods are as important as the responsibilities because breaks improve a person’s well-being. Therefore, he is able to function well and better.
- Eat healthy. It is a helpful mindfulness exercise to be cautious about what is being eaten. When a person is aware of what he puts in his mouth, that means he is being mindful. Not only will this help develop mindfulness, but this will also benefit teens in such a way that it will make them more well-rounded and able to participate actively in a lot of activities.
- Try sports. Any sport would boast of its ability to discipline athletes and form their character. A person engaged in sports has to be mindful of the rules of the game, his movements, and his opponent/s. He must also be diligent enough to practice and keep going even though he is physically tired. Indeed, sports help in a teen’s development of the discipline.
- This is different from yoga. Meditation could only involve sitting in one corner and finding your center. It is just being silent while being mindful of the external sounds, the surroundings, and your breathing. This is one of the best ways to start the day.
- Try new things. It is when one goes out of his comfort zone that he gets to learn and grow. Not all teenagers are risk-takers and curious. Some would prefer to stay safe inside their comfort zones. However, it is best to allow these teens to experience things they’ve never experienced and learn from them.
- Spend a day at the park. People watch. Lie down and let the sun hit your face. Go biking around. Feed the birds or the fishes. Be one with nature. Sometimes, doing just the simple things makes a person more mindful of his feelings, thoughts, and surroundings.
- Play crossword. Pick up the daily newspaper and answer the crossword. Not only will this help a teen gain more knowledge about current events and other trivial things, but this will also stimulate brain activity and exercise thought process.
- Visit an art museum. There is nothing much to do here but observe and appreciate. The artworks will be of help when a teen allows them to explore his imagination. A teen who visits an art museum may be able to come up with different ideas or explanations as to the artworks, and appreciate them in very unique ways.
- Make a bucket list. This is one of the more exciting mindfulness activities for teens. The bucket list serves as a list of the things they want to do. It will feel fulfilling if they are able to tick off items from that list.
- Establish a routine. Although not a lot of people would feel comfortable with this, establishing a routine is one of the best ways to get things done. When a teen is aware that at this point of the day, he is supposed to do a particular thing, he could get it done.
- Interact with the community. Getting to know people and being able to share about your own life is also one of the ways to better understand things and to be better understood. It would be nice to be able to talk to people in your community.
- When tired, stop and rest. A person is not productive nor efficient when he does not have energy anymore. It’s okay to recharge and rest.
- Avoid multitasking. It almost never works. Get things done one at a time for a better and more quality-ensured work.
- Learn time management. The secret to being successful in completing tasks daily is proper time management. It cannot be learned overnight, but by constant practice.
- Have space in your home where you can sit to think. It is healthy to not be doing anything at some point in your day and just think. Re-think. What else are you supposed to do? What have you accomplished? Where did you fail?
- Read books. There are plenty of options. A lot of books teach and help develop mindfulness. Some of these are:
- The Stress Reduction Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness Skills to Help You Deal with Stress by Gina M. Biegel
- Mindfulness for Teen Anxiety: A Workbook for Overcoming Anxiety at Home, at School, and Everywhere Elseby Christopher Willard
- Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life for Teens: A Guide to Living an Extraordinary Lifeby Joseph V. Ciarrochi, Louise Hayes, and Ann Bailey
- Try mindfulness apps. There are those that will help you exercise mindfulness. Here’s a list of apps that you can try:
- Stop, Breathe, and Think: it allows teens to name their feelings and determine their emotions. Then, they have guided meditations. The app also teaches emotional intelligence.
- Smiling Mind: this app is developed with the help of psychologists and experts in meditation in order to allow its users, especially teens, to have a balanced life.
- Headspace: “Meditation made simple”. Teens can try this and start with simple processes on how to meditate.
Parenting today has become more and more difficult because of the changes and complexities brought about by the modern world. Before, mothers would stay at home to take care of their children. Today, both parents are working. As a result of this, a lot of parents find less time to spend with their children. You might experience such difficulty too. However, you must not forget that a child’s growing up years are very crucial as to the formation of their character and the betterment of their future. Kids have to be guided as to what they want in life and what is best for them. They have to know how to set their goals and figure out how to reach them. At the same time, passion is a character that you would want to develop once you find it for your kids since it is a source of interest and excitement. To make your life a little more convenient, here is a list of ways that you can try in order to help your kids set goals and find their passion.
- Enroll your kids in summer programs. A lot of programs are being offered in almost every community. This can vary from swimming, voice lessons, ballet, jazz, basketball, tennis, piano lessons, and a lot more. Make your kids try several programs and ask them which one they like best.
- Encourage your kids to own a diary or journal. Let them write down what they feel like doing, or what they enjoy doing. After some time, let them read it again. If they still feel the same way about it, then you should let them give it a try.
- Observe your child’s personality and traits so that you will have ideas on how to help your child set goals and find their passion. Be mindful of your child’s interests, hobbies, dislikes.
- Encourage your child to try new things. Allow them to explore and go out of their comfort zones. Do not be too strict on letting them try things they’ve never tried before.
- Put a small bulletin board at home. Schedule your child’s activities and get them involved in the schedule-making. Also allow them to post sticky notes on the bulletin board where they can write the things they need to achieve for the week or day.
- Teach your child to make a to-do list. A to-do list will help kids know what their goals are what steps they need to take in order to achieve those goals. Also, there is always a sense of satisfaction at being able to tick off some things on a to-do list.
- Ask for your child’s opinion whenever appropriate. Allow your child to engage in conversation with you. Hear them out and listen to what they have to say. They might make more sense than adults.
- Create mind maps. If you and your kids are of the creative type, a mind map is perfect. This sets out the visual map of the goals, the things needed to be done, and the ways in which to achieve the goals.
- Seeing new places and experiencing new cultures is one of the best ways of exposing your child to the things that the world has to offer, and it could help them discover their passion.
- Watch theater shows. Your kids might want to act, sing, dance, or join the theater. Watching shows with them could be one of the ways to expose them to art and help them find out that they are interested in it.
- Bond with them. Nothing beats spending time with your children without thinking about other things. You get to give them 100% of your attention and understanding. You will get to know them better.
- Support your child in school activities. You will get to see how your child is as a student, a classmate, and a friend. Being active in their activities in school will allow you to discover and understand an entirely different side of your child.
- Do vision boarding with your child to help them set goals. It can help your child identify their vision in life and keep their attention on their intentions. It could also help them figure out the step by step process of achieving their goals.
- Leave room for mistakes. When you let kids do something and support them in their endeavors, do not make them feel like everything has to be perfect. Always make them understand that there is always room for improvement.
- Do a synthesis after your child achieves or fails at something. A synthesis is where you will explain to them that when they achieve something, they need to stay humble and work even better and that when they fail, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always a chance to try again.
- Give your child household responsibility. An example would be making breakfast or helping in gardening. This will help them hone their work ethics which they will need later on in working their way towards achieving their goals.
- Encourage your child to read books of different kinds. Reading books does not only improve your child’s language proficiency skills, it also exposes them to different things without having to go out and spending too much.
- Do a reality check from time to time. Help your child stay on track, talk to them about their goals, which ones they have achieved, are about to achieve, and need more time to be achieved. Make them understand that when one goal is not reached, they do not fret and move on and work on the other goals.
- Guide your child think of a fun goal that they could achieve within a short period of time. Starting small is the key to doing bigger things later on. They will feel a sense of fulfillment after achieving this. Afterwards, setting bigger goals will not be so scary anymore.
- Set deadlines when you assign them housework. Teach them to be diligent and punctual.
- Provide your child with incentives or rewards achievements. Note, however, that this must be done only in moderation or occasionally. This will motivate kids to work and boost their confidence to achieve their goals.
- Do not always serve as the safety net for your kids. Allow them to fall, fail, and make mistakes. This is the best way for them to learn. If you allow them to rely on you all the time, they will not be able to grow and mature.
- Be part of the learning process. Always be there every step of the way. Proper guidance is one of the essential elements in a child’s formation years. Make sure they do not fall off their horse.
- Let them choose a role model. People have the capacity to inspire others. Role models could serve as motivation for your kids to work harder and achieve their goals.
- Once they discover their passion, support them. Do not doubt their capabilities. Believe in them more than they can ever believe in themselves.
- Let them practice. When they know what they want to do, give them room to practice and improve. If they love cooking, give them the freedom to work in the kitchen. If they want to paint, transform your attic into an art room where they can paint peacefully.
- Educate them about the realities of life. Share with them actual life experiences that they can learn from. Expose them to the realities that surround them.
- Set a working schedule for them every day. Start with breakfast, school, snacks after class, play time, dinner, then study time. This will teach them how to properly manage their time.
- Balance their exposure to technology, television, internet on the one hand, and nature, animals, outdoor activities on the other hand. Watching too much TV or surfing the internet too much will hinder your child’s growth. Always let them run free and smell the grass and feel the wind touch their face. This will help in their full development.
- Educate your kids on how to handle their emotions. They have to be emotionally intelligent in order to achieve great things in life.
Kids can discover their passion and they can set goals while playing games using phone or laptops and more by using some of its apps. Here are apps that can help your child discover their passion:
- Kids academy– this app can help your child hone his or her learning skills in school, one of the most important things in order to do good.
- Cooking mama– this can help your child discover their cooking skills or their passion or interest for cooking.
- Dream house design– this app allows your child to design houses. If design or architecture is your child’s passion, this could be the perfect app.
- Sports apps like NBA 2K– This can help your child discover his or her passion for sports. Maybe your child would want to give sports a try after this.
- Curious- the game of lifelong learning– This app can help your child get daily workout lessons, puzzles. And many more. Most of the activities are brain exercises. Therefore, it could help in developing your child’s mental capacity and ability to achieve something in the future.
Here are the links for further reading: