I’ve been thinking a lot about mindfulness lately, and how the technique can help children, in particular adopted children.
We’ve had a few difficult weeks. Things haven’t gone so well at school for Wonder Boy.
It’s hard being an adopted kid in a British school, and even harder in a French school. I won’t dwell on particular issues, but let’s just say the school and I weren’t on the same page and we have parted company. My choice, and we are a lot happier.
I had to find a way of getting Wonder Boy through this difficult time, to rest his worried mind. I needed to get him to a place where he could feel calm, and get a good night’s sleep. This got me thinking about mindfulness.
Mindfulness, what is it?
According to Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. (NHS.com)
My introduction to mindfulness was Ruby Wax’s book Sane New World, which gave me an insight to mindfulness and its application to modern life.
The book charts her journey from 80’s stand up comic to well regarded, practicing therapist, with an MA from Oxford in Mindfulness Cognitive Therapy.
She’s open and frank about her own mental health issues and how mindfulness has helped her. She talks a lot about the internal chatter in your head and how to deal with it – especially the negative gremlin that bad mouths your positivity, and can throw your life off course.
I read her book during a particularly tough time at work, dealing with multiple projects, punishing deadlines, pulling all hours to turn work around. The result was bad sleep, bad moods which turned me into shouty mum. The book helped me take a step back from the chaos in my head, focus on how I was feeling. It gave me space to put myself in control of events and decisions.
More recently, I have read Get Some Headspace, by Andy Puddicome. Andy has a remarkable story. He left a Sports Science degree to travel to the Himalayas, he was ordained as a Bhuddist Monk in India. He then returned to lay-life via the Moscow State Circus before completing a degree in London in Circus Arts.
He runs Headspace: meditation for the digital age. I like his 10-minute meditation technique that can be practised anywhere. I use it when I feel stressed and my life feels out of control. It helps me feel more centred, grounded and deal with the internal cacophony of my mind.
Mindfulness how does it work?
This is a fascinating TED talk by Sara Lazar, neuroscientist who has experimented with meditation and its effect on the brain. Her research has shown that meditation / mindfulness can reshape the brain, particularly areas of the brain responsible for memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.
This is neuroplasticity. Our brain is plastic, and when we learn new things, or adapt our behaviour, our brain continues develop making new neural connections.
Mindfulness for children
A quick google search reveals a wealth of information about mindfulness and children and there are a number of research studies looking at:
- The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD,
- How mindfulness at school reduces (likelihood of) depression-related symptoms in adolescentsto reduce depression
- The impact of mindfulness on children and young people
And last year the prestigious Wellcome Institute announced a £6.4m research programme to assess whether mindfulness training for teenagers can improve their mental health.
Meditation techniques for children
Before you launch a programme of mindfulness on your kids, please do your own reading and research.
I have found techniques that work for Wonder Boy and myself – it may not necessarily be the same for you. There many ways to practice mindfulness these are just a few I have found useful.
- Mind Body Green’s breathing buddy a soft toy to accompany your child’s breathing exercise. I use this a lot with Wonder Boy, he has his favourtite teddy, which he uses to breathe his worries into. In minutes he’s yawning then falling asleep. We call this Teddy Breathing.
- Spiderman Meditation by Kids Relaxation is a mediation technique to help a child become aware of their super spider senses.
- Mind in a Jar I am going to try this with my two kids. It’s an easy tool to help induce calm when they are feeling stressed or worried. All you need is a jar, water and glitter. Thanks to Left Brain Bhudda for this idea!
Photo credit: Hey Paul Studio, Flickr – Hey Paul Studio is run by Kristen Shuler, self-taught embroidery artist and teacher. By day, she works as a Medical Social Worker, focusing on HIV and child pediatric disorders.
Kristen teaches embroidery and hosts embroidery gatherings in unique and unexpected locations. The events are designed to be inspiring, informative, and entertaining for all people.