Mindfulness and your Child
At SPR Juniors, we are all parents, so we know how important it is that our children are both physically and mentally happy. This has become even more critical as we contemplate sending our children back to school in September after an extended absence due to Covid-19.
Primary schools across the country are starting to embrace mindfulness as part of their wellness programme for children as young as 5. We think this is great news, and some of the techniques they are using we can incorporate into our daily routines with our children at home.
Why is relaxation
important for our children?
Let’s just remind ourselves why relaxation skills are equally important for our children as for adults.
Relaxation is a coping strategy for managing overwhelming feelings maybe from over stimulation or conflict. Our children need opportunities to learn about stress, the symptoms and the effects it can have on their health and well-being.
It is well documented, that once children know what a relaxed state actually feels like in their body and mind that they start to request more of it. Evidence-based practices like deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, rhythmic exercise and yoga have all proven to reduce stress, boost energy and mood while improving a child's mental and physical health.
”For things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing themAristotle
The process of making meaning
from direct experience
One of the most profound realisations we have had, since starting SPR Juniors, is that most children, even as young as 5, do not know how to relax properly. In our society that is very much now driven by social media, and puts a high value on busyness and multi-tasking as accomplishments, it seems relaxation is merely an idea, and the practice of it in our children from 5 right up to the age of 11 is non-existent.
As the sound of ‘I’m bored’ reverberates in houses up and down the country, it is worth remembering that this can often be a stress signal of a child that is unable to find their ‘happy’ state through play and relaxation techniques.
To help you teach your child how to reduce stress and anxiety, we’ve come up with 8 relaxation rituals for you to do at home together.
Create a peaceful
There are lots of tools you can use to create a space for your child to go to when they are feeling a little low. We think a tent with fairy lights is perfect for their peaceful space and can be permanently up in their bedroom.
You can also use a bean bag or comfy chair and surround it with pictures of places they have visited or their best friends and their favourite book.
Other things to have at hand in their peaceful corner are:
Weighted lap pillow or blanket
Essential oils (with help from a parent)
Writing book for them to express themselves by drawing or writing
Or you could make your own ‘mind jar’.
Check out how to make a glitter ‘mind jar’ from www.goodtoknow.co.uk.
At the most basic level, when children have room to run, shout and play outside it releases endorphins. Children aged between 5 and 11 will spend an average of an hour a day playing outside during school term time. Structured activities where the children have to work as a team, builds their confidence and reduces anxiety and stress.
It is also well documented that our children benefit from being still in nature finding leaves and watching bugs. In fact, it has been scientifically proven to improve a child's memory and lower their heart rate which is why forest schools is so good for our children.
Who knew taking a walk in your local woods collecting leaves is more than just blowing the cobwebs away?
Change your morning
and evening routine
Children’s busy schedules mean that often there is little time to plan any relaxation time.
We recommend practising some basic relaxation techniques like deep breathing before jumping out of bed in the morning.
In the evening before bed, it is important to unwind from the day and calm the nervous system to induce a better sleep pattern. Again deep breathing exercises some meditation or, our body scan technique below, can be incorporated into your routine. Most importantly, do it together!
We absolutely love this technique at SPR Juniors.
It can be used for children as young as 5 years old and helps build body awareness. We suggest using a script or finding a recording you like online. However, it is really easy to make it up. Just like singing to your babies to help them calm, by talking your child through their body working from the toes upwards can help them relax.
Check out the 11 minute body scan from Mindful Magazine.
You are probably already spending at least 15 minutes a day with your child reading.
If you are reading to your child aloud, consider your pace and provide moments to pause along the way. A calm soothing voice with dim lighting helps your child to practice being still and quiet. For older children make them read to you and remind them that this is their quiet one-to-one time with you.
Check in with
Children who have had a stressful day will often demonstrate this by taking it out on you.
There is a well known theory based on a bottle of fizzy drink which is a great way of explaining why your child will blow when they get home from school.
They were late into school - shake the bottle
They got told off for leaning back on their chair or talking - shake the bottle
They were the last to get their lunch so missed out on valuable outside time - shake the bottle
They ended up on the friendship bench following an argument - shake the bottle
and so on...
Now they are in their familiar surroundings where they feel safe so they open the fizzy drink bottle and it has gone everywhere – just like their anxiety – it is uncontrollable.
To avoid this, schedule and practice short ‘check in’ moments maybe on the journey home to find out about their day. This helps build their awareness and provides them with opportunities to become familiar with the sense of stress in their body and how to release it calmly.
When your child was a baby, it is likely that you used soothing music to help them get off to sleep.
Listening to calming music has a direct correlation with lowered respiration and heart rate, and a positive impact on mood. Reintroducing calming music to your household when having dinner or even in the car can help change the way we process information. Settling down for bed is also a great time to incorporate this exercise, or perhaps while soaking in the bath for older children.
There are lots of different exercises you can do to calm your child’s proprioception (sense of balance, sense of equilibrium, vestibular sense) which links to your child’s emotional state.
The most basic is a squeeze and can be fun
Roll your child up in a blanket or rug and lay on them. The deep pressure helps the child calm their body and is often used to help children with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Use a large exercise ball
Ask your child to lie on top of the ball and then hold their feet and roll them backwards and forwards over the ball. Not only is this fun, the physical contact will help your child feel protected.
5 4 3 2 1 Grounding
Go through each of your five main senses:
LOOK – say 5 things out loud you can see
FEEL – say 4 things you can feel e.g. I can feel my feet in my warm socks
LISTEN – can you hear 3 sounds say these things out loud e.g. traffic, birds or the TV
SMELL – say 2 things you can smell
TASTE – say one thing you can taste. If you have just done your bedtime routine then it maybe toothpaste.