Five Minutes to Mindfulness—Kids is a comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide with practical strategies to help parents nurture their child’s mental and emotional health in today’s hectic and fast-paced society. Some of the topics discussed are the following:
—Focus and concentration
This book provides effective and simple exercises that can be seamlessly incorporated into even the busiest of schedules. It is a must-have for parents of bright, spirited, creative, and active children of any age!
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Read an Excerpt
Why Five Minutes to Mindfulness?
"Because being yourself needn't take time!" – Dr. Ashleigh Stewart
I WAS COMPELLED to write this book called 'Five Minutes to Mindfulness' for Kids because as a busy mother I know that it can be hard to fit any new programs into an already busy work/ life/family routine. Many of the parents I have begun working with in a program of mindfulness for their children claim that they are apprehensive to try it out because they do not have time for anything as it is.
I am here to tell you that the beauty of mindfulness and getting to know who your children really are needn't take time. I have studied many disciplines and practices in spirituality, holistic science, healthcare and even psychology and after dipping my toe into them all I decided to delve deeply into studying the practice of yoga and mindfulness because of its simplicity. Yoga is a system of which connects perfectly with a mindfulness practice as yoga exercises are all rooted in actions that involve being in the present moment. The exercises outlined later in the book are derived mainly from the school of hatha yoga, and the majority of them have been designed to fit nicely into your already hectic routine without fuss!
The exercises in this book are fun and creative, many of them are designed to be done in groups so they offer a great opportunity for siblings and family members to bond, build respect and develop trust and friendship.
The long term goal at the end of this practice is that this work becomes so routine that it becomes a way of life, so much so that its practice becomes a natural way of being and a great foundation for children to build a sense of who they are and how they relate and respond to the world around them as they are growing up.
What's Behind their Behavior?
"We think of children as vulnerable. In my experience, they're giants. Their bodies and souls are amazingly resilient. What we often mistake for fragility is their openness." - Fred Epstein
CHILDREN AND ADULTS function very differently psychologically; however, children are not too difficult to understand if we are able to meet them at their level mentally and emotionally. This means letting go of our pre-conceived notions of how we as adults think they ought to think, feel and behave.
An adult who grew up as a child who was misunderstood may find it hard to guide a child to discover his own self-awareness, having had no concept of this of his own during childhood. On the other hand, growing up feeling misunderstood might motivate an adult more to try to help his child find himself. Either way, as adults we can make it our goal to work on our own personal development as we endeavor to raise children. This way we will feel confident that we are doing our best to be the best parents we can be. We are never perfect as parents, nor do we have all the answers, yet at least we can rest assured we are doing our best to be the most consciously aware adult we can be to help guide our children through the world and out into life feeling self-assured, and equipped with confidence.
Communicating with children can be tricky, especially during challenging 'high energy' situations such as tantrums, melt-downs or anxiety attacks triggered by common day-to-day events such as hair-washing, difficult homework or refusing to go to bed. During such times, it is important to consider the fact that adults have the ability to understand their own feelings and have the intelligence to articulate them. Children are still developing the capacity to intelligently articulate their feelings, which can be frustrating for them. Because children do not have the same capacity to communicate their thoughts and feelings as adults do, behavior becomes their communication tool. When a misunderstood child is around an adult who does not appear to understand him, and is not listening to what he is trying to say, he uses his best means of getting attention to what he is trying to communicate, his behavior.
Unfortunately negative behavior tends to get attention at a faster rate of response than any other means for kids, and the worse the behavior the bigger the response as the child will receive more attention. It is because of this that I believe much of the diagnosis of behavioral disorders such as ODD and ADHD is misplaced. It is not these alleged mental disorders that is the problem. The 'disorder' here is in the way the child is perceived by the adults around him.
Here is a list of age appropriate developmental challenges which could be behind why children use negative behavior as a means of communication:
Due to their lack of maturity, children may not understand the array of emotions they are feeling, and why they are feeling them.
Children have a limited use of vocabulary.
Children may be unable to identify and connect words with emotions due to the factors mentioned above.
Limited capacity for self-expression as a result of rigid guidelines and expectations from either parents or teachers at school.
due to a lack of self-awareness, children may feel a flawed sense of identity due to projected pressure and expectations of adults
Children are very sensitive to emotional energies in the environment which is natural during youth. Stressed-out and anxious adults pass the same energy onto the child creating a 'snowball effect' of anxiety passing between adults to child, becoming a never-ending cycle.
Children are extremely intuitive and are like sponges. They feel everything, but it is not part of the developmental guidance in our system to be taught the understanding of intuitive intelligence. Intuition governs the child's senses and faculties until the normal world and training from the establishment kicks in and overrules it.
A lack of self-awareness results from this system which throws kids into a cookie-cutter existence that doesn't support the essence of who each child is as an individual.
I'd like to close this chapter by saying it is important to note that because a child appears to be anxious, angry, upset and/ or misbehaving does not mean the child is disordered. It is not necessarily the case that a real illness is involved. It is always important to rule out the possibility that children's behavior or symptoms of anxiety could be in response to a trigger or stressor in the child's environment. As adults, our best practice would be to help our child by looking for solutions beyond merely treating the 'symptoms' (the stress of negative behavior) and endeavor to discover the environmental 'trigger' which is causing the child's symptoms of negative behavior and anxiety in the first place.
Yoga & Mindfulness, and the Importance of Effective Communication
"A child seldom needs a good talking to as a good listening to" - Robert Brault
YOGA IS A discipline which includes breath control, meditation, and the practice of bodily postures to enhance well-being, health and relaxation. Yoga is simple to learn and easy to incorporate into any busy schedule. The techniques learnt in yoga can be applied at any time of the day, almost anywhere and do not require any special clothing or expensive equipment or tools. In fact yoga can be so simple that even very young children can learn the techniques on their own and can be taught to practice them during times when they feel stressed, overwhelmed or insecure and need to feel calm and safe.
Yoga for children requires a very different approach to teaching that yoga for adults because children and adults are both very different; however there is nothing wrong with you as an adult using the techniques and strategies outlined in this book to help yourself too! I do!
The key to success with the yoga for kids is that it needs to become a discipline, which means regular practice and during times when the child is calm and relaxed, that way he will not resist the work. The second thing is try to pick a time of the day after bath or before bed and practice it at the exact same time habitually because the mind will accept it more readily.
One of the fundamental aspects I like to focus on in therapeutic yoga for children is effective communication through self-awareness, self-expression and active listening during our yoga class activities and exercises. Effective communication begins with knowing yourself well and understanding how you are feeling.
When children learn to become self-aware through the practice of yoga and mindfulness they become able to effectively express their thoughts, feelings and needs with both their peers and the adults around them.
Effective communication is the function of the throat chakra centre of energy located in the throat. Effective communication is not just about being able to verbally communicate your personal needs and opinions, it is equally about being able to listen to other people's truths without feeling threatened, or reacting from a place of fear or defensiveness.
Teaching children how to communicate effectively through the practice of yoga and mindfulness is a fantastic way for children to learn about how they relate and interact with others early in their lives. These skills help children develop healthy positive attitudes toward relationships as youngsters, and become the foundation of healthy relationships with others as they grow into their teens and adulthood.
Why effective communication is important for children in their formative years:
Children become less likely to be the target of an abusive relationship later in life.
Children will grow up feeling a sense of purpose.
Children will grow up feeling empowered to make positive life choices.
and live a more fulfilled life.
There will be less instances of mood/behavioral disorders, anxiety and depression, and less need for psychiatric drugs both during childhood and adulthood.
Yoga and mindfulness exercises for children are proving to be effective in terms of helping children with their performance at school too. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to teach yoga and mindfulness in our local elementary school both as part of the regular curriculum, and in the after school program. The children I teach are between the ages of four and ten.
It has been reported from the teachers that the practice of yoga and mindfulness is reflecting in the children's day-to-day life at school in positive ways. For example: their adaptation to their schoolwork; more relaxed relationships with peers; and their increased ability to communicate with their teachers.
The exercises that I have shared with the school children during our lessons are outlined in the later chapters of this book. The exercises shared here are the ones which I feel are best suited to work with the central theme and intention of this book, to enhance simplicity and ease.
Creating Space for Children
"You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday."
– Kahlil Gibran, On Children
CREATING SPACE FOR your child to thrive and grow within is as much about giving him mental and emotional space as it is physical.
As an adult, if you are unhappy with your childhood and have not yet come to terms with your own unfulfilled dreams, failures and disappointments, it is not uncommon to look to your children as an opportunity to have a second chance to make up for what was lost during your youth. Living through your child, by expecting her to live out your own dreams, goals and accomplishments is an act of unconscious emotional abuse, even when in your heart you are convinced you are doing something to help your child succeed.
As parents, teachers, guardians or caregivers is it our responsibility to create a safe space within which our children can become who they really are. As I mentioned before space is more than physical, it is mental and emotional too. Although all kinds of space are important to encourage a child's development, the space I am specifically referring to in this chapter is the space within which provides the ability for children to express themselves freely and safely with acceptance as opposed to pushing, forcing, pressure or judgment.
How do I know if I giving my child space? The first element of being able to step into a place where you can create space for your child is by asking yourself these questions:
Am I able to step back and focus on my child's well-being first?
Is my approach to parenting about me or my child?
Do I feel emotionally intelligent as an adult?
Do I feel a sense of wellness within myself?
Do I know who I really am?
Do I feel fulfilled enough within myself to stop living through my child?
Can I let go of expectations of who I think my child ought to be?
As parents, it is not our job to force our children to become who we think they should be.
Projecting expectations of who you wish you had become, or using your child to fulfill a stand you would like in your life is unfair and will lead to a life for your child which is based upon inauthentic expectations. In short, his life will be a lie.
If a child's inherited beliefs of who he is, is based on a set of criteria that do not fit, and are not in alignment with who he really is, he will grow up to have a fragmented view of himself.
Many adults try to impose their own unrealized dreams and ideals onto their children. Children are themselves, they are not you! It is not fair to impose an inauthentic life upon your children. It will put them under unnecessary pressure and confusion that does not belong to them.
Any form of pressure upon a child, or an adult for that matter creates a feeling of discomfort and as a result will cause resistance. When a child becomes resistant to a situation in his life he will try to communicate it. As we discussed in chapter two, when a child is communicating with adults who are not listening or understanding what he is saying, he will likely turn to negative or defiant behavior to make his statement. Resistance creates more resistance and this will fuel the fire for stress and anxiety to grow between the parent and child. So to resolve this, try to sit back and hear what your child is trying to tell you. If he does not want to be or do the things you are trying to force him to (such as multiple dance classes, piano lessons, soccer practice, tennis and the like), listen and ask him what is it he would like to do. If he doesn't know yet, then step back and allow him to have space away from all the other pressures to take a breath and find out on his own.
Our children are not our trophies, they are people. I see so many parents of young children these days enrolling their children into a multitude of different activities. Getting dragged to school - a chore for many children -day after day, and then taken to activities after school as well can become confusing especially if these activities are ones that you have chosen. To become a master at anything you have to focus on that one thing and give it your all until you have mastered it. Scattering energies and attention between a cornucopia of things is confusing, exhausting and does not allow you to really become a master of anything so in the end your efforts are likely to be redundant. I understand that many adults will argue that how can a child know what they like unless they 'try out everything.' My answer to that is: how will they ever think about liking anything when they are so confused between so many options? The other answer is that when a child has space to reflect upon what she wants to do and what she is interested in, she will let you know.
My experience with my own son Robbie is a perfect example of this. Robbie expressed interest in soccer from a very early age and so we signed him up for soccer camp at age four. His coaches recognized that he was showing above average skills in the sport so that is the sport he committed to and has loved ever since. Did I want him to be a soccer player? Not really! Personally, when I saw him the first moment he was born, I saw his long fingers and thought 'I hope he becomes a pianist.' I signed him up for music for tots when he was only months old and it was fun. However, as he grew older I noticed he was not showing much of an interest in it. He later started showing resistance which manifested as a great deal of whining, crying fussing and refusing to go and as a result, I listened to him and removed him from music and felt sad about it for a while.
Upon reflection much later, I realized becoming a musician was my own unrealized dream that I was projecting on my son. I had studied music since I was four. I learned to play violin from the age of eight and also played tenor recorder in a very successful school recorder group. I studied for music exams, played in multiple orchestras, competed in music competitions and festivals and continued to do so till I had to stop due to life circumstances that were not of my choice at age 16.
Excerpted from "Five Minutes to Mindfulness — Kids"
Copyright © 2017 Dr Ashleigh Stewart MscD.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Why Five Minutes to Mindfulness?, 1,
Chapter 2 What's Behind their Behavior?, 3,
Chapter 3 Yoga & Mindfulness, and the Importance of Effective Communication, 7,
Chapter 4 Creating Space for Children, 11,
Chapter 5 Children's Behaviour & The Yoga of Space, 17,
Chapter 6 Yoga for Anxious Children, 23,
Chapter 7 Knowing the Difference Between Tension & Relaxation, 27,
Chapter 8 ADHD - Beyond the Diagnosis, 31,
Chapter 9 The Rise of Technology & how it affects our Children, 37,
Chapter 10 A Word on Discipline, 41,
Chapter 11 Understanding Karma & Responsibility, 47,
Chapter 12 Five Minutes to Breathe, 49,
Chapter 13 Five Minutes to Move, 61,
Chapter 14 Five Minutes to Meditate, 83,
Chapter 15 Five Minutes to Mindfulness, 97,
Chapter 16 Children are a Promise that the World can go on!, 117,
Chapter 17 Your Own Notes & Reflections, 119,