Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about mindfulness and how it might benefit children, particularly adopted children. We’ve had a rough few weeks. For my adopted son, things haven’t been going so smoothly at school. Being an adopted child at a British school is difficult, and it’s even more difficult in a French school.
I won’t go into detail about specific concerns, but suffice it to say that the school and I were not on the same page and that we parted ways. It was my decision, and we are much happy as a result. I needed to find a solution to help Wonder Boy get through this trying moment and relax his troubled mind. I needed to get him to a safe spot where he could relax and sleep soundly. 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.
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 Buddhist 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 practiced anywhere. I use it when I feel stressed and my life feels out of control. It helps me feel more centered, 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 behavior, 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 adolescents to reduce depression
- The impact of mindfulness on children and young people
And last year the prestigious Welcome Institute announced a £6.4m research programme to assess whether mindfulness training for teenagers can improve their mental health.
Read also: What is Mindfulness-Based Treatment
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 favorite 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!