By Eva Witkowska, Psychotherapist, PhD
Stress can be a part of going back to school or the school experience in general. The school environment is so different from home! Peer pressure and the desire to do well academically can be stressful. We know now that prolonged stress does not have to be experienced in a young person’s life. We also know that our brains, and our bodies function so much better when we allow the stress to just come and go. It is better to not make a permanent home in our hearts and minds for the negative emotions and thoughts.
It is often easier said than done and not every child will be affected to the same degree. There are individual differences in levels of resilience to stress. If you have a child prone to stress or worry you probably know it by now. But even if not, it is a great gift to your child and your family to introduce practices that lower stress levels in your family life. And, it will also do wonders for your, the participating parents, peace of mind and relaxation.
Megan Cowan developed and delivered a mindfulness program to over 7000 children in 26 schools in Oakland, CA. She found that mindfulness helped children focus in stressful situations, helped their resiliency, and improved their skills of coping with difficult emotions. Below are her guidelines for a simple mindfulness exercise:
” A simple lesson to repeat daily is one minute of mindful listening and one minute of mindful breathing.”
“1. Please get into your ‘mindful bodies’—still and quiet, sitting upright, eyes closed.
2. Now place all your attention on the sound you are about to hear. Listen until the sound is completely gone.
3. Ring a “mindfulness bell,” or have the child ring the bell. Use a bell with a sustained sound or a rainstick to encourage mindful listening.
4. Please raise your hand when you can no longer hear the sound.
5. When most or all have raised their hands, you can say, “Now slowly, mindfully, move your hand to your stomach or chest, and just feel your breathing.
6. You can help children stay focused during the breathing with reminders like, ‘Just breathing in … just breathing out …’
7. Ring the bell to end.”
It is also vital that you, as the most important person in your child’s life, model a calm, attentive, grounded way of being. Demonstrate that the work stresses and the stresses of daily life do not have the best of you. Ensure your child can trusts they can talk to you about everything and you will know how to relax, how to stay present and act effectively. Finding ways to de-stress and developing your own daily ‘mindfulness’ practice will help you and your family immensely.
For more information see:
Jon Kabat-Zinn “Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life”
Or talk to us at the Pande Family Wellness Centre.