As we all know this week is Children’s Mental Health week so this weeks post is dedicated to this topic with some helpful techniques. For Christmas I asked for knowledge…in the form of some courses with the Centre of Excellence dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. Once of the first courses I’ve undertaken is Mindfulness for children, I’ve found this so much help in my teaching practice and approach to supporting children. Now most of these techniques can be used for adults as well but it’s important to engage children on an imaginative level to help their engagement in this process. I’ve found that children enjoy the imaginative element of these activities. The cloud car in particular is a good one to try before bedtime it’s similar to one I used to use when I took year 3’s on their first overnight residential trip that one involved a magic broom stick. With a lot of children struggling with lockdown, home learning and uncertain times these are a range of techniques that can help children to practice mindfulness through out the day:
Colouring helps to calm stress and anxiety spurs creativity and (I can’t as a teacher emphasis this enough) develop fine motor skills. I’m really not sure why simple colouring in sheets have fallen so out of favour over the last decade or so for young children, it’s a really important activity in developing fine motor skills and unlike things like playdough don’t require the same level of mess and prep but these days people seem to feel it’s a cope out.
Colouring helps to turn off your brain and focus in the moment and develop concentration. Adult colouring has started to become in vogue, when my mum was going though her cancer treatment last year I got her a f**k cancer colouring book to while away the hours of chemo and in many city offices across the world it has become a thing for top executives to meet and spend time colouring together as a stress reliever, so why can’t children spend time enjoying the simple pleasure of colouring. According to physiologists colouring stimulates both the logical and creative parts of the brain. My favourite fact I have learnt about colour therapy is that it’s been used as a healing therapy as far back as Ancient Egypt
The next time children are struggling to cope with remote learning or anything else that can cause a child stress try providing a colouring book and some pens.
The cloud car
For this one children will need to be somewhere comfortable maybe with a favourite toy. It is an ideal bed time meditation or nap time for younger children. First they will need to close their eyes and try to imagine they’re floating. You can’t just expect them to do this on their own so you will need a calm gentle voice and try a script something along the lines of: “Imagine you are doing something you really enjoy, anything you like. Your body starts to become very relaxed and comfortable. Your muscles start to feel nice and warm and heavy. Start to pretend you are floating as if you were in a hot air balloon. Notice all the clouds drifting by. You are surrounded by the clouds. Suddenly, you notice that one of these clouds has turned into a very special car. In this special car you can drive anywhere you want. Think about where you might drive. It can be to the place that makes you most happy or a place that you think will be really interesting. Imagine the controls they’re really easy to work your car can go as fast as you want but you are always safe. When you push down on the steering wheel you go faster and when you pull up it goes slower. Have fun imagining driving your car around to all the fun and interesting places you want. All this driving makes you feel relaxed, warm and tired. If you feel really tired you can just let yourself drift off to sleep.”
Always make sure that you keep your voice soft and quiet, if children have a particular physical comfort that they like such as holding your hand, having their hair stroked, or playing with the buttons on your top do this will carrying out this script.
Did you know that gratitude can make you at least 25% happier? It also helps to boost self-esteem and improve sleep. Right now it’s difficult for a lot of us to think of things to be thankful for but there is always something even if it’s as basic as being able to get up in the morning or having our health. It can also be hard for children to understand gratitude particularly for non-material things. These are some handy ideas to help:
My three favourite things, another version of rose and thrones perfect to play while having dinner or just before bedtime. While I’m not personally in anyway religious I do make the historical link in my head between past generations saying prayers at bedtime and this activity. Basically ask your child to say three things that they are thankful for that day. You might need to model this for them or you may well get answers like the iPad, PJ Masks or the xbox! Encourage them to think of simple things like a call from Grandma, building a blanket fort with a sibling , or bigger things like a hot meal and a comfy bed to sleep in.
Gratitude jar, use an old jar you have laying around the house and a stack of post-it notes. Every day write something on a post-it that you are thankful for (this is one for the whole family). When one of you is having a bad day pull out a post-it to remind yourself of the reasons to be thankful.