Coping with Stress
As we have discussed in previous weeks, children are dealing with more and more stress. In children stress, anxiety and even ADHD can present itself in many behavior issues, such as anger, defiance, lethargy and act out. It is very easy to misdiagnose these symptoms and end up overmedicating a generation for ordinary misbehavior. Stress and anxiety are being reported as being at an all-time high according to CDC article. It figures that parents are worried. There is an alternative to drugs for managing our children’s anxiety and misbehavior, can you guess what it is?
Meditation and mindfulness activities have been shown to have stress-relieving effects. It has been proven to decrease ADHD in adults, and experts are saying it could help control behaviors like hyperactivity, defiance, and anxiety in children as well.
What stressors do children deal with and How it affects them?
Children can experience stress when they struggle in school when you ask them to sit still when they want to move around, or when they feel pressure to behave in a certain manner. Their bodies react to stress by activating the fight-or-flight system. This system was designed to help when stressors were things like being chased by a predator or fighting with a neighboring tribe. A math quiz in seventh grade wasn’t what this system was designed for.
Because of this, stress can cause the following effects on children’s health:
- Increased blood pressure
- Insulin resistance
- Imbalanced hormones
- Weakened immunity
- Increased blood clotting ability
- Digestive disorders
The dangers of long-term stress exposure can include:
- Coronary heart disease
- Anxiety, insomnia, and addictions
- Heart attacks and strokes
- Digestive disease
How Meditation Helps Reduce Stress
Meditation naturally counteracts the effects of the fight-or-flight reaction by:
- Lowering heart rate
- Normalizing blood flow
- Slowing down the breath and extending the inhalation and exhalation
- Reducing the release of stress hormones
- Strengthening immunity
If You Can’t Calm Your Mind, How Can Your Child?
Thinking that your children need calm minds in order to meditate is kind of like saying you need to be fit before you go to the gym.
The great thing is, when children begin a meditation practice, they can feel the changes in their bodies and may be naturally drawn to continue the practice. Finding a practice that is easy for you and your children to participate in every day simply takes a little bit of exploration.
If you want to try this at home, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind.
- Children are usually able to sit for as many minutes as their age (e.g., eight minutes for an eight-year-old). Children younger than five years can practice mindful activities or simple breath activities (see the list below).
- Model the behavior you want to inspire: Meditate with your child. If you have a meditation practice already, include them. If you are starting fresh, you can experiment with guided, silent, or mantra meditations.
- Set your children up for success and they will return to the practice more easily. Give them a special crystal to hold or make it part of their bedtime routine.
- Talk with your children about the way they feel after meditating. Celebrate the changes they notice or point out changes that you notice that they might be unaware of.
Beyond Meditation: Mindful Activities for Kids
Teach your children this simple breath pattern. Inhale as you count to four, hold as you count to four, exhale as you count to four, and hold as you count to four. Guide your children to use this practice when they feel any powerful or overwhelming feelings. It can calm them, reduce fight or flight, and teach them that they can control their bodies’ reactions.
Focusing on a single activity like coloring lets the mind practice being present. Do it with your children for an added bonus of connection. There is no shortage of coloring books available for both children and adults or you may use your creativity and make a bubble-letter drawing of their names, their top character traits or a goal they have.
Spending time outside is great for your children’s health. Encourage them to focus on what you are seeing or hearing as you walk. Try a silent walk or one where you take turns leading. Connecting with nature is a great way to become more mindful.
Dance It Out:
A five-minute kitchen dance party—while preparing dinner or before homework—is fun for the whole family. Take turns choosing the song and focusing on fun. Despite popular belief, mindful moments don’t just happen when you sit in a lotus position; they can happen when you are in any joyful flow activity.
Taking time with your children to acknowledge all the good things they have in their lives is powerful. At dinner, ask everyone to share the best moment of the day and one thing they are grateful for. Try out gratitude journal with writing prompts to get your child more aware of all the good in their life right now.
Model the law of giving and receiving for your children. Simple pay-it-forward practices like coffee karma (where you not only buy your coffee but also pay for the one behind you) or random acts of kindness (when you do something kind for someone without being asked) allow your children to see that kindness matters and that by giving to someone else you receive a warm feeling that lasts and spreads.
Remember, as parents, the role is to teach children how to cope with stress, anxiety, and extra energy; not to manage it for them.
LET US KNOW
Do you wonder how much easier life would have been if you had learned mindfulness skills as a child? Using these techniques with your child is changing their lives in the best way, by teaching them mindfulness and compassion, you are setting them up for success no matter what crosses their path. What do you think about using mindfulness techniques with your children? What do you think of the techniques we shared today? Let us know in the comments. Are you attempting mindfulness with your kids? Snap a photo and Tag us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag- #mindfulnessmonday
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