I’ve got three boys.
One of them is an “I can’t’ child.
One of them is an “I’m awesome” child.
One of them can’t yet speak in full sentences so I’m not going to categorize him 🙂
Which one do you think I’m most worried about?
I know that isn’t the be all, end all of things but I believe that naturally optimistic people are overall more happy with how life turns out and can roll with the punches better.
And the scary thing is that even if you are born optimistic and determined life can throw you some curve balls can’t it?
I was naturally optimistic and even though introverted, exuded a quiet confidence (according to my Mother and teachers). But somewhere along the way, in adolescence, I lost the ability to connect back in with myself.
As you grow up and you have freedom of decisions, you can look outside yourself for the answer.
What are my friends doing? What does the TV say? These days there is the internet (!), social media. What are my teachers saying, my parents?
At a certain age your peer group influences more than your parents and our opinions (gulp) become less important to our children.
So what can we teach them now that gives them that sense of self? That lets them know that no matter what, they need to listen to that gut instinct, their intuition, that their heart is there to guide them?
Believe me when I say I have been looking into this. Researching it. Could probably write a PhD on it.
Because it matters.
Because I truly believe that if I can just teach him to believe in himself. To know himself. To be independent but supported. Then his gifts, of which there are so many, will be gifted to the world.
But if not then he just might keep them to his self. Like so many people do. Because they are afraid.
I write things that sometimes I think I shouldn’t. But I do it anyway because it’s my gift and it might be a present to someone. It might help.
I do yoga for myself now but when I believe that I will be of service to the world then I start to share it. No matter how scared I am.
I had coaching this week, with the beautiful Kirri White http://kirriwhitecoaching.com/. I asked her to speak with me about speaking and presenting skills because you know what? When it comes to saying my words out loud I’m freaked out.
So we all understand what it is like to be scared. To want to say I can’t. But the audio on the fear and the “I can’t’s” seem to get softer when you know yourself. When you connect to you and know that it is needed to journey on your path.
So where do we start with our kids? How do we help them?
- Gratitude – Every night I get the kids to say three things they are grateful for. This is sometimes hard as they reel off members of our family to get it over with. I encourage them to think about things other than people that they are grateful for when they do this. I then ask them what their favourite moment is. Gratitude has been proven to reduce comparison with others and therefore improve self-esteem.
- Discussing emotions and feelings. The book by Goldie Hawn, Ten Mindful Minutes, discussing her Mind Up program that is in American schools, has some really great terminology for naming areas of the brain and feelings. The pre-frontal cortex, in charge of thinking and making good choices, is the wise old owl, the amygdala is the Guard Dog that barks when it sees something scary but the problem is that the Guard Dog sometimes barks for no good reason and can make us feel angry, want to cry etc. It’s a way of explaining to them (and to ourselves) how our brains work and how they regulate emotions.
- Deep breathing – continuing on from the education on why they are feeling this way is what to do about it. Encouraging some deep mindful breaths, start with just three when they feel scared or angry. Even if they don’t do it at the time, if you are consistent they will remember you saying and modelling it and will begin to do it on their own.
- Kindness to ourselves and others – We need to start encouraging our children to talk nicely to themselves. We need to let them know that mistakes are ok, everyone makes them. Start asking them to think of nice things they can do for others and start actioning them. When we think of others, we lose those self-obsessive cycle of thoughts, and it gives us a real boost to think we have helped someone.
- Teach them that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts. What we think is not always right and it can be very self-limiting. We need to teach our children that we are not our thoughts, that reality is not what we think, we in fact shape our reality by thinking. We are the awareness behind our thoughts and the constant chatter in our mind is not actually who we are.
- Meditation – My kids are little. 6,4 and 2 but they go to yoga class and I’ve now started a very informal meditation practice with them at home. It goes like this…. if they come out of their beds at night then I’ll go in and do a meditation with them. It is definitely one way to get them asking to do it! Otherwise they don’t really want me to do it. In the mornings when they get up I am usually meditating and they will come and sit on my lap for some quiet time before joining their brothers in the playroom. Meditation gets them to practice slowing down their thoughts and encourages focus of the mind, which are helpful tools to getting rid of the negative thoughts and feeling better about ourselves.
There are sooo many amazing free resources on the internet if you just google mindfulness activities for kids. Below are just a few of them that I think are pretty cool.