Towards the end of last month, we began trialling our Magic of Mindfulness programme virtually in preparation for launching it live into schools. The Magic of Mindfulness: Magic Me is a new six-week programme from Magic 4 Children that introduces children to Mindfulness and how it can help them be calm, focused, happy and kind to themselves and others.
Mindfulness teaches us to focus on the present moment, not worry about what might have happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. If children learn mindful breathing techniques, they can instantly calm themselves down. Mindfulness can help with handling emotion, dealing with stress, helping with sleep and improving self-confidence and self-belief.
1 in 6 school-aged children has a mental health problem. (NHS Digital 2020).
This is a scary statistic, one which will only have become worse due to the impact of Covid-19. The sooner we can provide children with the skills to stay mentally healthy, the more likely they will be able to deal with new situations and the worries and stresses that life brings.
If your child is feeling anxious don't panic, it means they care.
Children learn how to react to situations by listening to and watching the people they spend most of their time with. This is why it is so important that we don’t always hide our own anxiety and stress from them. We must teach them that it is normal to feel anxious or stressed sometimes and that this is okay. It is our body’s normal response when we care about something. They need to know that they can talk about their feelings with people they trust and be listened to and taken seriously.
Three examples of potentially stressful situations and how you could use them to teach your child valuable coping techniques:
You are going to meet someone that your child doesn’t know/doesn’t remember meeting before:
- Explain that you feel a bit nervous as you have not seen them for a while
- You could say that you have butterflies in your tummy or that your heart is beating a bit faster when you think about it
- Explain that because you feel nervous, you are just going to focus on taking deep breaths to help you feel calm again
- Ask them how they feel
- Talk about some things that they could talk about when they see the person and how they could greet them if they feel nervous - Hello and a smile
- After the meetup, discuss how they felt and what helped/didn’t help them to feel better
- Explain that next time it will be easier as usually new things feel hardest the first time
You are going somewhere new:
- Explain that you are nervous as you don’t know what to expect
- You could say that you feel a bit sweaty, and it is making your tummy feel funny (children often feel like they have tummy ache or headache when they are nervous)
- You could use a Calm Word that distracts from the negative thoughts. Think of a Calm Word together - a favourite food or a place you like to go together
- Turn the new experience into a senses game. When children focus on their senses, it helps them to calm down and concentrate better. Tell them when they arrive at the new place, you want them to think about what they can see, hear, smell and touch, and they’ve got to try and remember these things so that you can see if you noticed the same things when you leave.
You try to do something, and you make a mistake:
- Children are often scared of making mistakes. Therefore we need to teach them that mistakes are positive rather than a negative
- When you make a mistake, however big or small, draw your child’s attention to it - “I’ve made a mistake, never mind, next time I’ll do this instead.”
Mindful Activities that help to calm children
- Breathing: any form of breathing where children slowly inhale through their nose and exhale through their mouth. They could hold a cuddly toy while they breathe in and out to feel their tummy moving.
- Drawing, colouring or painting
- Exercise - being part of a team sport or having a hobby contributes to good mental health.
- Yoga - brilliant for calming, focus, strength and balance
- Being around animals - stroking animals or being close to them has a calming effect on most children.
- Listening to relaxing music or listening to a guided meditation: the Smiling Mind app has some child-friendly meditations and mindful activities that may help.
Kindness breeds kindness.
Start and end every day with a kind statement. Not just to your children, but yourself as well. Looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your child’s.
Use mealtimes or bedtimes to discuss what has been the best part of your day. We are often quick to share negative experiences but forget about the positive ones, however small they might be. We have to train our brains to focus on what is good in our lives. The more positive thoughts that we have, the more positive a person we will be. This positivity then passes on to other people that we spend our time with - kindness breeds kindness.
Magic 4 Children’s Recommended Websites for supporting Mental Health:
The following websites have a wealth of information about mental health. Admitting that you need extra support as a parent is not a sign of weakness or defeat. It takes a strong person to realise that what they’ve tried already is not working and to look for alternatives.
We write a new blog each month and would love to include information and guidance that helps you the most. So, if you have any requests or want advice or additional support for your child/children, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll do our best to help.
We’ll leave you with this positive thought for the day:
- The Magic 4 Children Team