Mindfulness- Finding Positivity at the End of the Day

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For humans, language is a powerful tool. It can evoke positive, neutral and negative emotions. We also can direct these emotions in others by the words we say and the syntax of those few words.

As a Headteacher/Principal for more than 10 years, there is a similar conversation I have with parents and teachers repeatedly.

Usually, the scenario of the child moaning and complaining about something that has happened as soon as the child walks out the school doors that leads to upset in the family for the evening. This conversation repeats day after day, upsetting the parent and feeding a negative loop of emotions to the point of a child telling their parents nothing good about the school day. When the parents tell the teacher, he/she is baffled as the child has not complained and, in fact, has had an extremely positive days filled with lots of success and praise.

So, what is going on here?

According to Professor Nass, co-authored, “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships” (Penguin 2010),
“The brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres,” Generally, negative emotions involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones, he said. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones.

Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University, highlights in an article he co-authored in 2001, “Bad Is Stronger Than Good,” which appeared in The Review of General Psychology, “Bad emotions, bad parents and bad feedback have more impact than good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones.”

Basically, at a very young age, we realise that when we tell our parents the more negative experiences that have happened in our day, no matter how small, our parents give us more emotional feedback than when we tell them our positive experiences.

So, how can we as both teachers and parents use mindfulness to change how we see the day that will lead to mentally healthier experiences and reactions and to a more peaceful school and home environment?

Teachers

End each day with a positive thought– Have each child tell the class what is one thing they have learned that day or what was the best part of their day in school before they leave for the day. As a class, celebrate the successes; clap, cheer, smile and congratulate the positives. These positive thoughts and emotions follow the children out the door and home.

This gives you, as a teacher, a sense of accomplishment and positive mindful reflection on the day. It allows you to enjoy the success of the day instead of only considering the things that didn’t go well. It gives the day balance.

For children, it begins to refocus the day and allows children to bask in the glow of positivity. It helps them to give the day balance.

Parents

When you see your child at the end of the school day be specific in your questions:
– What was the BEST thing about today?
– What is the BEST thing you saw today?
– What is the KINDEST thing you did or said today?

The key is to focus on the positive and explore and discuss this positive. Allow the conversation to grow about this positive experience. Ask for details (Who was with you when this happened?) , explore the emotions (How did you feel? Did you smile?) and encourage gratitude (Did you say thank you? How do you think they felt?).

If your child tries to divert to a negative, let them know you will listen to them about it but first you are going to enjoy the positives and discuss the positives.

Before bedtime, bring up these positives again. Allow the child to repeat and allow the positive emotions to be the last emotions they have as they go to sleep. One falls asleep and has a better sleep when they have positive thoughts to drift off to.

This gives both of you time to enjoy each other’s company and reinforce a mindful sense of gratitude that can lead to a more harmonious family life.

Does this mean a child should never tell a parent what did not go well? Not at all! What we are wanting to do is to help children to find a mindful balance in life and find happiness in being happy.

Please note:
Just asking your child, “How was your day?” Is a neutral statement and doesn’t drive a positive mindset. Emphasis needs to be positive language.

Eventually, as the habit of positivity develops, even a neutral question will have a child first reflecting on the positive. However, this does take time.

Find more mindfulness strategies for children and adults here: www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com or for more ideas for teachers, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom published by Bloomsbury. More information can be found here.

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Mindfulness For Children – Top Test Taking Tips for PARENTS

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As outlined in the post, Mindfulness in the Classroom – Test Taking Tips, despite our best efforts as teachers in preparing children for these tests and ensuring they have the right skills to be successful on them, test anxiety can throw a spanner in the works; causing children to react in ways that sabotages their ability to show all they know.

The use of Mindfulness as we support children in preparing for the test can give them the edge to perform to their best ability and not allow the stress to impact on the greater spectrum of life. The lifelong skills of dealing with stress will support them not only for the test but for the general stresses in life.

We need to remember that Mindfulness is not about not having stress. It is about controlling how you react to the stress.

As parents, we can mindfully support our children before, during and after the test.

Before:
Support any homework:  We know that, at times, the homework can be confusing and frustrating for both the parent and child. This is a good time to practice a simple 10 Second Mindfulness exercise together, STOP.

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10 Second Mindfulness- STOP
This is a simple but effective strategy to refocus our attention.
S– Stop what you are doing.

T– Take a deep breathe. Breathe in for a count of 5, hold for a count of one and exhale for a count of 8.

O– Observe what is happening around you at this moment.

P– Proceed with what you were doing.

Remind your child that it is ok to get things wrong sometimes and not everyone is perfect.

– Discuss How They Are Feeling: Developing emotional intelligence is to get children to understand that their emotions are valid. It is not bad to have emotions, good or bad. It is how they deal with and react to these emotions that makes a difference. Talk about emotions like you talk about the weather- Often and every day!
* What emotion are you feeling right now? How does it feel? Is this a good emotion to have in control? How can we change emotions?

During:

SLEEP! The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following:

Children 6-13 years: Recommended- 9-11 hours Appropriate- 7-8 hours
Teenagers 14-17 years: Recommended- 8-10 hours Appropriate- 7-11 hours

We should never underestimate the power of good sleeping habits. Children who are persistently sleep-deprived seem irritable and overactive, seek constant stimulation, are easily distracted and don’t concentrate well.

To help ease your child to a peaceful sleep, use a Guided Sleep Meditation like one of the following:

Everything Will Be Ok: https://youtu.be/FPdANK5jLWE
Always Do Your Best: https://youtu.be/nRD-vwY95JM
Dealing With Emotions: https://youtu.be/OfeJ91mleFE
Deep Sleep (for teenagers): https://youtu.be/kUEUm0BcgBo

Eat Well! Make sure they have a good evening meal as well as a good breakfast. It gives them the energy to take on the challenges of the day. Add a simple Mindful Eating exercise to get the day started.

First Bite Mindful Eating Exercise

1- Have your LOOK at the food they will be eating. Silent,they are to observe what it looks like? What do you notice?
What colour is it?
Is it small or large?
2- Have your child smell the food.
Does it have a smell?
What does it smell like?
3- Have your child, very slowly, put the piece of food in their mouth but not chew it! Leave it on the tongue.
How does it feel on the tongue?
Can you taste anything?
Does it smell differently in your mouth?
5- Have your child begin to chew slowly; one mindful chew at a time.
Does the taste change?
How does it feel in the mouth?
6- Try to get them notice when they swallow, and see how far you can feel the food into your body.

Be Flexible and Calm: Don’t over plan the days your child will be taking their tests. Follow their lead and do as much or as little as they want on the evenings. Sure, you may have paid for a club on the evening of the tests. But, if they don’t feel like going don’t! Change it up! Go for a walk! Grab an ice cream! Watch a movie! Be FLEXIBLE!

Afterwards:

CELEBRATE! Remind them that it doesn’t matter what they get on the test. There are far more things that the test does not measure, like their love for art, their sporty skills, their kind heartedness, their passion for creativity, etc. Do something that celebrates THEM!

But, MOST IMPORTANT of them ALL is to teach them THIS TOP TEST TAKING TIP:

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Parenting is not easy. But, by adding some mindfulness into your life and the life of your child, you ease the journey you take together as they become adults.