Children’s Mental Health Week

The week of 4th February 2019 is Children’s Mental Health Week.

This is championed in the UK by Place2Be https://www.place2be.org.uk supported by HRH Dutches of Cambridge.

We teach children how to write, read, add and subtract along with a whole host of other subjects. Those things are important towards helping them to be successful members of society.

However, if children don’t have the skills and strategies to cope with the stresses that come with the access and use of that knowledge and becoming members of society, they will not be as successful as they can be.

Together, whether we are parents, teachers, club/team leaders or the general public, we need to be actively engaged in giving our children the tools needed for a positive mental health now and in the future.

The development of mindfulness in children can support this positive mental health development.

A number of strategies can be found here for free: https://educationsvoice.wordpress.com/mindfulness-in-the-classroom-series/

Share your ideas and activities in the comments.

If you have missed the official week, that is ok. The development of positive mental health in children is for all year long and not just for one week.

Find more mindfulness strategies for teachers, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness In The Classroom published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

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Mindfulness in the Classroom – Colour Meditation

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Have you noticed your class drifting off, especially when learning a new topic or skill that is more difficult? Their eyes glaze over, they become more fidgety, shout-out, work avoidance and more.

Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. He goes on to say, “It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping.

The key to mindfulness is not being in the present every moment of the day. That is not possible and not appropriate for a successful life; you do need some time to reflect in order to improve and prepare for the future. The key is being able to refocus yourself in the present at your will and not at the will of your meandering thoughts.
Refocusing without judgement is a positive mindful activity that allows children to take a breather, allow a moment to step back from the work and then continue in a mindful way that allows for maximum progress.

One way to help children to remain focused in class is to use Colour Meditation.

Colour Meditation
– At the beginning of the day, get each child to choose a colour and decide to notice that colour on a given signal (This could be the ringing of a bell, code word, etc.)

– Have children take a minute to notice the objects and people wearing that colour. (I like to choose colours that I think will be more difficult to come across as it does make me really stay focused in the moment.)
– Guide them by asking them questions:
-Have you noticed something or someone you have never noticed before?
-How many different things are you noticing? (I always surprise myself when I                 buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice that car EVERYWHERE!)

– Have the children make a mental note about this #mindfulmoment and congratulate themselves for being in the present and proceed with their learning/work.

With this mindful task, you may find that the world becomes more colourful.

Find more mindfulness strategies on www.educationsvoice.wordpress.com and in the Bloomsbury book, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Mindfulness in the Classroom by Tammie Prince ( Bloomsbury Link,  Amazon Link )

 

 

Mindfulness In the Classroom – Mindful Language

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The highly respected psychiatrist, John H Reitman, once said that, “It takes an average person almost twice as long to understand a sentence that uses a negative approach than it does to understand a positive sentence”.

Everyday since most of us were about two years old we have spoken a countless number of words. It doesn’t matter which language we have spoken. Just the fact that we use words to convey our needs, wants, desires and emotions.

As a young child my parents taught me the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” However, far too quickly, I learned that words could be even more powerful than sticks and stones and that words could hurt the deep psyche that can leave lasting scars. Those lasting scars lead to powerful emotions for most of our lives.

As educators, we need to be even more mindful of our words and consider what we are saying and why we are saying.

Negative vs Positive

Negative language often:
* tells the person what cannot be done.
*  has a subtle tone of blame.
*  includes words like can’t, won’t, unable to, not to or don’t.
* emphasises the negative behaviour over the desired positive behaviour.
* does not stress positive actions that would be appropriate, or positive consequences.
* Is ambiguous and doesn’t explain what you want them to do. “Don’t spill your drink! ” (How does a child not spill a drink?)

Positive language often:
* tells the person what can be done.
* suggests alternatives and choices available to the person.
* sounds helpful and encouraging rather than chastising.
* stresses positive actions and positive consequences that can be anticipated.

Examples of Positive Mindful Language choices:

– ” Mary is making right choices.”
– “Remember Mary, we make the right choice.”
– “You have two choices.” ( Then give two positive choices which you are willing to compromise on to get the desired behaviour. It allows a child to feel in control but in a safe range.)
– “I wonder why Mary has hit John.”
– “I like it when Mary sits in her place when she comes into class.”
– “Mary, shut the door quietly.”
– “I can tell you are not happy right now. You are breathing fast, your face is red and you have tears in your eyes. Take some deep breaths with me.”
– Give a child time to calm down with other mindful strategies and then discuss what has happened and LISTEN to what they have to say. Ask guiding questions and repeat your appreciation for how it made them feel and refer to how it has made you feel.
– When having lengthier conversations with a child about their behaviour, end with restating what they did well.
– In the Classroom, end the day on a high note by giving a minute to everyone reflecting on what one positive thing happened that day. Let that be their “exit ticket” at home time.

It is also important for you to encourage kindness and positivity in the words the children use to speak to you and others. Give some time to practice HOW we say things, how we use our words and explore how that makes us feel.

At the end of the day, we must remember that positive language leads to positive self-esteem. If a person has positive self-esteem, than they are likely to have a more even temperament and a healthy balance of the stress hormone, cortisol. Negative self-esteem keeps a person at a heightened stress point with high levels of cortisol which keeps them in the constant moment of fight, flight or freeze.

How positive is your language? Challenge your class and yourself this week, change one thing you say in a negative way and make it a powerful positive phrase. Let the child’s actions speak for themselves.

Note: In addition to positive language, one must also consider the importance of body language. (To be outlined in another post shortly.)

Mindfulness in the Classroom – Using Play Dough Part 2


In Mindfulness in the Classroom – Using Play Dough Part 2 , we continue to explore ideas of using Play Dough to develop mindfulness in the classroom that we began in Part 1.


Worry Stones

How to Make a Worry Stone:

– Give each child a small ball of dough. A good option at this point is to do a Play Dough Meditation outlined in Part 1.
– Get each child to slightly flatten the ball into the palm of the hand.

– They then place the slightly flattened ball on the table and press their thumb into the centre leaving a thumb sized indention.

– With damp finger tips, softly smooth the edges and cracks.

– Air Dry for 3 days or Oven Dry for 20 minutes at 200c

– Decorate as desired or leave more plain and Stone like.

– Coat with a thin layer of Modge Podge or PVC Glue. Repeat. (This will seal and give a smooth surface to the worry stone.

How to Use the Worry Stone:

Hold the stone between the index finger and thumb and gently move your thumb back and forth across the stone. While doing this, take deep, slow belly breaths focusing on the feel of the stone in your hand and the feel of the air as you inhale and exhale.


Finger Labyrinth 

How to Make a Finger Labyrinth from Play Dough:

You will need:

– large ball of Play Dough and a smaller ball of Play Dough

– Large piece of aluminium foil or wax/baking paper

– Rolling pin

– Photo/ print out of a finger Labyrinth you would like to make

How to Make a Finger Labyrinth:

– Take a larger ball of Play Dough and flatten into a large, thin round circle on a piece of aluminium foil or wax baking paper.

– Following the photo or print out, trace out the design into the dough

– Break off smaller pieces of the small ball and continue to roll out into a thin string and place on the lines drawn, applying pressure to join the dough and smooth the surfaces.

– With damp finger tips, smooth all edges.

– Air Dry for 3-4 days or combine OvenDry/Air Dry by oven drying for 15 minutes at 200c and then allow to air Dry for 1-2 days.

– Once dried, seal with two coats of Modge Podge or thin PVC glue.

How to use a Finger Labyrinth:

Take deep breaths to begin to relax and focus on the entrance to the labyrinth.

-Place your pointer finger from your non-dominate hand on the entrance of the labyrinth. If you find this too awkward at first, use your dominate hand. However, over time, keep trying your non-dominate hand. This helps keep the mind focused on the meditation due to the challenge it presents.

-Slowly trace the pattern of the labyrinth with your finger allowing your mind to clear from extra thought and focus solely on following the path of the labyrinth.

-“Walk” to the centre of the labyrinth and rest momentarily, taking deep breaths observing how you are feeling.

-Retrace your path out of the labyrinth.

-Sit back, breathe deeply and relax. Observe how you are feeling again.


Stone Tower Stones

Stacking stones to make towers have a very meditative quality as children concentrate to balance the stones. It gives children the opportunity to be quiet, think and focus just on what they are doing. Their silent fixed attention is fully in the moment of balancing the stones.

Traditionally, natural stones would be the preferable option. However, children will enjoy making their own “stones” and when connected to the Play Dough Meditation in Part 1 allows children to also use their own creativity.

Materials required:

– Give each child a ball of dough. You can use a variety of colours and even swirl a few colours together.

– While listening to calm meditation music, have the children make a variety of sizes and shapes.

– Allow to air Dry for 3-4 days. You can seal with Modge Podge or PVC glue or leave rough.

How to Build Stone Towers:

– 
 A collection of “stones” of different sizes, ensure that a large amount have some flatness on each side. But also include a variety of colours and roundness.
– A few pictures of stone towers so that children get the idea of the task and a challenge, “How many stones can you use to make a tower?”
– A place to do the building
– Optional: a camera so the child can take a picture of their tower or paper and pencils so they can make a sketch of their finished tower.
These are just a few examples of how Play Dough can be used to facilitate mindfulness in the classroom. What activities have you used that are successful?

Read Mindfulness in the Classroom – Using Play Dough Part 1 

 

5 Minute Mindfulness Strategy – Releasing Emotions

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Stress is a part of life. It always has been and it always will be. Trying to find mindfulness strategies to minimise how we react to stress is the key to life-long peace and well-being. The younger we are, the better we will be able to cope with what life gives us and use it to our advantage.

When we are stressed, our emotions overwhelm us. These emotions fight for attention and send our heart rates speeding. The emotions demand attention.

This simple 5 minute mindfulness strategy is a modified Japanese relaxation technique which allows us to give focused attention to various emotions in order to achieve peace and mindful relaxation.

This technique is appropriate for children and adults and requires only your hands and a quiet place.

How to:

Each of the fingers are associated with different feelings or attitudes.
* Thumb: Helps combat emotions like worry and anxiety.
* Index: Can help combat fear.
* Middle: Helps control anger and indignation.
* Ring: Emotions of sadness and depression; helps you to be more decisive.
* Pinky: Helps to calm anxiety, increases optimism.
Using the opposite hand, apply pressure to each finger by holding it tightly, focusing on that emotion and allowing yourself to release the negative energy of that emotion. Allow yourself to be a peace with the emotion without judging yourself. Breathe deeply for 15 breaths as you focus and release. You will begin to notice your pulse in the finger being held.

Complete the meditation, by applying gentle circular pressure to the palm of your hand as you smile and prepare for the rest of the day.

The key to this strategy is that you acknowledge your emotions, you give them some time that they demand. But, you control the way in which they are acknowledged and then put them to rest.

#21DaysOfSummerMindfulness Challenge- Developing Mindfulness in Children

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The younger the child, the closer they are to mindfulness. Children generally enjoy being in the moment and enjoying life to the fullest, particularly when they within the safe confines of a supportive, loving family.

However, as they get to school age, they have to deal with a wider world without their parents at their side. They have to deal the stresses and anxieties of life more independently. It is during these years patterns and habits on how we deal with these situations form.

By developing a child’s natural tendency to be mindful into tools with coping with life, they will grow into Mindful adults who are able to take on life’s challenges with success.

The #21DaysOfSummerMindfulness Challenge has been developed to support parents and adults in developing children’s mindfulness during the summer holidays/vacation.

It doesn’t matter WHEN you start. It is just that you give children opportunities to develop their mindfulness so that they start the new academic year with some tools that will support a successful school year.

So, get ready! Day 1 starts tomorrow!

Don’t forget to share your child’s #mindfulmoment and successes in the comments, on Twitter @Ed_Tmprince or on Facebook at Education’s Voice – Mindfulness ( https://www.facebook.com/educationsvoice/ ).