22 June, 2011

Creating Stress Free Kids

I'm becoming more and more aware of over scheduled and highly stressed kids these days.  Dance lessons, soccer lessons, after school drama club, chores at home, homework, and let's not forget about the stresses of being a kid alone!  Kids might be dealing with school work frustrations, bullying fears, lack of friends or too much popularity...there's a lot going on in kids' lives, and we need to help them stop once in a while and give them a breather.  Recently I came across four great moms, all providing advice, services and products to help children relax, reflect and renew.  I personally believe that everyone needs some of this in their lives. 

The first mom I talked to is Heather, a LMT, from Utah.  Heather is starting a program within the Utah Valley, targeting children in schools.  This past year, she has worked with a group of 3rd graders, teaching meditation.  Thanks to the powerful response from her students and the news, this has potentially opened the door for meditation classes to become a part of the 6th & 7th grade curriculum next year!  Below you'll find parts of my interview with Heather, hopefully shedding light on how and when you can bring meditation into your children's lives.

Chickadee Prints: 
At what age do you think a child truly benefits from meditation? 

Heather:  I think the earlier it is introduced the better, for a number of reasons. First like yoga meditation is a practice. Each time you sit you learn to go deeper into a state of mind or space that allows for enlightenment. So the younger you start the longer your practice and the more you get out of it at an earlier age. It creates a good healthy habit.  The younger you are the less perceived ideas you have and this allows for the experience to be more pure.

Chickadee Prints:  Does there have to be a formal setting, or can a child/family do this anywhere?

Heather:  No formal setting is required. For some a particular setting may be helpful to minimize distractions, but truly you can experience this state of mind at anytime, even when doing dishes. One of the techniques we covered this year was walking meditation. The students learned to pull into a zone while walking that allowed them to stay in the current moment. We talked about how this can even be done at recess.

Chickadee Prints:  If a child meditation course is not offered in someone’s area, what do you suggest to help a family introduce it into their lives? 

Heather:  There is a plethora of books and websites with great information and ideas of different techniques to help you meditate, but the basic premises is to practice being in the absolute moment. 

Our next mother actively involved in bringing meditation to children is Lori Lite.  Lori developed the program Stress Free Kids, which includes a line of books and CDs designed to help children, teens and adults decrease stress, anxiety & anger.  Her program can be used at home or in school. 

Chickadee Prints:  At what age do you think a child truly benefits from meditation and relaxation? 

Lori: It is never too soon for a child to reap the benefits of relaxation and meditation. There are reports that state that stress levels during pregnancy can affect an unborn child. I used deep breathing throughout my last pregnancy and I believe that my newborn was easier to soothe when I focused on my breathing because of this. In general the age of 4 is when a child can start to participate in relaxation exercises, but I have seen children as young as 18 months copy breathing and positive statements. 

Chickadee Prints:  Does there have to be a formal setting, or can a child/family do this anywhere?

Lori:  I am an advocate of a more playful, matter of fact approach. Parents should use relaxation tools throughout their day.  Each day brings numerous opportunities for parents to apply stress management and healthy solutions. Blowing bubbles is a stress reducer and fun activity enjoyed by all ages. A mom or dad that practice meditation can invite their child to sit beside them or climb onto their lap with a toy or a book. Demonstrating is always the most powerful teaching tool. 

Chickadee Prints:  What are the major keys to successful meditation/relaxation, and what does that look like for a young child?  

Lori:  Just being able to stop the chatter or train your mind to focus on an image or thought for more than a few seconds is an accomplishment. The focus should be on introducing tools to children so that they can integrate practical tools like visualizing, breathing, and positive statements into their lives. Storytelling is an age-old method of passing along lessons. I created stories that incorporated research-based stress management techniques for my own children to learn to self-soothe. All of my stories can be found in my Indigo Dreams® Series .  

Chickadee Prints:  How do you suggest helping a family introduce it into their lives?  

Lori:   Show your children how you use relaxation throughout your day. Take deep breaths when you are driving or rushing to get out the door. Try a candlelight dinner or breakfast. See who can hold their gaze on the flame for 30 seconds. Introduce your family to relaxation music or classical music. Explain to your children that you are calming yourself down or use positive statements when you are feeling frustrated. With a little practice, relaxation techniques will become second nature to you and your children.  

Katie, another mother believing in the benefits of relaxation for children, uses Yoga in her own life and with her children.  "Yoga and pilates have always been a huge part of my adult life.  Even through my pregnancies and postpartum, I credit alternating both to keeping my mind and body fit!  It never occurred to me to to share my practice with my children, until I was going through yoga teacher training."

While in her training, Katie learned how much yoga and relaxation in general, could improve test scores, concentration, and sports...even behavioral issues.  Katie kindly shared with us some of the yoga poses and their benefits.  

Pranayama breathing reduces acidity in the body, increases VO2 max, is good for the respiratory system, and is energizing.  

Childs pose slows down the heart rate, quites the mind, creates full body rest & neutralizes the spine.  

Down dog calms the brain, helps relieve mild depression, decompresses the spinal column, is a total body stretch, relieves headache, backache, fatigue, insomnia & as an inversion can stimulate the brain.   

"I find yoga and meditation especially useful with my two boy's.  It helps calm them down and I find that they listen and focus better!  I do simple pranayama breathing , childs pose, cat/cow, down & up dog.  If I want to challenge them I add in a few simple sun salutations, and maybe a balancing series."

 Our last mother I had the pleasure of speaking with is Kristy.  She is the genius behind the all natural line of essential oils and other products called Sweet Knee.  "I decided to go back to my roots and turn to nature."  

In her line of products are Giggle, Snooze and Breathe oils, which we use in our own home.  The Snooze, Kristy states, "helps promote peaceful relaxation for mom and baby though natural plant essential oils that have sedative and nervine properties. These organic oils help relax and ease tension and are easy to use. Simply dilute them with distilled water in a spray bottle or put a few drops on your pillow or stuffed animal."  Giggle and Breathe also contain oils to help with the moods of your children (or YOU), in a natural way.

Hopefully you have been able to find some treasured tidbits of information that you could bring into your life for you and your children when you find things getting a little to tightly wound.


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