Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Top 3 Breathing Exercises for Anxious Kids

photo courtesy Sara Weis

The following is a guest post by Sara Weis of Go Go Yoga for Kids, an elementary school teacher as well as an experienced yoga teacher and teacher trainer.


“You will be fine. It will be fun,” I affirmed for the hundredth time as I nudged my daughter out the door for her first soccer practice. 


She's a kid, I thought. What does she really have to be nervous about? Trying new things is supposed to be exciting when you are young. It is only when you are an adult that it becomes harder to step outside your comfort zone, correct?

That may be true for a very few select kids who sail through their childhood without an ounce of anxiety clouding their pursuit of trying new activities. However, the majority of kids worry and fret, just like adults.

As a mom of three and a teacher for over 18 years, I frequently see a recurring theme of anxiousness in children, and it is completely normal. Kids get nervous or stressed. Any different event such as starting a new school year, taking tests, trying new activities, and meeting new people can bring about uncertainty, unease, and worry.

When we worry, we take short, shallow breaths which continue to ignite the feeling of unease in our bodies. Slowing down our breathing and taking long, deep breaths naturally brings on a sense of calmness and peace.

Try these three breathing exercises with your kids. These calming techniques are effective for any age, and can be done anywhere - in the morning, during a car ride, sitting in school, or before bedtime. 


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Calming Young Minds (interview)

photo courtesy Sherri Snyder-Roche
Sherri Snyder-Roche, MA, LMHC is a psychotherapist in the Boston area who has worked with children, teens, and families. Pediatricians have referred hundreds of children to her for concrete techniques to help decrease their anxiety. Sherri is also a trained yoga instructor as well as a painter and photographer. She is the creator of the Calming Young Minds audio program based on her integrated approach to therapy, which include creativity, play, games, meditation, music, guided imagery, and yoga.


Your work with children incorporates a variety of different traditions. What are the benefits of an integrated approach, as opposed to separate classes for art, movement, mindfulness and so on?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Do-It-Yourself Mini-Retreat for Counselors and Teachers

stockimages for FreeDigitalPhotos.net



The following is a guest post by Jennifer Howd, adapted from her book Sit, Walk, Don’t Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat, and published here with permission from Parallax Press.  For more information about home retreats, including a list of suggested home retreat itineraries, visit www.JenniferHowd.com.

In the midst of trying to meet the seemingly endless needs of our students or clients, teachers and therapists often feel there’s no time to breathe or to reflect, let alone to focus on our own, personal needs. A silent meditation retreat can be a life-changing experience because we intentionally let go of our commitments and distractions and come face-to-face with ourselves. And, even though retreats can prove to be quite challenging—I assure you they’re worth it.

If you’d like to get a taste of what it might be like before committing to a longer silent retreat experience, and/or it’s not possible for you to attend a residential retreat right now—you can start by creating a mini-retreat at home. All you need is a clear intention and some self-discipline.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sit. Walk. Don't Talk: How I Survived a Silent Meditation Retreat (recommended book)

www.parallax.org

Day 1: “I just want to jump up and run the hell out of here.  I have no idea how I’m going to make it through the week.”

Day 6: “I knew all the happiness I was feeling wasn’t going to last.  This is all such a load of bullshit!... I can’t believe I have three more effing days of this.”

Day 9: “Tears of gratitude, joy, and relief rolling down my cheeks.  I did it.  I made it through.”

In Sit. Walk. Don't Talk, mindfulness facilitator Jennifer Howd takes us inside her mind during her first 9-day Vipassana (Insight) meditation retreat.  

Sharing her journal entries, notes to and from teachers, and interactions with fellow retreatants, Howd gives a no-holds-barred account of her ups and downs throughout the week.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Training Compassionate Educators to Respond to Childhood Trauma

'Mock House' Hands-On Training Facility
photo courtesy Child Protection Training Center



The following is a guest post by Dr. Jennifer Parker, Program Director of the Child Protection Training Center at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, SC, which provides evidence-based education and training to professionals who work with children.


The Child Protection Training Center focuses on child abuse prevention and earlier detection. One of our primary aims is to reduce the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in our community and schools through education and experiential training. In 2016, the CPTC launched a Compassionate Schools initiative, based on a flexible framework originally developed in Massachusetts and Washington State.  An overall goal of Compassionate Schools is to provide  some form of this training for all school personnel.


We offer the following guidelines for other communities hoping to cultivate a trauma-sensitive learning environment.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mindfulness and Yoga for Young Children: Tips, Books, Apps, and Activities


phanlop88 for FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Are you interested in teaching mindfulness and/or yoga to younger kids but not sure where to start?  Or perhaps you've been teaching for a while and are looking for some new resources?  The following books, apps, training programs and activities are recommended by experienced teachers.  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

All About the Breath: Songs for Reflection and Discussion

Here's the latest in the popular series of song playlists for teachers.  This time the focus is on breath-based meditation, breathing through strong emotions, and 'the moments that take your breath away'.  

I've included a description or a snippet of the lyrics to help you decide what might be appropriate for your class.  Scroll to the bottom of the list for questions to prompt reflection and discussion.




All About the Breath, Mind with Heart  (parody of 'All About That Bass' by Meghan Trainor)
This is a cute youtube video explaining the benefits of mindfulness meditation.  (It might not be appropriate for more conservative contexts due to one potentially-offensive word, and due to the clothing of many of the teen participants.)




Belly Breathe, Common and Colbie Caillat 
A very agitated Elmo learns how to calm himself down when he's upset.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mindfulness, Compassion, and Buddhism (interview)

photo courtesy Sean Fargo

Sean Fargo is a mindfulness consultant and coach based in Oakland, California who spent two years as a Buddhist monk in Thailand.  He’s the creator of MindfulnessExercises.com and offers an online mindfulness teacher training program.



As a former monk, what’s your perspective on the ongoing debate (especially in public schools) about whether secular mindfulness teaching is really Buddhism in disguise?

Most secular mindfulness teachers (including myself) define mindfulness as “non-judgmental, present moment awareness of one’s experience”, which is comparable to how the Buddha defines mindfulness. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Add a Culturally-Aware Lens to Your Trauma-Informed Toolkit (guest post)


phanlop88 for freedigitalphotos.net
This week, I had the opportunity to share my perspective at the Center for Adolescent Studies blog hosted by Dr. Sam Himelstein.

Here's a summary of the post:
When working with youth whose background is different from ours, it’s important to ask ourselves what might be happening from their point of view.  
For example, sometimes adults become even angrier when kids respond to a reprimand by giggling, smiling, or not making eye contact. Depending on the youth’s country of origin, these could all actually be signs of respect toward a person in authority.
And for a youth who’s simultaneously dealing with trauma and culture shock, even something as seemingly innocuous as raising your voice may be perceived as far more aggressive than you intend it to. 
The following questions can help you figure out how cultural issues may be impacting your students or clients. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Very Brief Introduction to How Trauma Affects the Brain

image courtesy Sam Himelstein

The following post is adapted from the second module of the online course Trauma-Informed Care for Professionals Working with Youth, and is used here with permission from Dr. Sam Himelstein and the Center for Adolescent Studies



The brain can be simply categorized into three layers, all with distinct functions relevant to the processing of danger and trauma:
  • Hindbrain: Also known as the reptilian brain, the hindbrain deals with all of the essential functions like breathing (i.e., processes you don’t need to think about).
  • Midbrain: Also known as the emotional brain, this part of the brain contains the limbic system and assesses danger. 
  • Forebrain: Also known as the logical brain, this part of the brain controls functions such as thinking and abstract reasoning.