Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Mindful Child (recommended book)
I always try to learn from my mistakes. However...

I don’t know about you, but I find it a lot less painful and a lot more entertaining to learn from other people’s mistakes.

So I confess that my favorite parts of The Mindful Child are when Susan Kaiser Greenland admits to her early missteps in teaching mindful awareness to kids.

For example, when she brought her five-year-old son to a family meditation program, he obediently sat in silence for a couple of minutes, then plaintively asked “How much longer do I have to pretend someone stole my brain?”

And when she first started teaching mindfulness classes, she’d lug a duffel bag stuffed with several different drums, multiple stuffed animals, “cushions, blankets, stickers, charts, puzzles, picture books… to hold children’s interest as we played games intended to simplify their lives.”

After “a long time and a lot of trial and error” she developed effective techniques and activities for working with different ages of kids. Now one of the leading experts on teaching mindfulness, Ms. Kaiser Greenland shares in The Mindful Child:

  • Clear, specific instructions parents and teachers can use to explain breath awareness and meditation to kids. 
  • Examples of simple effective props (presumably one per session, not all at once!), like: 
    • Pinwheels for practicing breath awareness 
    • a “Mind Meter” to help kids notice and describe how they feel 
    • Ice cubes to practice awareness of physical sensations and mental reactions 
  • Activities to help kids with common issues such as 
    • Dealing with “inner hecklers” and 
    • Developing appropriate focus while driving 
  • Techniques for turning challenges into games, like 
    • Zipping Yourselves Up, to help kids get into a relaxed, upright posture for meditating or mindful breathing 
    • The Pendulum, so kids who find it hard to sit still can practice mindful breathing while shifting slowly and rhythmically in their seats. 

As with other recently-reviewed books, there’s a lot of emphasis in The Mindful Child on practicing what we preach and being mindful role models for kids, while presenting activities in an enjoyable, nonthreatening way.

There’s a particularly eye-opening activity for parents and caregivers of young children: “simply follow along with whatever the children choose to do, engaging in whatever conversation the children initiate, all at the children’s pace.” This can be a welcome break for the kids from “shepherding them through a maze of goal-directed activities” and can provide caregivers with useful information about the kids’ natural rhythms and interests, as well as helping the adults to confront their own discomfort at doing things at a slower pace.

Through her own experiences as a parent and teacher, Ms. Kaiser Greenland has gained a lot of insight into the most effective ways to teach—and model—mindfulness to kids. As she points out, it’s essential not to lead kids anywhere we haven’t gone ourselves; but thanks to her book, we can be a lot more sure-footed on our journey.


related posts: 

Child's Mind: Mindfulness Practices to Help Our Children Be More Focused, Calm, and Relaxed (recommended book)

Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children (recommended book)

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