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Happy Healthy YOU

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Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU

(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)

For some reason as adults we sometimes forget what it’s like to be a kid.

Sure, we didn’t have jobs, bills and obligations in our wee versions of ourselves, but indeed there was stress. We may not have been given the vocabulary or the opportunity for conversation about childhood stress but it was there: the first day of school, the math test or passing the object of our school age crush in the hallway. These are the everyday simple stresses we had. Now add on insecurity, family dysfunction or the invalidation of our emotions that many kids endure.

Stress in kids is very real.

Transitioning from child to teen, for many, creates a tenfold of this stress. More pressure to be this or that, more pressure to do well in school, be popular, be “in” not to mention the overwhelming and daunting task to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life by picking courses, schools, trades and employment. Many kids are forced to examine and make these choices before they can legally drive or vote.

Stress in kids is very real. It might be different than adult stress but it does not invalidate it or be of less importance. So how can we help our youth?

We want what is best for our children. Healthy food, exercise, outdoor play, education, healthy relationships and so on. And now it’s time to give them the best gift of their life - something which they will cherish lifelong and be grateful, for it will change their life for the better. A simple yet very effective technique called meditation - one of the most valuable skills we can teach our children (and ourselves).

Did you know that regular practice of meditation has several beneficial effects on our children’s emotional, mental and intellectual development? It helps them sleep better, tune into themselves effectively, learn with more ease and create healthier social interactions. Isn’t that every parents (and school teachers) desire?

Meditation brings mindfulness. Mindfulness is the present moment awareness of our current reality, what is happening and what we require and desire.

Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of The Mindful Child, wrote, “Mindfulness is a refined process of attention that allows children to see the world through a lens of attention, balance and compassion.

“When children learn to look at the world with attention, balance and compassion they soon learn to be in the world with attention, balance and compassion.”

Studies of childhood meditation are numerous and have revealed numerous benefits and no negative effects. These are some of the most promising and well-established benefits of meditating during childhood: Stress relief, decrease restless, increased focus, deepened balance and social skill, enhances intellectual growth, better sleep, increase self-esteem, emotional control and Improved decision-making skills.

Did you know that more than two million children in the U.S. were diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) between 2003 and 2012? Canadian Centre for ADHD awareness estimates up to 12% of our children are affected.

The National Therapies Research Unit at the Royal Hospital for Women in Australia conducted a study of 26 children with ADHD between the ages of four and 12 who participated in a meditation program for six weeks. The main findings of the study concluded there was reduced hyperactivity, reduced impulsiveness and inattention and improved parent-child relationships. The study also showed enhanced self esteem and a reduction medication use in 50 per cent of children.

Many school systems are bringing mindful meditation into the classrooms. In fact some schools such as Baltimore’s Robert W. Coleman Elementary School have been doing something different when students act out. This school replaced detention with meditation and the results have been stunning.

So how can you help your kids meditate and destress?

1. Discuss and Inquire: Ask them how they are feeling? Discuss where the feelings might be coming from? Inquire if there is anywhere in there body that they feel this emotion? For example “my tummy hurts when I worry”.

2. Awareness: Be aware of potential stresses at school and at home. Parents fighting, alcohol or drug abuse, difficult relationships with friends, feeling pressure to be really smart and so on. Bring awareness and then go back to No. 1 on this list.

3. Breath work: Practice taking deep breaths in and out. Put hand on belly and feel the belly fill on the breath in and fall on the exhale. Have them practice counting in their head to do at least 10 deep breaths in and out when feeling overwhelmed.

4. Silence is Golden: Not just for parents, but kids too. In a society that has kid’s schedules booked to the max, allow quiet time. Put on soft music and start small. For example “for the next 30 minutes we are just going to sit and relax, no talking, no noise.” Extend the time if able.

5. Visualization meditation: Giving the mind something to think about, rather than letting the monkey mind run rapid. When we are stressed, our mind jumps all over the place. When there is tension and the mind is all over the place it is difficult to feel calm.

6. Understanding: If you have an adolescent child, you probably would have seen that they have strong emotions and are easily influenced by the society around them. Meditation gives teenagers the access to a great feeling of inner stability and security. It allows them an insight into the inner wisdom to help them stay centered and strong through the hormonal changes in the body.

7. Pressure cooker release: When there is a lot of pressure on the child or teen to perform it creates a pressure cooker. Meditation gives our children the freedom from negative effects of stress and allows the mind to be fresh and inspired.

8. Be real: We want happiness for our kids, so sometimes when they are feeling frustrated, fearful or overwhelmed we dismiss their feelings telling them “it’s fine, it will be okay”. Sometimes for us to understand it will be fine, we first need to validate and reset how we are feeling in the now. Meditation allows children to return to their natural rhythm and helps them cope with the emotions of frustration and fear. It helps to balance the whole system by supporting emotional development and gives rest to the mind so that they are not overwhelmed by their strong feelings.

9. Meditation, Relaxation and Yoga Classes: Do a class with your kids at home or at a studio near you.

Meditation has been proven to be a powerfully beneficial support for our kiddos. Happier, healthier children make for happier parents and teaches our children powerful skills to take with them into adulthood. For more information on one example of Kids Meditation and Relaxation classes, see link at indigolounge.ca.

(If you would like to see an article on a specific topic, please email kelly@indigolounge.ca)

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