Mindfulness brings with it a message of self-love, self-esteem and a general sense of “I’m okay. It’s all okay.”
Twenty Seconds. A study done in a UK school found the attention span of students was only twenty seconds long.
I have read and heard statistics like this quite a bit while studying yoga therapy and acupuncture. So when my son was 3 ½ or so, Shambhala offered a class on a book originally published in The Netherlands: Sitting Still Like A Frog by Eline Snel. I had experience teaching meditation, mindfulness, yoga and qigong to adults, but could I translate that to kid-friendly experience? So I signed up for the class, intrigued by learning new ways to make it accessible for little ones.
I thought I was getting a course on how to teach mindfulness to kids. And I did! What I also got were these revelations about parenting and reminders about how I should be using MY mindfulness skills in my relationship with my child. I have tried to think of a less cliched way to say it, but so much was eye-opening, and shook me out of my parenting comfort zone to encourage me to grow and adapt the tools I’d learned for other situations to those in my home.
An example: during my time studying acupuncture, we worked on building rapport with patients through conscious communication and nonverbal communication practices. Why hadn’t I brought more of that into the way I interact with my kiddo before this class? So, Sitting Still Like a Frog calls itself Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and their Parents) and there are a LOT of parenting gems in the pages. And those gems directly translate into the communication we have with our kids when homeschooling, i.e. how are we listening and responding? It’s a book about mindfulness for kids, but the message and truth is that it always comes back to the parent as a model of behavior and holder of the spirit or energy of the room. To quote Eline,
“When you begin to listen to what is going on, both inside and outside, and you are truly present in what is happening
while it is happening, a child feels heard and will be able to learn a lot from you.”
The author has years of experience bringing mindfulness to traditional classroom settings, and this book gives us the benefit of all that experience. “Twenty-first century kids run the risk of being engulfed by an abundance of choices, stimulation and temptation. Meditation and mindfulness bring calm, silence and attention to balance these out.” (Eline Snel, from the course SSLF.)
Sitting Still Like A Frog is a book with accompanying cd that guides you in mindfulness meditation exercises. The chapter titles say a lot about the content:
- Parenting with Greater Mindfulness
- Training your attention muscle
- Out of your head and into your body
- Handling Difficult Feelings
- Conveyor Belt of Worries
The cd includes exercises like
- Pause Button
- Safe Place
- First Aid for Unpleasant Feelings
Great topics, right? The cd is voiced by Myla Kabat-Zinn and the foreword is written by Jon Kabat-Zinn (from my previous blog about Everyday Blessings, their book about raising kids in a mindful way). Shambhala Press is the publisher of SSLF, and their website has some of the tracks available on their website. Check it out at http://www.shambhala.com/sittingstilllikeafrog
I personally find SSLF suited for kids over age 7. My previous blog covers Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles, another mindfulness book for kids, that I found better for the under seven kiddos (and beyond).. Handful of Quiet is a great mindfulness program, simple and elegant with more hands-on and artistic, picture-book qualities while SSLF expands on exploring issues with older kids. There are no illustrations, and the book isn’t geared for the child to look at with you. Eline Snel’s latest book is Breathe Through This–Mindfulness for Parents and Teenagers.
Unlike Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, crafts and music aren’t a part of this book, but they could be added to adapt this program to your kids and home classroom. And I LOVE that the author brought up the topic of which kids benefit from this? Some of us are homeschooling because our kids learn in ways that are better addressed in a non-traditional classroom. All kids can benefit from mindfulness. Whatever acronym label you’re dealing with, (and I personally feel acronyms shouldn’t have as much power as they do) be it ADHD, dyslexia, autism (ASD), sensory issues, language challenges like Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) or auditory processing, it’s possible for every kid to participate and benefit from mindfulness. And, as a mom to a kiddo with CAS, I think kids with extra challenges in their day benefit even more from mindfulness. My kiddo goes to speech three to four days a week, and he hears the things other kids say. He knows that, inevitably, upon meeting other kids, one of the kids will look at me or my husband to say “I don’t understand him”. We’ve been asked by (well-intentioned) adults in the library or at the store “what language is he speaking?” He is aware of how his interface with the world is affected by CAS.
Mindfulness brings with it a message of self-love, self-esteem and a general sense of “I’m okay. It’s all okay.” And that is VERY important when life and society have given you this acronym that can profoundly affect self-image. I do NOT want my kid to get the message that he is not okay just how he is. To quote Desmond Tutu from Book Of Joy: You are a masterpiece in the making.” I think every child should feel they are a masterpiece in the making. It doesn’t give them a free pass not to work, but it gives them the reinforcement that they are valuable; everyone has value.
So, parents, caregivers and homeschoolers, make this book your own. (Hmmm….do I say that with every book?) If your child has an auditory processing challenge, draw pictures or use other visual clues. Play the cd, then re-frame in language your child responds to. Accommodate sensory needs with tents, blanket forts, weighted blankets or a sensory experience during the meditation (what if calming sensory beads were part of or a precursor to the meditation experience? Would your kiddo like low lights during the meditation time? Do they need trampoline time before meditating?) What’s a carrot you could offer–a sticker reward system? I don’t use it for meditation, but my kiddo has a reward treasure chest for a successful speech therapy appointment. Are there other signals for meditation time? I have a stuffed frog that is only used during meditation time, and I also made a cool meditation glitter jar (check out Mindful Charlotte Mason on Pinterest for lots of craft ideas I’ve found.)
Overall, this book is full of valuable information for parents and kids, and can be easily integrated into a homeschool routine. If you are uncomfortable with reading scripts yourself, SSLF has the cd that sets the structure for you. SSLF also has an app! And, I don’t have an affiliation with any bookseller, but here’s a link to the publisher, Shambhala and the cd tracks they have available on their website. I was surprised to see them offered for free 🙂 Give the link a try and let me know how it goes!