What We As Adults Are Discovering, Our Kids Need Too - Maybe More?
Whether you are a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, teacher, or not, we all know that many kids today, teenagers AND younger, are suffering from stress and anxiety - ALOT OF IT. But, at the same time, something of extreme cultural profundity and relevance is occurring.
As I have mentioned in past blogs, from Oprah to Princeton, Forbes magazine to Facebook, The Practices of Meditation, Yoga, Mindfulness, HeartMath, Gratitude, Social Support and Pro-Social Behavior and Nature Connection are pouring right out of research institutions and into mainstream literature. Books, classes, wellness retreats (pre and post COVID) are going and will go gangbusters. My friend, an author, told me that publishing houses are pining for kids books about nature connection. Some schools and many athletic teams are starting to embrace mindfulness and meditation, mindful movement. From the Relaxation Response progenitor and the Nature Connection researchers, we hear echoes of the same bold statement in reference to their areas of study, that the future will belong to those who can mitigate the extreme health costs of stress and anxiety via these practices.
The Practices are here and coming in more and more. BUT, we as adults need to learn them. And once learned, we can model them to our children, even adult children, who need stress reduction techniques and tools dearly. Our children and our students have an enormous amount of information at their fingertips - everything we want to them know and really don't want them to know, they can find. But what of the mind/body connection well-being toolbox? The Practices cannot be just read about. They need to be learned, practiced, modelled. Awareness needs to come first. GUIDED AWARENESS IS KEY for all The Practices.
Imagine children learning The Practices that fill out the toolbox, building self-awareness, positivity, resilience and relaxation skills from a very young age.
BreatheIN2IT can help many adults to learn and embrace The Practices and then to enable modelling. The power of adult modelling, even over direct spoken lesson, has been proven. This learning will and has changed lives, mine included. We hope to offer classes for teenagers and college age at some point, but imagine if they were also part and parcel of the educational model in your town.
A first grader, Micah, rises in the morning, jumps on to the mat for some mindful fun movement and a ten minute mindful relaxation, thus harnessing the innumerable benefits of movement and single pointed focus/relaxation first thing in the AM. This becomes habit. How might breakfast time change? Getting ready for school? Setting the tone for the day? The whole family has a mat, a space. Once at school Micah and classmates are led by the homeroom teacher through a 5 or ten minute mindful meditation that helps Micah to center, ground, calm and focus. If it is a kindness meditation, how might that work throughout the day? Each day has 15 minutes of nature connection worked into the curriculum, inside or out, and the lifelong benefits therein. Consider how this might assist in future stress management, happiness and concern for the natural world? The school day ends with gratitude or a pro-social exercise, as does the night. Gratitude can be spiritual, religious or none of the above. I have many teachers in my family and am acutely aware of their personal stress, especially now. We cannot pile more on. We would need to shift priority. But teachers learning The Practices could also be profound.
The example is just a sampling of how The Practices can be played out at home and school. Aimee and I believe that it is a new parent calling to model stress/anxiety countering, resilience and positivity strategies for our children by learning them ourselves. But that can only be part of the equation.
I have two teenagers, 17 and 19, both boys. Right now I do not have an ice cubes chance in The Sahara of getting them into yoga, meditation or mindfulness directly. I do model these practices daily and the topics work their way into family lessons and conversations. Just yesterday I off-handedly (gotta play it cool, understated;) mentioned to my junior that he could breathe through his nose slowly, expanding his diaphragm to keep focus and calm during the SAT he was going to. I have said this before. But truly The Practice needs good guided repetition and awareness. We even made a joke of it and practiced at the dinner table. But that is as far as I can get at this age. Other children may certainly be more amendable, but starting during the teen years can be hard, in general. Have young kids? I encourage you to learn now and incorporate into family life! The nature connection piece we are good on here. I started them in nature at a very young because I loved it and was immersed myself during childhood and I felt the intense need to balance increasingly tech pursuits and enticements. Only recently have I come to learn the enormous science proven mental and physiological benefits. For my kids, with mindfulness, meditation, etc., I am counting on modelling and ever increasing cultural permeability into Colleges and work spaces. I feel hopeful that when they need it, they will know The Practices are there. They will have the modelling as a touch point.
But as a society we can do even better. We as adults need to learn the techniques and build our toolbox to model the life for our kids and students. Educational institutions and extracurriculars are also a wonderful place to include many of The Practices. Imagine a field hockey team of eighth grade girls who have 30 minutes of mindful movement once a week to center, help prevent injury via flexibility and core strength and to relax, as well as mindfulness and mindful meditation or HeartMath worked into the team culture. Or, a group of high school thespians, a marching band, a forensics team, a gardening or outdoor club.
Aimee and I believe this is all coming. My full to bursting inbox of recent articles and studies on The Practices reinforces this belief daily.
How can we hasten the help to the younger generations? Once we learn and change our days just enough to embrace and habituate The Practices, once the confidence and passion is there, we can encourage our schools to help build the toolboxes for children. In one of our HeartMath Cohorts, a mom and her three adult children were taking the class together. We have had spouses take PART together. The power of a family unit with these tools is enormous. How must that mom have felt knowing her kids were learning the techniques, and beginning to fill their toolbox of self-care? How might a teacher feel being able to prepare students for life's ups and downs via The Practices?
Can you imagine if you would have had these tools from a very young age? I can only dream about it. But now that I know, I also know the work that needs to be done. What a wonderful hill to climb. The view from the top is mind blowing, oxygenating, an absolute paradigm shift, a game changer.
"Nothing in life will change if you do not change your life." The Practices help the little moments and the big challenges. They enable us to see life's changes and other beings differently, with more confidence, more compassion, more calm, more heart, more appreciation. It is a life long journey. For me, The Practices are akin to putting on rose colored glasses. Not because life is always rosy but because The Practices utterly change perspective. Like the proverbial airplane oxygen mask, we don our glasses first, then let's change the view for the kids.