Tammy L., a school counselor, shares the importance of incorporating mindfulness into your child's daily routine and tips and tricks on how she does this with her students.
What does mindfulness mean to you?
For me, mindfulness means being present and aware of what is going on in your life and how you are physically, emotionally, and mentally responding. It means being reflective on your actions and impacts on yourself, those around you, and your larger extended community. Self-awareness is a big part of mindfulness and it is something I constantly promote with my students.
As A Parent:
Why is it important to help my child incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives?
I think it is necessary that children learn to utilize mindfulness strategies in order to better understand who they are as individuals but also who they are as part of a larger community. Mindfulness provides insight into a child's specific needs and struggles and strives to remove barriers that are preventing them from feeling fulfilled. It also incorporates a lot of self-reflection to help with specific goal setting. It is important for children to have goals to work towards and to maintain an open-mind when it comes to better understanding who they are. In a school setting, it is crucial that students reflect and are mindful of their actions and impacts on others and also how their actions impact themselves. The outcomes of these actions can have negative consequences on a child's social emotional, mental, and physical health.
In simple terms, I think mindfulness allows parents to better understand who their children are as individuals: what they like, what they're afraid of, what their specific needs are, etc. It starts the dialogue to having a deeper, meaningful relationship.
What are some questions I can ask my child to help them establish an intention?
In order for the questions to be authentic, they'll need to incorporate language specific to your child. The questions below are questions I often use with my students.
- What do you like/love?
- What do you dislike/hate?
- What are you passionate about?
- What is something you wish I knew about you?
- What is something you wish your teachers knew about you?
- What is something you are afraid of?
- What is something you want to do tomorrow? In a year? In 5 years? etc.
- What do you like about yourself?
- What do you wish you could change about yourself?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
- In a perfect world, what do you see? What are you doing in this perfect world?
What are some mindfulness activities that I can do with my child to start the school year off strong?
Having a conversation around goal-setting and digging more deeply into the reasons behind their goals
It's important to keep these conversations positive and non judgemental. Use the questions above to gain insight on your child's goals. Go deeper with your questions if possible. Have the goal(s) written or visual to serve as a reminder, this way no one forgets the specific goal.
Go for a walk: pay attention to your surroundings. Introduce a personal goal you can share with your child. It may be a goal you've already accomplished or one you're working towards.
Don't live in the past but use the past to influence your present and future: ask your child how this school year will be different from last. What to do they want out of the year in terms of personal success, relationships, and academics. What are they doing differently this summer than last?
Goal check-in activities throughout the year
Keep goal-setting and check-ins a positive thing for you to experience with your child. Have it be a time where you are present with one another, turn off devices, and truly listen to each other. This will allow your child to feel important and their opinions to be valued. If the goal is written down or on a visual, discuss the feelings and emotions currently connected to the goal and where the child feels they are currently. Are there barriers in the way of accomplishing the goal? Are there steps being taken to address and remove barriers? Come up with a plan that includes next steps and use these next steps for your next check-in.
Quick mindfulness activities to help with emotion regulation / social-emotional health
Mindfulness breathing activities: get your child familiar with breathing strategies to help them regulate their emotional state. Teachers are always doing this in their classroom. You can google "mindful breathing strategies for kids" and lots of ideas come up. Annaka Harris has great activities to utilize with your kids.
If your child struggles with anxiety this site lists amazing mindful strategies that range from dialogue starters to physical activities.
On top of the dialogue starters and activities that you can do to promote mindfulness with your child, there are apps out there that are kid-friendly and fully stocked with ideas (not to mention it incorporates your child's favorite thing: technology!)
Do you have any tips on how to involve a teacher in supporting my child's goals and wellness?
I think it's important for parents to know that their child's teacher wants to support the goals and wellness of all the kids in their class. I encourage parents and students to share their goals with their teachers so they can all be supporting each other and working towards the same thing. So many teachers are incorporating mindful strategies in the classroom to help them better navigate the social emotional needs of their students. I encourage parents to ask their child's teacher if mindfulness is happening in the classroom. If a teacher is utilizing strategies that are working for your child, you can adopt them and promote them at home (and vice versa!). Something I have noticed is that parents are doing all they can and teachers are doing all they can but often times, they aren't communicating what they have tried and what has worked to each other. Working together is the best way to support the individual needs of kids.
Any other advice you'd like to share with parents?
If gaining a deeper understanding of your child is important to you, give mindfulness strategies a chance. If the breathing activities aren't your cup of tea, try out the meditation strategies. If those don't work for you, luckily, there are hundreds of mindfulness strategies to try out so you can find something that is authentic to you and your child. But social emotional health doesn't just stop there, I encourage parents to reach out to the other important people in your child's life (teachers, grandparents, coaches, counselors, youth leaders, etc.) to collaborate on supporting your child's success.
Share a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from Honolulu, Hawaii but moved to California for college, then Japan to teach English, and I am currently a School Counselor in Federal Way, Washington. I realized in Japan that I wanted to help all students better understand who they are so they could make informed decisions to guide their social emotional, personal, and career goals. Once I came to this realization, I applied and was accepted into Seattle University's School Counseling Program. I am about to dive into my fourth year of being a K-8 School Counselor, where I absolutely love the work I get to do with kids and families. In my free time, I love to go for walks with family, create art, and hunt for the best cheeseburger in Washington.
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