The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it, and it has certainly challenged our school philosophy at Bushwillow. The Reggio Emelia philosophy is based on communication and relationships between learners and teachers, and it focuses on interdependence in an amiable environment.
Our children, who come to school to learn and develop their personalities within a social context, often find themselves communicating from behind a mask. They are regularly reminded that habits such as hugging, holding hands or sharing utensils may endanger their health or that of their friends or families. Our environment is not as we wish it to be.
In this uncertain space, we may feel overwhelmed, threatened by the unknown and anxious about the future. We may over-think this situation and panic, instead of slowing down to look for a rational solution. Children are perceptive and notice our behaviour. If we experience these emotions, we may also project them onto our children. Mindfulness can help us to cope with this negative environment and to become more aware of our children’s needs.
What is mindfulness?
To practise mindfulness means to focus awareness on the present moment. We take the time to stop, acknowledge and accept our feelings, thoughts and actions, be they positive or negative.
Why practise mindfulness?
Mindfulness could help us to respond to situations in a more positive and thoughtful way and possibly alleviate feelings of anxiety. It could help us to respond to problems more rationally. When we practise mindfulness, it can help us to deal compassionately with ourselves, and those around us.
Three ways to be a more mindful parent
- We must recognise and manage our own feelings and reactions to situations in order to try to understand and to have sympathy for our children’s feelings and reactions. A good way to do this is to imagine being in our children’s shoes, or to think back to the effect anxiety or stress had on us when we were children.
- Secondly, we have to listen to our children. This means we have to put on hold all our own concerns and anxieties and open our ears to what they are telling us. They will know then that we take their feelings and reactions seriously and they will feel respected and understood. An atmosphere of mutual respect will open the way for meaningful discussion. Remember that sometimes children communicate their actions rather than words.
- Thirdly, we must make time to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness strategies and where possible, share them with our children. These strategies may include activities such as:
- Breathing exercises
- Connecting with nature
Activities such as breathing exercises, meditation and yoga will only be beneficial if committed to as a regular practice in our homes. These activities require a quiet atmosphere, preferably without any external distractions and stimuli, as well as a good portion of time to settle and relax.
The following breathing exercise may assist to create the right environment for being mindful:
- Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
- Breathe in through your nose, counting to four.
- Hold your breath, counting to five.
- Breathe out slowly, counting to six.
- Repeat this procedure three times.
This Take 5 Breathing Exercise for kids is perfect for helping children learn to calm down and manage big emotions.
Poster source: https://childhood101.com/take-5-breathing-exercise/
Connecting with nature
This involves all the senses, and we can help our children to pay close attention to their surroundings. Upcoming holidays and lockdown restrictions create opportunities to spend time in nature with our children, and to help them become aware of their environment. It is also the perfect opportunity to listen to our children.
Focus their attention on:
- Tactile experiences like sand between their toes, running soil through their fingers or touching shells, plants or pebbles.
- Visual experiences like observing the horizon and trying to spot whales or dolphins, or looking for sea creatures in rock pools. Garden or forest environments have many hidden treasures they can look for and watch, in the form of insects, animals and natural habitats to mention a few.
- Listening to the sound of the ocean, bird calls, or the tranquility of silence.
- Becoming quiet and reflective as part of creation.
It is clear that the practising of mindfulness requires time and effort, but the more we practise it, the more we will feel and notice the benefits thereof, in our families and in our daily lives. It is something we all have the capacity to do and it can become a way of living. It can empower us to have more control over the seemingly uncontrollable issues in life, and in so doing, we can help our children to deal better with their challenges.
Image source: https://belloblog.com/winnie-the-pooh-quotes/