Families all over the world are experiencing increased stress and anxiety. As we all practice social distancing, our daily routines have been disrupted. While this is stressful, it also provides an opportunity to slow down, to pause, and learn new coping strategies. The post below explores the power of the "pause" and provides tips for helping your child learn about mindfulness. Now is a great time to practice mindfulness together. For children and teenagers, learning how to take a pause requires practice and support from adults, just like learning to play an instrument or ride a bicycle. We want to encourage them to pause so they can catch their breath; be in the moment; experience what they are thinking, feeling, and doing; and regulate their emotions and behavior. Read on for some helpful tips for teaching mindfulness to children and teens. Be Patient Children—especially young children—may initially become frustrated when learning to take a pause. Your patience with them will help them feel more confident about relying on taking a pause when things get difficult. Be aware that children may give up easily or make negative statements like “This is boring!” “Why do I have to do this?” or “I feel silly!” If your child says such things, don’t dismiss her. Acknowledge her feelings and tell her that taking pauses might seem strange in the beginning. Focus on the effort made by your child and the positive results that come from engaging in mindful pausing. The more your child practices taking pauses, the more comfort and success she will experience. Have her choose a pause that she enjoys or one that has worked for her before. Your attitude about taking a pause is key to her success, as well. Encourage her to practice, and practice together. After all, pauses are good for everyone! Acknowledge Differences Some children and teens may have an easier time pausing than others. The pauses you use should be based on your child’s age and developmental level. Children with certain clinical issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or problems with impulse control, emotional regulation, executive functioning, depression, or anxiety may have more difficulty slowing down to pause, even while they have a greater need for taking pauses in their daily lives. Learning to successfully pause and be mindful may greatly impact a child or teen’s overall emotional and behavioral functioning. Know When to Pause Anytime is a good time to take a pause! Initially, however, it’s a good idea to introduce pauses when your child is calm. He will be much more focused and compliant, and more likely to be successful. If you try to teach a pause when your child is already upset, he may not be able to properly process what you are trying to teach him. Be aware of the emotional and behavioral triggers in your child. For example, if your child struggles with homework, remind him ahead of time about taking a pause or two. If he starts to getRead More
About Frank Sileo, PhD
Frank J. Sileo, PhD, is a New Jersey licensed psychologist and the founder and executive director of the Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, New Jersey. He received his doctorate from Fordham University in New York City.
In his practice, Dr. Sileo works with children, adolescents, adults, and families. Since 2010, he has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s top kids’ doctors.
He has authored several children’s books including: A World of Pausabilities: An Exercise in Mindfulness, Did You Hear?: A Story About Gossip, Bug Bites and Campfires: A Story for Kids About Homesickness, and Sally Sore Loser: A Story About Winning and Losing, which is the Gold Medal recipient of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Award.
Thinking good thoughts about themselves and others can help kids be happier and healthier. Loving-kindness meditation toward themselves and others can comfort and strengthen young hearts. Loving-kindness is a kind of heart meditation that consists of sending of sending love, kindness, and compassion by directing positive thoughts, good intentions, or well wishes toward ourselves and others. When people practice loving-kindness meditation on a regular basis, they feel a sense of goodness about themselves and others. It produces a reaction in the brain similar to when one engages in acts of kindness, producing positive feelings which can lead to positive behaviors. Practicing loving-kindness meditation has been shown to: Decrease stress and anxiety Increase feelings of hope Reduce feelings of anger Increase empathy Increase feelings of self-esteem and decrease self-criticism In Magination Press book, Bee Heartful: Spread Loving-Kindness by Frank J. Sileo, PhD, Bentley Bee sends loving-kindness thoughts to himself and others, and can feel his heart growing. This excerpt from the “Note to Adult Beekeepers” describes how to practice loving-kindness meditation with children. Loving-kindness meditation is great for kids because it is more concrete and structured than other forms of meditation. The child recites specific phases and brings up images in their minds of the people they are sending loving-kindness to. It’s important that children understand that when they send loving-kindness thoughts to others, it may not change the other person or how that person feels about them. Loving-kindness does not work like magic or serve as some type of spell on another person. The meditation is more focused on the meditator developing loving-kindness toward others. Getting Started Mediation is a quiet activity, so you want to choose a place for your child that is free from distractions. It can be a room in your home, someplace outside like a garden or patio, or any place without interruptions. They can sit on the floor, a mat, a pillow or in a chair, or lie down. They can close their eyes or cast their eyes downward and a few feet in front of them. This will help avoid any visual distractions. Your child can place one or both hands on their heart and take three deep breaths. Ask your child to repeat these phrases silently in their head a few times. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be safe. May I be peaceful. After your child sends loving-kindness intentions toward themselves, they can use the same intention toward other people. Keep it short at first Sitting still and focusing can be challenging for children and adults alike. Keeping meditation short in the beginning can be helpful in maintaining young children’s interest, attention, and focus. For young children, 3-5 minutes is a good starting point. You can gradually increase the time as children mature and their practice grows. Mix up the loving-kindness intentions Your child can vary the practice of loving-kindness meditation by varying who they pick to send intentions to. A common approach is to send loving-kindnessRead More
Wanda Witch is a snitch and her friends don’t like it. The other witches at Camp Spellbound want her to stop snitching. This delightful picture book from Magination Press tells a tattling tale that is perfect for parents to share with their kids. Snitchy Witch by Frank J. Sileo, Ph.D., explores the difference between tattling, or snitching, and telling or reporting. As young children develop their sense of right and wrong, they may struggle with tattling. This excerpt from Dr. Sileo’s “Note to Grown-Up Witches” provides useful strategies for parents to help their children learn the difference between snitching and telling, develop problem-solving skills, and develop empathy. To Tell or Not to Tell Snitching, or tattling, is telling on someone when the situation is safe and does not require an adult to be involved. Telling, or reporting, is telling an adult when someone or something is being hurt or is in danger, or when someone is deliberately being destructive or hurtful. Children tattle for many different reasons including seeking attention, jealousy or wanting to get someone in trouble, to show they know the rules, and others. They may snitch because they haven’t yet developed the ability to think abstractly, so they interpret rules very rigidly. Young children also may have not yet developed effective interpersonal problem solving skills, leading them to involve adults unnecessarily. Of course, there are times when children should always tell an adult that something is going on. Let your child know they can always ask you if they are unsure about a situation. Help your child learn to recognize the difference between dangerous situations, like bullying or someone or getting hurt, and frustrating or upsetting situations, like people being rude or selfish, by providing concrete examples. If Your Child Snitches Teaching your child the difference between snitching and telling is an important starting point, but remember that children may snitch for a lot of different reasons. Teach Problem-Solving Skills Young children are learning the important skills needed to deal with conflict and problems. Stepping in to solve problems too quickly will teach your child that the only way to solve a problem is to go to an adult for help. Instead, teach your child to work through conflicts with others. For example, suggest they take a few deep breaths and think about a way to handle the situation on their own before tattling. Give them tools—like using words (“I don’t like it when you don’t share with me”) or walking away to play with someone or something else in a difficult situation. Avoid Rewarding Snitching Behavior Sometimes a child tattles because she is seeking attention, feels jealous, or wants to get another child in trouble. Resist jumping right in and to scold the “perpetrator.” You’ll be giving the “snitcher” a false sense of importance, and likely encourage more snitching. If safety is not an issue, avoid punishing the other child, so that you avoid giving positive attention to the snitcher. Show and Teach Empathy ChildrenRead More