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
Worry, or anxiety, is a normal reaction to something dangerous in our environment. In fact, anxiety helps us avoid something that is likely to cause us harm. However, children may be prone to excessive worry and worry about events that are unlikely to happen. When such anxiety negatively impacts a child’s everyday life, a mental health professional my diagnose an anxiety disorder. At the root of anxiety-related disorders are worry thoughts. This excerpt from the Note to Parents and Caregivers by Ara J. Schmitt, PhD, in Magination Press’s book, Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree, by Gail Silver, helps parents understand worry thoughts and provides a strategy for parents to help their children cope with them. Understanding Worry Thoughts Psychologists refer to worry thoughts as “cognitive distortions.” In Mindful Bea and the Worry Tree, Bea experiences at least five kinds of worry thoughts. Her first worry thought is: Must or should thinking: thinking that things must or should be a certain way. For example, Bea thinks her birthday party must be perfect. This often can lead a second distortion, such as black-or white thinking. Black-or-white thinking: an all-or-nothing way of thinking, allowing for no middle ground. Bea appears to believe that her party will either be perfect and everyone will have fun, or the party will be disastrous with unhappy guests. In her mind, it does not seem possible to have a disappointing hiccup along the way, but still a great party overall. The series of worry thoughts continues, when, as a result of these unreasonable thoughts, Bea appears to jump to conclusions. Jump to conclusions: to form negative conclusions based on little or no evidence. Bea’s series of worry thoughts leads her to jump to the conclusion that her friends will call her names or not want to stay at her party if it’s not flawless. The worry thought that Bea appears to have most often is called catastrophizing. Castastrophizing: expecting negative events to happen. Bea asks “what if?” repeatedly: “what if there isn’t enough cake?” “what if no one comes?”. This isn’t likely to happen, but Bea worries about every possible negative outcome. She’s able to do this because she is filtering. Filtering: filtering out all positive thoughts and evidence in favor of negative thoughts. Bea filters out thoughts and evidence that her party will go well, like her experience at previous parties and her mother’s preparation for the current party, in favor of negative thoughts. How Parents Can Help Parents can explain that the body and mind are connected, and calming the body can help calm the mind. The worries can still be there for now, but the child can use their breath to help their body feel better. During the tense moments of worry thoughts, parents can lead their child through this simple relaxation exercise: In a calm, reassuring voice, prompt your child to put a pause on their worry thoughts. It can help to give them a concrete suggestion, such as telling their worriesRead More
Breathing as a Means to Mindfulness
One way to practice being mindful is to focus on breathing, and understand the role it plays in helping us feel calm, relaxed, and focused. In the Magination Press Family bookstore, you’ll find an assortment of kid-friendly, APA-approved books that explore breathing exercises you can try with your child, such as Breathe by Inês Castel-Branco, which uses illustrated exercises to help children become aware of their breath and their bodies.
Expressive writing has many benefits. Writing about life helps people, among other things: get healthy! Research shows that people who write about emotional upheavals require fewer doctor visits and are generally happier. combat depression! Writing a gratitude journal helps with mood. Expressing yourself lets you ditch your stress for a while. build their brain! People best express themselves in different ways--through words, music, movement. Some people prefer to be alone to be inspired. Others think best by talking to people. Trying a variety of writing activities can spur new ways of thinking, resulting in stronger, smarter writers! Magination Press's book, Neon Words: 10 Brilliant Ways to Light Up Your Writing, provides young writers with writing prompts and book-making activities to help them learn about creative writing by honoring, strengthening, and playing with their ideas and words. Writing activities can spark imagination and allow young writers to make their writing more powerful, but they can also help kids engage with words to be more present in life and to use language arts techniques for self-discovery and emotional well-being. Take a writing activity about antagonists, for example. In the Villainous Voices activity, writers are invited to think about a disagreement they've had with someone else, but from their adversary's point of view. In a story, the reader sides with the protagonist: the main character, the lead actor. It's the character we find ourselves rooting for. The antagonist, on the other hand, is often the one who causes problems: the villain, the one who creates the story's tension. They're the character we hope gets the short end of the stick. Have you ever read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by "A. Wolf"? (The author is really Jon Scieszka.) As the title suggests, you don't usually hear the wolf's take on the classic folk tale. In Wicked, Gregory Maguire writes a back story for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, giving the villain--that is, the Wicked Witch of the West--the leading role; this is a complete departure from the original.Now it's your turn. List a few people with whom you've had a disagreement. People you've argued with. People who see a situation from a different vantage point than you. Anyone in your life is fair game: Your mother Your father A sibling Other relative A friend or ex-friend A teacher A pet Think about the argument: Where were you? (scene) What happened? (action) What was said? (dialog) If it helps to take notes first, or jot down key points, go for it! Now retell that story, only this time as the person you clashed with. Invite them to speak as the protagonist. Look for the positive thinking that you couldn't see in the heat of emotion. Be honest. What do you think motivated them--and now you? Why would you want to do this? Writing-wise, it helps you get into the head of each of your characters to make them more complex, authentic, and honest. You want them to ring true, evenRead More