National R U OK Day (13 Sept), is a day where people everywhere are encouraged to start a conversation, and potentially change the life of someone struggling with a mental health disorder.
The rates of mental illness in kids is rising in Australia (and worldwide). So, what can you do to protect your precious little people and to help them navigate this weird, wonderful and sometimes scary life?
Let us introduce you (if you haven’t already heard of it), to a magic word called ‘mindfulness’.
Mindfulness is essentially the art of being present and in the moment. Being calm, centred and peaceful. NOT 3 words you usually associate with kids, right? RIGHT! Never fear, here are some techniques to help your kids practice mindfulness, in fun and practical ways.
1. COLOURING IN
Colouring in (and art) has always been used as a way of expressing feelings. For children, it’s a great technique to get them to stop, focus, express themselves and relax.
Give them a special colouring in sheet, preferable with a nature scene e.g. fish, butterflies, flowers, trees, landscapes.
Encourage them to sit quietly, and alone.
Play some soft relaxation music in the background.
Give them a specific time to finish the piece in. E.g. ‘We are going to have 20 minutes of colouring in time’. This helps them to focus and not be worried about being rushed, or about when they’ll be able to move onto something else. It sets expectations.
Be encouraging and do not give feedback on their artistic skills. Let them be creatively free.
After the time, talk to them about their drawing and what they felt when they did it. This can be a wonderful conversation starter and bonding experience for children and parents/carers.
Yoga has long been known for its mystical powers of reducing pain and inflammation, combating mental health issues, boosting strength and flexibility and much, much more. For children, it has also been shown to reduce anxiety, aid focus and improve quality of sleep and concentration.
Starting out is simple:
Contact your local yoga studio and ask if they run any kids’ classes. A great way to introduce your kids to yoga without pressuring them or forcing them to start a new activity alone, is to book into a family yoga class. Family yoga is a great way to bond, spend time on a healthy activity (for bodies and minds) and to introduce children to a skill they can use throughout their entire life.
3. NATURE PLAY
What better way to be calm, than to be in nature? Here are a few fun ways to use nature to encourage mindfulness in children.
Lie down with them, on the grass, on a mat, on a trampoline. Look at the clouds and play a game with them about what shapes they can see.
Explore the outdoors, collect some items (a pebble, a leaf, a flower, a shell etc.), then play a ‘guess the object’ game with your child. Get them to close their eyes, feel the object, focus on it, describe it. Ask them what it feels like, what colour they think it is, what they think its purpose is.
Remember, there is a lot you can do to encourage your children to be calm and to talk about any potential issues. However sometimes you may need more support, so here are some wonderful resources that are just a click or a phone call away.