Play through Parent-Child Yoga- a key aspect of your child’s development


Hello parents/families/carers! I wanted to share this blog I wrote for HERE all about the importance of Play and using yoga as one method of doing so!

The festive season can induce a mixture of feelings- happiness, sadness, worry, anxiety, stress, the list goes on! And at the beginning of a new year it is a good time to set an intention for the following months ahead. Now the point of this post isn’t for you to figure out what that may be right now, write a list and ensure that you stick to it! Oh no. Rather, we just wanted to bring your attention to the importance of play and having fun with your child as a suggestion for something to be aware of, and also something which can benefit you both! 

What are your fondest memories of being a child? I know mine were the times I was playing either with friends, or family, and having fun with them. They are the memories that stick with us which, obviously one reason being that having fun is what being a kid is all about! But the other is the importance of play for development. 

Play is a way in which children can learn through using their imagination, open up their creative minds, and explore different scenarios, characters, and fantasies, alongside developing their physical, emotional, and cognitive awareness. It is also a method for testing boundaries, just as we see animals in the wild pretend playing and fighting, they are doing then same thing and preparing themselves for what is to come as they reach adulthood, and practicing within the confines of their safe space with their brother, sister, or parent. 

The importance of children’s play with adults is that adults can assist, especially in the early years,  to develop language and social skills, by interacting with a child at their own level.

This is where yoga comes in (yay!) Yoga and mindfulness has shown to help increase a child’s emotional and physical health, and doing it with an adult, even more so with a parent, can create this memorable experience each time that can also help develop the relationship between both as well. 

Through teaching kids and family yoga, I know how kids at any age, whether 6 months or 16 years all enjoy yoga for the reason of it allowing them to have fun on the mat, explore their bodies through poses and all the visual props that come along side it (this I will get into more shortly)

So how to bring fun elements of yoga into your home?

Here is a mini-toolbox of ideas to help you along the way:

YOGA POSES 

  • Aeroplane

  • Frog- leaping from mat to mat 

  • Animal poses- gorilla, penguin, elephant (allow them to take the lead and be creative on this)

  • Lion breath

  • Silent forest swaying in the wind (tree pose with palms touching each other for support)

  • Three legged downward facing dog (wag your tail in the air!)

YOGA ACTIVITIES

  • Get coloured scarves and dance around to some upbeat music.

  • Make some musical instruments with a water bottle filled with rice/beans/sugar etc.. Watch a video on how to here.

  • Yogi says! (child chooses favourite pose and you copy)

  • Yoga dice- a great way to help slightly older children get creative with poses and creating their own short flow sequences. 

FEATURED YOGI PROP- SUPER YOGI’S FLASH CARDS! 

We at HERE love these cards and I use them regularly in my classes with slightly older children. They are a beautifully illustrated set of 32 cards which are geared towards boy and girl yogis through super heroes! What makes them such great yogi cards? They give a little more than the others I have seen and used before. For example (in the name of fun) one of my favourites is the Magnificent M Eagle In A Tree pose! Which explains on the back there is fun to be had in making up and combining new poses, so encouraging creativity and play within the practice. 

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Another favourite is the Encouraging E Partner Dance pose. I am yet to come across a child who doesn’t enjoy this pose! It’s fun, encourages team work and balancing, and Super Yogi’s write on the back how it is tricky to do things on your own sometimes, so having someone to support you, or supporting another, can be helpful and encouraging. See a link to buy them here.

All of these cards, poses, and activities can be used between you and your child and also for your children to try out with each other. Why not use this form of play to encourage team work, encouragement, creativity, physical development and time together? There are a lovely array of relaxation poses too to assist with emotional resilience and the importance of teaching your child to slow down and reconnect with the breath. You’ll be surprised at how young children can understand and practice this now! I am amazed every time I teach little ones. 

We at HERE are all about sharing what we love about yoga and mindfulness for you and your little ones. Also, feel free to explore our site and our activities and things we love sections with more ideas on how to bring mindful practices into your own home with your family. 

Whatever intention you set, don’t be too hard on yourself if you let its go at times, just remember to have fun with each other and create those memorable times together. 

Teen Yoga Foundation Conference- London, 10th November 2018


I was honoured to be asked to photograph the TeenYoga Foundation yearly conference this November at Friend’s House, Euston. Many people from different backgrounds and specialties attended, but all had one aim and interest, which was bringing yoga and mindfulness into all young people’s lives by normalising it as a natural, everyday practice to help maintain wellbeing.

Many of the attendees had already undertaken the TeenYoga Teacher Training, which is a course that allows professionals such as teachers, therapists, support workers, and anyone without a formal yoga teaching qualification, to teach teenagers the amazing practice of yoga and mindfulness in schools. 

The day kicked off with three informative talks including those from Netia Maymen, “Shining the light of yoga on schools,” TeenYoga Founder Charlotta Martinus, and Nick Kearney speaking about his Westminster Research and EU project findings that illuminate the positive impact of teaching yoga to teenagers. The research highlights how yoga and mindfulness improves young people’s levels of resilience, which then positively impacts their overall wellbeing and happiness.

I spent the day feeling so inspired by being part of this amazing event and my ability to document it was such an honour. From start to finish, the day was packed with inspirational talks and workshops, all of which were at a truly high standard as set by the high calibre of professionals leading them. The workshops provided a great insight into the different areas of expertise these professionals engaged in with teenagers by supporting them through yoga and mindfulness. Their areas of work ranged from supporting those with ADHD, anxiety, eating disorders and youth offenders, to those working to engage boys in the practice, and helping children to transition from primary to secondary school. 

The on average 30% cut in CAMHS funding over the last 3 years, means that schools are left to deal with something that they are ill-equipped to manage.
— Charlotta, Founder

The last part of the day was a talk consisting of a panel of four teenagers from Team Bliss, who talked about their experiences of yoga and mindfulness, and how adult teachers can best approach teens by keeping them engaged and interested in the benefits of the practice. The panel of young people, led by Robin, are championing the positive practices of yoga and mindfulness, and are giving teenagers a direct voice by speaking out and sharing its positive impact with other young people. They spoke mainly upon the topic of social media and how it can cause a negative impact on their happiness and self-concept. They explained how practicing mindfulness and yoga in their own experience have really helped their ability to deal with stresses in teenage life, which is now very much integrated into an online world. 

These young people have the ability to share their own experiences of how yoga and mindfulness benefits them to professionals and institutions also, so having TeenYoga Foundation working alongside them is a perfect partnership in supporting each other to achieve their shared goal.


THE FOUNDER 

TeenYoga Founder, Charlotta Martinus, has 15 years experience of working with school leaders, teachers, counsellors and yoga teachers to help bring yoga to young people in schools. Not only that, she is helping to really drive the message forward about the need for all young people to access this.

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Charlotta was invited to speak about this in the Houses of Commons just this week, and she was able to provide clarity through rigorous research that she and teams of professionals have been conducting on the outcomes of yoga and mindfulness for teenagers across the UK.

Charlotta’s vision with the TeenYoga Foundation is for yoga to be readily available in each school to reduce the incidences of mental health issues and improve young peoples’ wellbeing. She see’s this as involving important cost savings for the the NHS, the education system and other areas such as social services.

I used to mention yoga as a possibility to the issues facing schools, now I state it as an obvious solution and they listen.
— Charlotta, Founder

We at Here are also working to bring mindfulness and yoga to families and children, and it is so admirable to see the work that TeenYoga Foundation does, which is supported by funds from their teacher training course. 


TEENYOGA FOUNDATION TEACHER TRAINING 

TeenYoga Foundation runs their own training courses which are directed towards healthcare professionals, yoga teachers, school teachers, parents and anyone working with young people.

Charlotta Martinus launched this course for the first time in 2004, in response to the growing need to care for young people and give them respite from stress and anxiety. Charlotta reflects during her training on how people are becoming more aware that young people are increasingly anxious, stressed and lacking self-esteem, and that we need to work together to improve that! 

We play, cry and laugh as we remember how tough this period can be and as we examine research around how many mental health issues in middle age have their root in adolescence (75%!)
— Charlotta, Founder

The TeenYoga Course will train you to teach yoga and mindfulness to young people. It has been constructed with the help of specialist adolescent Neuroscientists, Anatomists, Psychologists and Yoga Teachers. It is now taught in several continents across the world. Approx. 2-3 students on each course are funded either by their council, school or NHS dept.

For more information about their courses and dates click here.


HOW CAN I HELP? 

Just as schools budgets are being stretched, TeenYoga Foundation lacks funding too. They are looking for support from the National Institute of Health Research, who have declared they can help fund the research itself, however they will not support the actual Yoga Class teaching as well. This is fundamental to the research, so upon reading this, if you are able to inform Charlotta of any appropriate funding avenues she and the Foundation can take, then please get in touch with the Foundation here.

Charlotta also wrote a book “Teen Yoga For Yoga Therapists” and has some Mood Cards to help understand and work with teens. See them both on the Things We Love page on my HERE site.

Lets all work together to raise awareness about the great need for all young people to be offered this support, not only for themselves but on a societal level too. It is becoming ever clearer that yoga can help us all, so let’s continue to do our best to ensure this becomes part of every single child’s life here in the UK and beyond. 

My New Family Yoga Class- What To Expect!


For those of you who may be interested in attending or learning more about my new Family Yoga class at Hot Yoga Peckham, I thought it would be a nice idea to write about my last session so you can get a better idea of what to expect!

For my family class this week I decided it would be jungle themed, playing music from the jungle book, lion king and so forth. I had based the class on the Root Chakra which relates to the Earth, so hence why I chose a jungle theme to incorporate that theme on a more child friendly level. I know that the little ones wont necessarily understand the meaning of Chakras and balancing their energies through certain postures, but I feel its a nice element for me to incorporate as an adult focus as well within the class and also to drive the choice and flow of postures. 

My Family Yoga classes are open to all ages and abilities, as I wish to practice in a way which is all inclusive and all encompassing to every individual families needs. 

I opened the class with the singing bowl which I then allowed each child to come up and have a go at. Every child, and parent, is fascinated by this sound when they first hear it, just as I was. It’s an amazingly calming yet powerful force. There was even a 7 month old in this week’s class who, when I closed the class again with the singing bowl, looked like they could not believe what they were hearing! Such a cool moment to observe that little girls response to the powerful sound.


ELEMENTS OF MAIN ACTIVITY INCLUDED IN THE CLASS:

  • Breathing ball exercise to help visually demonstrate slow long yogic breathing.

  • Hello sun, Hello Earth sun salutations.

  • Animal poses which involved moving around the mats in different ways and really feeling the earth with the feet and toes.

  • Lion breath.

  • Colourful scarves to play around with breath and movement- a chance to dance a little and have fun together.

  • Grounding poses with scarves in a circle to solidify Root Chakra focus.

  • As this class had slightly younger little ones in it I suggested that each mum and child try just one partner pose ‘Lizard on a rock’ which is the most grounding of them all- with my assistance they all managed it (even the 7 month old!).


Each lovely parent and child spent the whole 45 minute class engaging with one another, supporting each other, moving, and modelling poses and breathing. Overall, they were simply sharing this space of calm and enjoyment together unlike they do in any other class they attend. 


TIME FOR SAVASANA!

The whole class then came to a close, and for the Savasana song I chose ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ which seemed to perfect for these three awesome mums and their little ones. It was truly such a heartwarming moment seeing them all cradling or snuggling up to their little ones, stroking their hair, and just being close. The lights were dimmed, they were wrapped up in blankets, and they were being present with one another. 

It is moments like this which truly solidify, in my mind, why I am here and why I am so passionate about creating these experiences for parents and children to be together, and build stronger connections through the practice and magic of yoga. 

I teach this class on Monday’s at 4:50-5:15pm at Hot Yoga Peckham. See class details and booking on my website by clicking here. Also, please feel free to contact me with any queries or question about this class or private teaching. 


Connect deeper with yoga, and each other  xx

‘Rest Your Mind Time’- Mindfulness At Age 4


I took care of a little girl this week who at the age of 4 already has her own mindfulness routine she has learnt from nursery which is called ‘Rest Your Mind Time’. Not only has she remembered it and been able to conduct her little sequence at home, but upon expressing my keen interest in it, she was able to talk me through it step by step. She didn’t miss out a thing! The breathing, lighting, and reminding me to ‘bend your back’ when saying namaste and in order to show the full expression. 

This all started as she wanted to make a ‘mind jar’ from the bits that her mum had left for her to play with. I prepared a jar within which she added some glitter, sand and filled to the top with water. Once finished she shook the jar and told me that it was showing a ‘busy mind’ and once it slowed down and the sand and glitter settled, it was showing a calm mind.

This is then when she wanted to show me her mindfulness routine she had learnt in nursery. We turned down the lights, got some cushions to sit on, lit a candle and began by shaking the mind jar again.. and once it had settled again then her routine began. It included a deep breathing technique, a song about the sky above and earth below and peace within our hearts, and extinguishing the candle at the end.

I was quite taken aback with how aware this little girl was of her feelings and of being able to calm her mind. It also made me think about how this will positively impact her emotional regulatory capacities and make her better able to deal with her ‘busy mind’ as an older child and into adulthood.

What she refers to a busy mind at her age will transpose into feelings of anxiety, worry, over thinking and stress that she may experience as an adult. I am so happy to know that exposure to this at her age is imprinting the benefits of taking a moment of calm to relax her mind already into her developing brain. 

Surely this should be how every child learns? Doesn’t it seem clear as day that this sort of emotional, character education will alleviate so many children’s inability to deal with emotions which all too easily manifest into metal health issues even before reaching the end of primary school? 

If you’re reading this thinking, my child’s nursery/childminder/prep school would never provide this, then don’t fret! That is what we are here for, to help you bring elements of mindfulness into your home. Being involved with your child’s education and development starts within the home anyway! You are the most consistent person in your child’s life who will always be there to instil the same values each day. 

We are here to help you bring elements of mindfulness into your home

So have a try today! Keep reading below for the steps of how to make your own mind jar to help create your own ‘Rest Your Mind Time’ routine at home. 


HOW TO MAKE AND USE YOUR OWN MIND JAR:

What you’ll need: 

  • Jar

  • Glitter

  • Sand

  • Sequins (optional)

  • Food colouring (optional)

1. Find an old jar, a small ish one will do. Maybe an old jam jar. One for 

2. Clean any labels and glue off it so it’s a clean surface. 

3. Fill the jar close to the top with water

4. Add some glitter/sequins/sand

5. Add some food colouring (optional)

6. Close the lid tight!

7. Add gems/sequins to the jar/lid (optional)

8. You’re ready to go!


Explain to your little one that when you shake the jar, the glitter and sand moving about inside represents your mind feeling busy. If they are a little older you may be able to explain that it reflects actual feelings such as stress, worry, anxiety or just too many thoughts racing round your mind. Whatever their age, you can then explain that when the glitter and sand settles, this is your mind calming. 

You can use this whenever you need as a visual representation of what is going on in their minds if they are quite worked up, anxious, having a tantrum etc.. it is also making then aware that they are not their mind. They can choose to calm themselves and the process of watching the jar settling in itself will be a calming process. You can also model this to your child too! Demonstrating and explaining the symbolism of the jar will help reinforce its great benefits in the child’s growing brain. 

Use the Jar to help create your own mindfulness routine too! Maybe it’s something you can start doing together just before bedtime, or at a time where you would like to relax and share your feelings for the day to encourage communication.

Having things such as candles, special cushions, music and oils, all create an amazingly calming experiences for all the senses, helping to imprint the benefits even more so. 

Have a try! We would love to hear about and see your own ‘Rest Your Mind Time’ routines or ‘mind jars’ so please feel free to share on our social media #hereforyouforthem or contact us directly!

Choose to positively impact your happiness, and theirs x

HERE presents Your Mindful Family Toolbox

‘Engage Together Mindfully For Better Outcomes’


Why engage in mindfulness with my child?

The dissertation I wrote for my first Psychology degree was about children taking part in ‘The Achievement for All Project’ in their school, and how parental engagement affected their academic achievement. I found that parents who engaged more in their child’s school, i.e. spoke to teachers more, engaged with their Childs homework, engaged with other parents, schools events etc.. positively affected their child’s achievement levels. 

My research, and much of the supporting research evidencing the positive benefits of engaging in your child’s education is very promising. However, this benefit has mainly been centred upon supporting a child’s academic education, but what about their character education and emotional development? That is just as important, if not more so, especially in the wake of recent years and ever growing evidence that children’s mental health is deteriorating at an alarming rate. 

Yoga and mindfulness being introduced into schools is becoming increasingly common which is such great news! However, many children are still not exposed to this type of support in schools, therefore another way in which they can engage in mindfulness is within the home. 

*Note: I genuinely went to make a cup of Yogi Tea at this point of writing, and attached to every tea bag is a quote- on this one it said “lift people up to their potential and higher self”. Seeing as though it was so relevant I had to write that into this post!!*

Researchers, governments and individuals are increasingly reporting the benefits of engaging in mindful activities, such as yoga, with your child and family. These benefits can include:

  1. Learning to be present and still together- the importance of taking a moment to relax.

  2. Promoting exercise, positive body image and self-concept.

  3. Parental modelling of positive, mindful behaviour. 

  4. Aiding relationships by talking about the activities you engage in and your shared experience. 

  5. Opening communication on how it makes you feel which aides development of emotional regulatory skills.

  6. Creativity skills.

  7. Promoting time together and having fun! 


How can I engage in Mindfulness with my child?

This is where HERE comes in to play, as we want to aide your input in your child’s character development. Rather than just taking them (or yourself!) to a yoga or mindfulness class, or them doing it in school as a separate experience, we want to bridge the gap and allow it to be something you can share and enjoy together. Take some time away from those gadgets and the online world we are so easily drawn to now by choosing to engage in an element of your weekly Mindful Family Toolbox! If you don’t have much quality time together in the week, it is a really valuable way to spend it, sharing that space of calm.

We at HERE are developing weekly premium content packages which relate to a monthly topic, and will be filled with the following:

  • Creative activity (creativity)

  • Time in activity (developing relationships)

  • Breathing exercise (emotional resilience)

  • A yoga pose from the weekly sequence (strength and flexibility)

  • Night time affirmation (self-concept)

  • Monday morning motivation (goal-setting)

  • Noticing any changes (self-awareness)

We know all parents and children learn and engage through different means, so we wanted there to be a variety of weekly mindful activities, all of which will aide one element of your child’s development.

How Do I Access the mindful family toolbox?

We are so excited to share our weekly Mindful Family Toolbox’s with you, and to help raise awareness of the positive impact engaging in this can have on them and you also. 

Register your interest for early access here.



Jen x

Bedtime Yoga Pose Stories For Calm

by Jen Armstrong

When you feel the need for something to calm your child’s (or your own!) body and mind, then trying these few poses, or even just one, can help you to relax and unwind. They are also a great way to calm your children in certain times of the day, such as bedtime, when a gentle way to lower their levels of physical and emotional arousal is greatly beneficial. 

EASY POSE

This is just a simple seated pose with crossed legs, and can be done either on your own or sat together back to back in the partner pose variation. 

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Easy pose story: Sit up tall, close your eyes, and place your hands on your knees or lap. As you breathe in nice long deep breaths imagine you are both blowing up a big bubble of love and happiness, and every time you breathe in more, and more again, it gets bigger and bigger still… until it pops! Remaining still and breathing out a nice long slow breath, enjoy imagining the warm feeling of shared love and joy raining down on you.

 

CRESCENT MOON POSE 

This is a side bend pose which can be done either stood up, or may I suggest lying down in this case. This can be a nice pose to do on the carpet/mat before getting into bed, and you can also do this one together! 

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Crescent moon story: Imagine you are a little moon raising high into the sky as you lift your arms above your head palms touching. Imagine that as you are raising your arms into the air you are reaching higher and higher into the sky, and then bend your body over to the right as you try to touch a star on your right and then the same on your left side (although maybe this time you can tickle the other crescent moon laying next to you :)…) After, maybe head to your window and see if you can spot the moon to wish it a good night before getting into bed yourself.

ROCK POSE

This is the kid’s version of child’s pose. Still the exact same pose that we do in adult yoga but you can add a little story to it. This is a good one before bed to help totally calm and relax the body and the mind and prepare for sleep. 

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Rock pose story: Imagine you are a little tiny rock at the bottom of a river. You sit there quietly and peacefully all hunched up in a little ball and sometimes you can feel the ripples and current of the water washing over your back (this is where you can get their blanket and waft it over them to simulate the water). Sometimes you feel big waves washing over you, and then slow calm waves. But the river always calms as nighttime draws in, and slowly, slowly comes to stillness.

If you enjoy the calm and stillness of a present moment, as will they.

Jen x

BBC Panorama ‘Kids in Crisis’- A Must Watch For Us All.

The mental health of children is becoming an increasingly worrying topic which although being spoken about, I am evermore concerned with what is actually being done to support these children, or prevent them from developing these issues in the first place.  

In this revealing and emotional BBC Panorama, ‘Kids In Crisis’ takes us through the process that many children and families are having to go through in order to gain support from the government funded CAMHS (Child and Mental Health Service). The issue, however, is the lack of funding provided which results in children being dismissed until their mental health issues have deteriorated to such an extent that they are almost at breaking point. 

We were crying out for help for a very long time… She shouldn’t have had to deteriorate to this level.

The families we see in this panorama are just your average, everyday families with children who have lacked support while going through inner turmoil that parents have been unable support them through themselves. At present, only 1/4 of children with mental health issues are getting help, which is something the government wants to change. 

Our kids are facing a mental health crisis with 1 in 10 kids struggling to cope. Overstretched services are turning kids away.

Having worked myself as a Family and Child Support Practitioner, I have seen firsthand how children who lack support at a younger age can be greatly impacted in later childhood and young adult life. I have also, however, seen the great benefits of being there to support a child or young person, and their family, while they are going through these issues, and the outcomes can be life changing. Supporting young people through their issues of bullying, self-harm or anxiety, will lead them to having a more positive self concept, greater communication and support from their family and the ability to gain close supportive friendships leading them in to a happy adult life. 

So, returning to my main issue at the start- What is being done to support children and prevent the onset of these mental health issues? It’s the absolute necessity to implement support from an early age, one proven method is introducing Wellness into schools and homes which is exactly what we at HERE are trying to achieve. We recognise this need, and not only for children to engage in the practice of calming the mind, relaxing the body and being at peace for moments of their day, but also for parents and families. 

Prevention is better than cure with regards to mental health difficulties and it’s getting in and working with children as early as possible, so by the time they’re 11, they have a toolbox of materials to help themselves before they go to high school.
— — JO LINDON, HEADTEACHER HEATHFIELD

With this knowledge, awareness and expertise, we have the ability to make this change and ensure that we don’t read news headlines in weeks or months to come telling us that things haven’t improved for children and families. We want to see and hear that the spread of implementing yoga and mindfulness is greatly benefitting children and families alike.

We are here not only to support your child’s wellbeing through yoga and mindfulness, but also to support yours which is just as important! So you can start by subscribing here to our ever growing community to receive newsletters filled with parenting tips, mindful reminders, yoga & creative activities, alongside info on wellbeing products & events.


Let’s make this Mindful Movement happen!



Jen x

Using I-statements to aid communication

I learnt about this simple but effective tool during my training with Family Links to help supplement my work as a Family Support Practitioner. I taught it to many families in their homes and also to groups of parents, seeing positive results time and time again.

The aim of the tool is simple, it is about the way you use certain language which instantly takes blame away from your child and allows you model calm emotional responses through talking about how you feel. I statements show your child how to communicate feelings effectively rather than getting angry or raising your voice. It is also a good way for you to check in with yourself about how the situation has presented itself as challenging, and gives you a way of thinking ‘well why do I feel annoyed, disheartened, upset etc..’. It is about turning things around and not pointing or blaming, but rather encouraging that communication of feeling which you have the power to achieve in your home by using this tool.

Another important factor of this tool is that it doesn’t single out one individual child who may be presenting slightly more challenging behaviour, instead, it address the situation as a whole. This is a vital element of the tool because if you are constantly clashing with and blaming one child for doing something wrong, they can easily feel singled out and hurt. All too often, this can turn into a negative cycle resulting in that child displaying negative behaviour, you blaming them, nothing being resolved, and then the cycle repeating itself again and again.

So how can I use this tool I hear you ask?

Well its simple! Try to take away the YOU and blaming out of a sentence, and replace it with an I. Following this, you also need to state what you would like to happen to make things better, therefore offering a positive solution to the situation.

Examples of employing the I-statements:

1. Rather than saying “YOU kept me up last night”, instead say “I feel so tired when I am kept up during the night and it makes things hard for me at work, what I would like is for everyone to go to bed when asked to and stay quiet in their rooms while falling asleep”

2. Rather than saying “YOU should have told me you would be late home from school”, instead say “I feel so worried and upset when I am not told if someone is coming home later than expected, what I would like is for us all to communicate with each other if we are going to be home late so no one has to worry”.

3.  Rather than saying “YOU haven’t put your toys away, again!”, instead say “ I feel so upset when I come home and there are toys all over floor, what I would like is for things to be put away after they are used or played with so we have space to play together ourselves!”

Using this tool within your home can quickly change how you also deal with conflict and challenging situations outside the home, such as in the workplace. Remember that the most important reason for using this tool is to keep yourself calm and to help communicate you feelings in an effective way. It is a easy and useable method of modeling positive expression of thoughts and feelings to your children, which they can observe and then imitate. This process enables you to aide your child’s emotional development and communication skills, which you must positively reinforce and praise them for!

 

“Encourage expression of emotion which will aid communication”

 

Jen x

The Relationship Between Temperament and Parenting

So, say you have a child who’s temperament is very different to yours (e.g. they are very sensitive and adaptable) and you are a person who is very easy going but like to be in a strict routine.  How do you accommodate their needs and your own? If not handled sensitively, this is where the problem may begin for you and your child.

There is not much that can be said about this. So the point of me reading this is?? – you might be saying to yourself. Well, I wanted to touch on this simply to bring your awareness to this factor, to know the impact of temperamental traits on your child’s character, and also your own, and how this may impact on the way in which you parent them. The problem with not being aware of this is that you might feel you did a great job with your first child (who may well have had had a similar temperament to you) and wonder why problems have arisen with this second, third (or 9th!!) child.

Recognising the difference of temperament traits is key to the way in which you interact with this child and will have a major effect on their future development. For example, if your child has quite a sensitive temperament (i.e. they can get upset easily by noise or new faces around), and you are not very sensitive to this part of their character, then this could cause some emotional dysfunction and lack of emotional bond between parent and child.

Also, recognise that the way your child’s personality develops depends on a number of factors so is not necessarily your doing. Don’t feel like you have failed as a parent. If you know you are doing the best you can then it is something that will just require a bit more work and understanding (which can appear to be unreciprocated which is the most difficult part of it all!).

Remember that your child’s temperament will start to be formed while still in utero. It has been proved that the impact of your own stress levels will change the resulting temperamental traits developed within your child. This is also particularly the case during breast feeding as the stress hormone, cortisol, is transmitted to your baby from your breast milk. In saying this, nothing is perfect and you can’t expect 0% stress during and after pregnancy. Worrying about feeling stressed could induce stress so I wouldn’t worry to much- its just something to be aware of.

This is just an important factor to take into consideration when you are pregnant or know someone who is in the process of this. Some people can tend to think that until your baby is born, nothing can impact it, but this is an inaccurate way to think. The importance of educating ourselves and our friends while bearing a child is invaluable, so read and share what you learn, no matter how insignificant.

If you wish to read further on this topic (seeing as though Ive only scraped the surface, so you may well want to!) I wrote a much more in-depth paper about this for my Masters studies. The paper (see link here) focuses on the impact of Temperament and Parenting on a child's emotional development, and highlights the bidirectional influences of these two factors. This paper also relates to my previous post linking parental influences to children's emotional development. I hope you enjoy reading it and if you have any questions then please do not hesitate to get in touch. 

‘happiness is something which can be taught. Lets ensure that early on’.

Jen x

Emotional development in children- try being a mindful model!

The ability to develop emotional self-regulatory capacities begins in the very first few moments of life, and it is all ignited by how a parent responds to their child’s emotions.

Within the early stages of an infant’s life, there exists a process called “scaffolding” which is defined as a parent’s ability to respond to their child's developing emotions.  This process between parent and child, whether supportive or not, eventually results in the parent letting go of the stabilizers and allowing their child to begin their independent exploration of the world, emotions, and relationships with others. All the parent hopes is that they have enabled their child to develop a good awareness and understanding of their emotions, leading them to develop a positive sense of self, and the ability to integrate with others and create reciprocal relationships with them. This can be achieved by the parent reacting effectively and responsively to their child’s emotions and also by modelling positive emotional management and awareness themselves. The important early stages of a child’s life can affect this developmental process of their emotional health, even newborn babies form and purge millions of connections within their brains each day based on what they are observing!

A famous study of Bandura and the bobo dolls illuminated that the way in which children observe an adult emotionally responding to a stimulus impacts upon their own response to it. Although there are arguments that this study lacked ecological validity, meaning ‘true to life’, the children were still, in those following moments after observing the adults hit the bobo doll (a fake blow up doll, don’t worry even in those days it couldn’t be a real person they hit!), copying the adult’s behaviour and responding in an aggressive manner. This, therefore, was indicating that children observe, imitate and copy the behaviours that they see from others. Being aware of this process of emotional development, and its onset from such an early age is very powerful as it can be used to greatly benefit the child, and it is our responsibility as adults to ensure that they develop healthy self-regulatory capacities to deal with all that life throws their way.

So, this is where Mindfulness comes in, ta daaa!! It is such a simple, usable concept which can be easily brought into many every day moments or situations.  Mindfulness doesn’t have to be viewed as something which means an individual must sit down, still, for a certain amount of time each day and meditate, this traditional method is certainly not the way I began to be mindful within my days! (This can also prove to be quite tricky in busy households with children/pets/life/lots going on!) So mindfulness to me is more about a mind-set, it’s not about having to be positive all the time, but being able to acknowledge the negative and not let it have a lasting impact on your emotional wellbeing.  It is also about having the emotional awareness and resilience to sit with certain situations and stresses, and to breathe through them and take a step back, in order to view them in a clearer headed manner making you able to deal with them more effectively.

So, as a parent, if you want your child to develop a healthy sense of emotional resilience to all the various, mounting pressures there are on children each day, model mindful behaviour yourself.  Your child will observe the way you deal with stress, anger, upset, happiness, all of which you have the ability to positively model!  If being mindful, however, is not really your bag, then it is hard to pretend it is, but by reading this hopefully it is something that you will become more aware of.  There are more and more people like myself training in Children and Family Yoga, just as a teacher in a school would train how to teach math’s or science, the same goes for this. I view it as a key element of character education that I feel each child should be exposed to at some point during their life, preferably during pre/primary school age, to allow them to open their minds to this way of thinking.  Also, due to the sheer benefits of yoga on the body, posture, healthy bone development, incorporating this factor feels like a no brainer to me! 

There are a few simple things you can introduce to help yourself be more mindful:

Make sure you take a few moments each day to appreciate something within your surroundings, this could be done on your commute to work while walking to the bus stop or train station, just look around you, see what is there, appreciate the diversity of life.  If you find yourself looking down too much at your phone/work/a book whatever it is, then a simple act like this could help you (and help your posture too YAY! Kill two birds with one stone .. well don’t actually do that please … I am a vegan.)

At home, place a few small dot stickers strategically on a few things and when you see the dot, take a big inhale and exhale just for one moment, then carry on as you were.  This could also help during stressful situations at home either with children, partners, family, etc.. make it the norm within your house that, if stress levels rise, you manage it effectively by taking a moment to breathe and ponder before addressing the situation at hand.

Do at least 10 minutes of yoga each day, either alone or with your child/family.  YouTube has many options to guide you on this.  If 10 minutes is too big an ask, then at least just a few poses to stretch and to connect with your breath.

Book-end every day with a positive, either to just think about or write down.  I write in ‘The five minute journal’ (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18692407-the-five-minute-journal) every day, which really helps me to set intentions for the day, and to think about what was great about each day when tucked up in bed at the end of it.  It also includes daily affirmations and asks you what you need to think about and what you are thankful for.

If its cold, and wet and you get caught in the rain, instead of thinking ‘ugh its cold,  I’m wet, life is dreary, etc..’ you can think ‘I am thankful for my coat for making sure I don’t get soaked, I am thankful for being able to go to work today and earn money etc…’ these thoughts have helped me through many negative thought moments/days.

Be thankful for waking up every day, as not everyone has got the chance to!

I am looking to enrich families lives by guiding them through Family and Children Yoga either on my own (or with others!) retreats, workshops, or as an extra benefit to a families’ holiday.   Please do get in contact if you would like to introduce this amazing practice of yoga and mindfulness to your children and family.  

'Practice, and all is coming'

Jen x

A new venture- Children and Family Yoga

In November 2017 I completed my 95- hour Yoga Alliance children’s yoga teacher training in India with a wonderful woman called Teressa Asencia, who has created an amazing teacher training based on her ‘Yoga in your school’ project, which was formed upon the five elements and partner poses (see link to her books here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Teressa-Asencia/e/B001JS7K82 )

The way in which Teressa taught me was through the Five Element stories she constructed.  This included some partner poses from her ‘playful family yoga’ book. I was lucky enough to receive this training one to one, so was able to share experiences with Teressa, some more on the personal side, and she was able to conduct the training with my needs and interests in mind.

We read through stories, shared experiences, and views of how we both see ourselves within the world of children and family yoga going forward.  She taught me songs, activities, sun salutation chants, partner poses, alongside the main 5 stories each focusing on one element.

After the morning’s session on my first day, Teressa then told me that there would be a class this afternoon with a mother and daughter and that she would like me to assist with the class.  Initially I was dubious about this having just been taught the class that morning, but Teressa made me feel so at ease, as she does in her classes evidently, that I wanted the challenge to involve myself on the very first day.  Happy I did it? Absolutely!!  It was a great experience with a lovely French mother and daughter who were very open to this method of yoga and seemed to enjoy it and have a great laugh while doing it.  The sense of unity in the room and thanks they gave at the end of the class was very rewarding for me, and I can already see the great benefit this type of family yoga could be for the whole family as it is an experience of them coming together.

I have been writing my own yoga stories which I feel could greatly benefit children and families with a specific need, such as a child that won’t go to sleep, stick to a routine, or simply a family who just want to have more fun together!  I love the fact that I can write stories and class plans which are bespoke to each child/family, depending on what they would be hoping to gain from the practice.

‘where there is darkness, bring light’

Jen x

Drops of thought

How strange it was,

The occurrence during the last part of my course,

As I was leading a relaxation,

Such obvious symbolism which I could not force.

As I lay on my back listening to the water on the ceiling,

A drop of water fell perfectly

Straight into my vision.

The first fell directly onto my heart chakra,

And then another a minute later,

Right onto my third eye.

I almost wanted to cry.

I love it when this kind of thing happens,

Is it a sign telling me to love myself,

Be kind to myself,

And look through my minds eye,

And to myself give,

The life I truly want to live.

 

See this as a mindfulness symbol,

Our past selves, our past experiences,

As drops of water,

Just as these.

As they rain down onto us,

And affect us in so many ways,

It is what we do with them,

How we deal with them,

That impacts us each in the following days.

The drops that appear from the other side

Shape our future,

That, of which, we cannot hide.

But there is no need to hide,

It only about our understanding inside.

Whatever has been,

And will be,

All we ever has is this moment,

That’s all there is to see. 

 

'be present, to be presented to yourself'

Jen x

Mindfulness in schools- whats the big deal?

So as an individual, or parent, interested in the education system or child development, it is likely that you may have come across the concept of mindfulness based interventions and how they are having a positive impact on children’s well-being and behaviour in schools.  There are many methods in which schools are employing people externally to run programs, or they are providing training for the teachers themselves to implement mindful methods into the daily teaching schedule.

From my past experience of working with children I was particularly impressed with one organization The Special Yoga Foundation which is based in London.  This is a small charity with big aspirations, and they provide yoga for children and adults with special needs alongside those who don’t have special needs.  I met the founder and course creator, Jyoti, who is an amazing person with big ideas of how she sees the charity developing and spreading the mindfulness based interventions far and wide. Jyoti compiled a training program for teachers which equips them with a variety of tools they can use at a click of a button or with just two minutes to spare.  These include tools such as a 2 minute relaxation within the classroom or a few yoga postures and stretches- see the link to their website here- https://specialyoga.org.uk/. It was exciting talking to her about the program especially due to its focus on making these methods so easily accessible and workable for teachers to integrate into their daily work in schools.

Mindfulness is spreading around schools across the world, and there are a few organisations in America whose successes have been shared widely on social media in recent times.  One of these is a school in Baltimore where they have introduced a ‘mindful moment’ room.  To put this into context, the school is in a highly unsafe area with many vulnerable children who routinely engage in criminal activity and who regularly abscond from school.  As a consequence there are high rates of students with emotional problems causing daily conflicts between students in the school leading to a pattern of low achievement rates.  This was the reality of this school, and being a student there pretty much meant that your prospects for achieving well and integrating well into society were quite bleak.  That was …. until they introduced mindfulness into the school.  Aggression rates in the school have now reduced hugely which has lead to 100% of all suspensions being abolished.  This school’s ‘mindful moment room ’ has served to replace detentions, and by teaching the students that when they feel they can’t concentrate, or they are getting themselves riled up and into trouble, they can go and calm themselves down in a safe quiet space.  Someone is always there to support them and help them with techniques if necessary.

Another school in the USA introduced a ‘calm down beanbag’, which has resulted in young children taking themselves over to it during a class, and taking a minute to breathe slowly and calm themselves down before returning back to their desk and to the task at hand.  Unlike traditional time out methods – the child, in this case, has learned to take control themselves and thus has a feeling of achievemnt.  I find this a very exciting concept, that young children are learning to recognize their emotions and are taking it upon themselves to calm down and breathe for a moment, without being instructed to. This is something that all children need, especially following the Ferrell and Barrett claim in 2007 that ‘numbers of children being diagnosed with anxiety and depression is increasing at an alarming rate’.  So 10 years on from this, the problem remains on a rapid increase, making it evermore important for us all to act now because, should we leave it to fester any longer, the problem will only get worse, and it will affect not only these children and their families, but subsequent generations in the future.

‘Remember, balance is key’

Jen x

 

Self concept- a shift from negative to positive

Mindfulness is something that has really helped me as an individual who spends most of her time, as many of us do, worrying about some insignificant thing that is coming in the future, or might have happened in the past.  Of course, some of these things we need to address as if we don’t, we might make those mistakes again, but many of the things we worry about are things we conjure up in our heads and through thinking about them we exacerbate them to a staggering degree.

Going back to my studies of social psychology, and the psychology of identity and knowing oneself is a good place to start.  I learnt a lot during the time I spent studying for my masters.  We develop a self-concept of ourselves, and are constantly trying to ensure that, in our minds, we are the person who we believe we are. This is an ok concept in isolation, however, when your self-concept is a negative one, this can be a very self-destructive process.

There’s that typical saying ‘we are our harshest critics’.  This is true and very relevant to this point because of the need for our own selves to ensure we are constantly bettering ourselves.  The way to do this is to consistently hone in on the negatives we view within ourselves.  It's almost like trying to hate those things in order to ensure we expel them from our existence and reality.

The way I think of it is that we have two sides of our brain, which are separated simply into the positive and negative brain.  I think that every time we do/say something negative, or have a negative thought this allows a big tick to appear on the negative side of our brain, which tells us 'yes I am that negative, thoughtless, stupid, ugly etc.. person that I always thought I was'. This continues the downward spiral of the existence of a negative self-concept.

But returning to the issue of a negative self-concept, the problem is that we are always trying to better ourselves, which is or is not a healthy process.  We are also telling ourselves that these negative thoughts are within our reality, which then makes them become our reality.

We force ourselves to become our negative self-concept.

So how to overcome this?

Being mindful and aware.  Enjoying the things around you that you won't have noticed before.

Although it might sound a bit airy-fairy and hippy, but, for me, I have never enjoyed the sound of the birds like I do now, or seeing someone help another human being when its not totally necessary…they could always ‘walk by on the other side’ -metaphorically speaking.

Looking out a window of a bus and just observing life go by. The sheer diversity of us all is a beautiful thing

Music is also a massive mindful practice for me.  It’s a great method as it's not always easy to get yourself into the mindful, 'just being in the present' mind-set, but music has helped me a lot to induce the feeling.  If you think in terms of Sound being one of the 5 Elements then this is not at all surprising.

Smiling at things, seeing children making mistakes while they learn.  Smiling at people, looking down and not conversing is not natural to the social beings that we are.  No one is going to hit you or be angry with you for simply acknowledging them and saying hello, it will only make you and them feel better.

Look at someone's face sitting across the tube from you and wonder, what is their story?  I wonder how they are feeling right now or where they are going.  Approach them if you feel comfortable to. If you want to compliment someone or say something nice, don't hold back, even if it is a stranger, what is there to loose? 

Positive thoughts and interactions with others are so easy to come by.  Make them your reality. As the more positive thoughts you have about yourself, the more you will build a positive self-concept, and reverse any prior negative self-concept and identity you may have believed about yourself.

'Positivity breeds positivity'

Jen x