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'