Children, parents and teachers should learn and practise mindfulness techniques to help them cope with the many pressures of modern life.
Growing up is no longer child’s play. With the increased pressure to perform, there’s often little time for children to develop a healthy sense of self-worth to deal with the various challenges they encounter. But, help is at hand.
WISE (Wellbeing in Schools and Education in South Africa) is an NGO that works in schools and youth centres in the Western Cape. WISE has designed programmes and tools that teach mindfulness techniques as a means of coping with these challenges.
Children under pressure
WISE reports that children as young as five say they are stressed, anxious and feeling hopeless, angry and overwhelmed. These emotions negatively affect a child’s self-image.
Children with a poor self-image will struggle to make wise decisions or to perform, explains Carol Surya, the co-founder of WISE. “They tend to resort to negative behaviour to cope. Bullying, violence or substance abuse are all examples of negative behaviour.”
However, negative behaviour can be turned around through learning and practising mindful techniques.
Building the positive self
Surya partnered with Biodanza facilitator, sculptor and entrepreneur Carmen Clews in 2017 to develop the pilot study and training programme for WISE. Biodanza used dance music and movement to deepen self-awareness.
“We place importance on teaching maths and English in schools, but children would surely benefit from resources that can equip them with self-esteem, self-sufficiency and self-love. “Building a positive sense of self will contribute to their overall wellbeing,” says Surya. WISE focuses on teaching mindfulness techniques to deal with life’s pressures and achieve balance.
Teach the teacher
Teachers are also buckling under the pressures of modern life. This impacts on their ability to teach and interact with children. WISE’s programmes, therefore, include tools for teachers. “It’s important to give educators the tools and the mindfulness techniques to improve their wellbeing. Then, they can go on to train their children,” says Surya.
Feedback from the programme has been overwhelmingly positive. Educators have reported noticeable changes to their own stress levels and a positive difference in children’s behaviour.
Start them young
Surya says that it is possible to teach children mindfulness techniques from an early age.
The WISE programme can be introduced to children from the age of five. However, its books can be a source of guidance for parents from when their children are born.
Four tools to help
The four tools in the WISE programme are designed with a psychology-based approach to empower children to become happier, more confident and more expressive.
The Inner Magic board game enhances emotional intelligence and improves self-esteem. It is suitable for children aged 5–13 and encourages them to express their emotions in a positive manner.
The Magic Mat introduces children to meditation and yoga as sources of calm and relaxation. These techniques help children develop compassion and self-awareness. It also helps them to focus better.
Planting Seeds for Life is a lesson plan book for teachers. The 25 lesson plans or themes deal with a range of topics. Using valuable techniques such as visualisation, the lessons are suitable for children from the age of 10.
Parent Magic is a manual for adults wanting to raise mindful children. It is based on the philosophy that “children are born capable” and that parents and teachers have to provide the best opportunity for children to thrive.
Practising mindfulness techniques at home
- Recharge with your child. Try this exercise before starting homework or eating supper. Lie on your backs with your feet up on a chair. Close your eyes and play calming music or reflect on the day. To come out of it, bring your knees towards your chest, roll over and wait a few seconds before slowly sitting up.
- Take a moment. Stop what you and the children are doing to breathe deeply and slowly.
- Tune in. Tune into your inner world. Focus your attention on your breathing. Or, put a hand on your heart and one on your belly, close your eyes and focus on your heartbeat.
- Imagine a calm place: help children to create a beautiful, calm, safe place in their imagination. Once picturing this place, they can imagine being in it themselves.