Things I Know For Sure… Volume 2

Over the years, I have picked up various pieces of knowledge and wisdom as I navigate this journey of life. In this series, I will share a few things each week that I know for sure. Here’s my disclaimer: I never say never. I’ve learned my lesson on that one. I’m pretty sure the reverse is true too. So, while I am sharing what I know to be true, at the time that I am writing, few things are ever certain and truth can change. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the things I think I know for sure adapt and evolve over time as things tend to do. In fact, I’d be surprised if they didn’t! So, take these truths with a grain of salt and know that you can hold on to ideas that speak to you and just let the rest go. Here’s what I know for sure, for today…

  • Quiet is critical. Everyone in your world can tell you something.  You can believe it to be true when you hear it. But, ultimately, until you hear your own inner voice telling you what you need to do, the rest is just noise.  The only way to hear your inner voice is to make time to hear it by honoring the quiet moments in your life.  Cultivate them, plan them into your schedule, whatever you need to do to tune in to the best teacher you have – yourself.  In terms of parenting, remember this: you already know what you are doing.  Listen to that inner voice – it won’t steer you wrong.
  • To get from where you are to where you want to be, the only way out is through. The only way to get to the other side is to go through whatever process or challenge stands between here and there.  This can apply in any and every area of our lives.  So hard, right?  It is so tempting when you start going through whatever it is that you are going through, to turn yourself right back around to the safety of your comfort zone.  But then, if nothing changes, nothing changes.  I heard once that it is helpful to imagine how it will feel once you are on the other side.  To visualize and embody the feelings and qualities of the experience that you are trying to get to and embrace those feelings to give you the strength and perseverance to manage the in-between.  It helps for me.  Maybe it will work for you too.
  • Hurt people hurt people. There are so many people walking through life hurting and aching and raw.  They lash out and attack others and try to inflict their pain on those around them.  Why?  Well, it certainly alleviates one of the greatest fears: I am all alone.  Because if I am hurting and I can hurt you, then we are hurting together.  No one is safe.  I am not alone anymore.  When I hear about someone being hurtful or engaging in bullying behavior, I always, always wonder, what is it like at home for that person?  How is she not getting what she needs?  Even though she is lashing out, how can I respond with compassion.  The only real answer is love.  Responding with disdain or judgment does nothing to solve the real root of the issue.  It is a reactive response to the symptom, not an antidote for the actual problem. Quiet is critical.  When it comes to parenting, listen to your inner voice.
slide1

Introducing Mindfulness Practice to Children

Research indicates that mindfulness practice helps children increase their emotional regulation, ability to demonstrate empathy, and ability to focus on an activity.  When children practice mindfulness, the part of the brain the controls executive functioning, the prefrontal cortex, is activated.  You can think of the prefrontal cortex like the air traffic control center of the brain.  This part of our brain helps us to see the big picture, understand cause and effect, make good decisions, and plan.  All skills which are essential to leading a happy, successful life and developing meaningful relationships with others.

Introducing the practice of mindfulness to children is one of the best ways that parents can equip children to develop strong executive functioning skills.  In some children with ADHD, mindfulness practice is as effective as medication in reducing symptoms.  Mindfulness also has been shown to decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents as well as adults. little girl meditating in park

So, what is mindfulness?  Mindfulness refers to the ability to fully present and connected to one’s body in the present moment.  There are many different ways to practice mindfulness and no one right way.  The right way to do anything is always the way that works best for you and your family.  One of my favorite ways to introduce mindfulness to children is by using a fun practice called the “Mindfulness Minute.”  In the “Mindfulness Minute,” the parent or teacher sets a timer for exactly one minute.  During that minute, the parent or teacher and the child take deep breaths and try to focus just on breathing and being fully present.  I often use a river analogy with children before setting the timer.  It goes something like this:

“Imagine that you are in a beautiful forest.  You can see a river running through theforest and there are trees on both sides.  Every time a thought comes into your mind, imagine placing the thought gently into the river and watch it float away. Know that you can come back to the thought later, at any time.  The thoughts will still be there, in the river.  For right now, just notice that the thoughts are there and just allow them to float away.” 

Then set the timer.  For little ones, even a minute of just breathing is going to be quite tricky at first! That is ok.  This is a judgment free zone! Encourage your little one to notice how it feels to be still and quiet and then try again tomorrow.  Like so many other things, mindfulness is a practice and the more a child has the opportunity to practice, the better they will get at allowing their mind to be still.

Make space to practice the “Mindfulness Minute” with your children or students on a regular basis.  By intentionally practicing these skills during calm times, you can help your child strengthen their ability to access these skills during more challenging moments.

I’d love to hear from you.  What’s your favorite way to incorporate mindfulness practice into your child’s routine?  Leave a comment below or come on over to Facebook and share!

Introduce Mindfulness Practice to Children Using The Mindfulness Minute

Building Resilient Kids By Building Strong Relationships

Strengthen your parent-child relationship and build resilience. Free Mini-Course 5 Steps to Creating Connection at reflectingrelationships.com

Intentionally strengthening your relationship with your child is the best thing you can do to build resilience

Everyone is resilient. We often talk of resilience as a characteristic that an individual either has or does not have. “She’ll be ok; she’s resilient” or “I’m worried about him; he’s just not that resilient.” However, the truth is that resilience exists on a continuum, with every person possessing varying degrees of resilience in various situations and life circumstances.

Many factors go into determining how an individual will respond to any given situation. However, for children, the single strongest predictor of resilience is the presence of a relationship with at least one sensitively attuned, caring, and competent adult. Ideally, this adult is a parent; however, that is not always the case. Having a safe adult, who is emotionally available and able to help them process an adverse event, buffers the level of toxic stress experienced by a child in any given situation. An event that may be experienced as a tolerable stressor with the presence of a compassionate adult caregiver would likely be toxic for a child without that connection. Likewise, an event that could easily be a toxic stressor, can often be buffered by the presence of a supportive, loving relationship.

Through a relationship with a caring adult, a child learns the values of empathy and compassion. They learn what it is like to be cared for by another and how to care for others in return. A nurturing relationship with your child in infancy and early childhood will create neural pathways that impact the rest of your child’s life. A sensitive, attuned parent during the first year of life is the gift that keeps on giving. (Even though they won’t actually recognize that, because memories from the first year of life are stored subconsciously. So, don’t expect a big thank you or anything.)

At any time during the life span, resilience is strengthened in the context of close relationships. This means that the very best thing you can do to help your child develop a strong ability to bounce back from adversity is to spend time actively building and strengthening your relationship. By focusing on strengthening the parent-child relationship, you will help your child create neural pathways that are wired for successful relationships. You will teach your child that relationships are safe and that people can be trusted. Additionally, a securely attached parent-child relationship also creates pathways in your child’s brain for positive self-esteem and confidence. Through the relationship, your child learns that he or she has the ability to be successful in relationships with others, creating a sense of confidence that will extend to other relationships as well.

You can also use your relationship as a means to strengthen other qualities of resilience in your child. For example, you can use your relationship to instill in your child a strong sense of self-efficacy, an important factor in resilience. Self-efficacy is the belief that an individual has the ability to make changes and reach goals in their own life. Without this belief, people often develop what is commonly called a “victim mentality.” This is the difference between taking steps toward reaching a goal or giving up because you feel that no matter what you do, it won’t make a difference anyways. Self-efficacy is critical to creating a sense that one has control over their own life and, as such, is an important piece of the resilience puzzle.

One of the very best investments of your time that you can make is on your relationship with your child. Are you interested in learning more about how to build resilience in your child by strengthening your relationship? I would be honored if you would sign up to receive my free mini-course, “5 Steps to Creating Connection.” In this 5-part series, you will receive daily assignments and PDF worksheets to help you start taking concrete action toward an intentional relationship with your little one. Sign up here to subscribe and then please join our community on Facebook and let us know how it’s going!

Free 5 part mini-course "Creating Connection with Your Child" at www.reflectingrelationships.com

With Gratitude, A Gift From Me to You

Win a FREE copy of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential and EndangeredWith the Thanksgiving season upon us, I have been reflecting upon those things for which I am most thankful.  My goal for Reflecting Relationships is simple: I want to help more children and families.  To accomplish that goal I am bottling up the work I do every day by creating an 8-week Trauma-Informed Parenting course, which will launch for the first time on March 7, 2017.  My intention for the course is that the combination of my knowledge, skills, and practical strategies for parents of children who have experienced trauma will help families heal and build resilience.

With that said, I am truly thankful that you have decided to join me on this journey.  I am so grateful for every person who chooses to take a moment of their day to read my words, either here or on Facebook.  I am thankful for every person who chooses to follow me on Pinterest.  I am incredibly grateful for every person who decides to become a part of my community and receive my email newsletter.  Seriously, those MailChimp notifications are the best. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

As a small token of my gratitude, I have decided to gift one lucky reader one of my favorite books, “Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered,” by Maia Szalavitz and Dr. Bruce D. Perry.  The contest is open to everyone who subscribes to my email newsletter.  The link to enter will be in the Monday, December 12 newsletter and the winner will be announced on Monday, December 19.  Not a subscriber yet?  No problem! Just enter your info here and not only will you be eligible for the contest, you will also receive my free mini-course “5 Steps to Creating Connection” to help you begin strengthening your relationship with your child today.

Once again, thanks for taking the time today to be here and to read this post.  I truly appreciate you.

Enter to Win a Free Copy of Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered at reflectingrelationships.com

Enter to Win a FREE copy of Born for Love at www.reflectingrelationships.com