Friday, 19 July 2019

What A Mindfulness For Kids Class Taught Me About Myself

Mindfulness is something that, although I've always loved the idea of, I've never really taken the time to become all that familiar with.

I'll be totally honest - I'm the kind of person who harbours deep desires to live a hippy lifestyle, embrace mindfulness and meditation fully and spend my free time walking barefoot in nature, making daisy chains and wearing wacky patterned maxi skirts and flowing trousers. (What can I say, I love a cliche!).

But i'm also the kind of person who, despite those desires, relies much too heavily on hairdryers and GHDs to ever actually spend any real time in nature and is far too partial to a chinese takeaway in front of Love Island on her rare child-free moments to actually find the time to meditate!

That doesn't stop me from wishing I was that person though, and the Mindful Me inside will often spend time making all sorts of plans for kids yoga sessions and calming sensory activities while Chaotic-Fraught-Mum-Of-3 Me laughs inside knowing these plans will never actually materialise!

But recently, I've become friends with a lovely lady named Abi who just so happens to be a mindfulness practitioner!

And last weekend, Abi invited us along to try out one of the Mindfulness Play For Kids classes that she regularly runs.

I was really intrigued to try it out, and although I was slightly concerned that my 6 year old son might not be the type for taking part in a nice calm mindfulness class - I knew that Abi, as a mum of boys herself, would know how to engage him and wouldn't bat an eyelid if he was a bit squirmy/wriggly.

I was also quite hopeful that the class might give me some ideas I could use to help manage my son's temper tantrums, which is something he does struggle with quite a bit lately. He can easily switch from happy and placid to angry and frustrated very quickly, and when that happens I often feel at a loss to know how best to calm him down.

So we went along to the class....unsure of what to expect, but hopeful that we'd pick up some tips for calming my son down.

The class itself was made up of around 5 children and their grown ups - it was friendly, and non-formal with Abi leading it in her usual friendly, affable manner.

It was broken down into 5 sections, and the kids took it in turns to select Mindful Activities from a pack of cards that we all had a go at doing.

We did some relaxing breathing and meditative exercises, had a go at eating some chocolate mindfully (which was definitely my sons favourite part!), worked in pairs to do some self portraits and portraits of how we saw each other, and we did an exercise all about channeling and releasing feelings of anger and frustration too...just as I hoped!

It was really interesting and there were lots of things I learned that afternoon...but there was one thing I took away from the session that surprised me more than anything else.

During the class, I realised where a lot of my anxiety as a parent comes from. And how misplaced my frustrations actually are a lot of the time.

During the relaxation session, we laid down on mats as Abi lead us through a short visualisation exercise. It was only minutes long and the other children, from what I could see, all seemed to be handling it well.

But next to me...I could feel my son fidgeting.

I kept opening one eye to peek at him and sure enough - he was up on all fours, then he was laying down again, he was fidgeting with his blanket, then he was fidgeting with his mat - and as I watched him fidget and I glared at him, trying to direct my sternest "STOP THAT AND PAY ATTENTION" face his way (which he was totally oblivious to, of course!), I realised that my entire body had tensed up.

Just moments ago I had felt calm and relaxed. I'd been enjoying the meditation...but suddenly I was tense again. I felt irritated. I felt worried that other people would notice my sons fidgeting and - somehow - judge my parenting because he wasn't capable of staying still. I felt annoyed that he wasn't paying attention. That he wasn't appreciative of the effort I'd gone to in order to bring him along. That he was just being silly.

After the class ended, we made our way home and we stopped for some KFC as a treat for the kids.

And as they were sitting around the table together, I heard Tyne telling his younger siblings all about the mindfulness class he'd just done. How much he'd enjoyed it, and that he'd learned how to eat food mindfully.

The next thing I knew, he was teaching them how to eat their popcorn chicken mindfully!

Taking them step-by-step through the same process that Abi had used - encouraging them to really look at their food, to smell it, to put it to their lips and listen to how their bodies felt, and then to pop it into their mouths and take notice of how it felt.

As he guided them through this Mindful KFC session (I could have fibbed and said they were eating grapes, couldn't I....) - I realised that despite all of his fidgeting, he HAD actually been listening in the class. He'd been taking it all in. his own words...he'd thought it was "great!"

And I realised then...that all of my anger, frustration and anxiety as a parent comes not only from the silly fear of judgement I have about my parenting skills, but also from my lack of understanding.

Just because my son isn't acting exactly the way I want him to, doesn't mean he's not paying attention, taking something in or enjoying it. And it doesn't mean he's not appreciating it, either.

I went to the class expecting to learn how to calm my sons anger and frustration, but I came away with a better understanding of my own issues with this - and my need to step back sometimes and just allow my children to be. To do things in their own way.

And who knows...maybe doing that will ease frustrations all around!

Have you ever tried Mindfulness with your children? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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