Decompress …. Have some fun teaching kids this all-important life skill.
1. Finger-counting breaths
“A do-anywhere exercise. Create gentle fists with your hands, and with each breath, unfurl a finger from your palm. For example, on your first exhale open your left thumb from your fist. Pause and enjoy an inhale. On your next exhale, unfurl your left index finger. Pause and enjoy an inhale. Continue until you have two open palms on your lap.” Jillian Pransky
2. Attitude-changing breaths
Change the exercise in #1 to include a word(s) as the child breaths and unfurls each finger— like peace, quiet, I’m safe, God is with me.
3. Nature walk
Get out of the house for a 15-minute walk with children. Add more calm by asking the kids to point out natural wonders as they walk.
4. Legs up the wall
Children find a space along the wall where they can lie down. Begin by sitting upright along the wall with one hip touching the wall and legs extended out in front of them, parallel to the wall. Slowly lie back onto the ground/floor as their torso moves to allow legs to swing up the wall with feet pressed flat into the air, as if they were standing on the ground. Close their eyes, breathe naturally and listen to their breathing. Hold for 5 minutes.
5. Shake It Off
Find a fast, upbeat song to play. Tell children that when they hear the music, they should shake their bodies (for 30 seconds) as much as possible—legs, arms, torso, feet, hands, everything! Tell children that when the music stops, they will clap their hands as loudly as possible, three times. On the third clap, they will leave their hands together and bring them to their heart, close their eyes, take three big inhales and exhales.
Choose a prayer and pray it slowly. Here’s a sample: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8
Tweetable: Have some fun teaching children six exercises to decompress when they feel overwhelmed or stressed. Click to Tweet
“Sacrifice focuses on a goal. Deprivation focuses on poor me. Sacrifice lifts my head and lets me see the big picture. Deprivation turns my eyes inward so I see nothing but myself.” (Mary Hunt)
A reader in our blog community passed these thoughts along with a note: “If only this wisdom could be given to kids.”
Yes, but– for starters, sacrifice is giving up something valuable to me.
Human beings don’t do this easily.
For another thing, sacrifice costs me something.
Money, time, what I want when I want it. If it doesn’t cost us, how can it be a sacrifice? But isn’t there a reward in sacrifice?
The reward is perhaps the best way to introduce children to the concept of sacrifice.
I’ve taken kids to a shelter for women and children where they saw who was receiving their donations of clothing and toys… and these donations were not entirely their castoffs, but items we had chosen and purchased. The children had a lot to say on the way home as they processed their experience. Their spirits lifted when they saw that they had done something good. Maybe a little serotonin dropping into their circulatory system helps? I want them to know the good feeling they get after making the choice to bless someone else. Some children will decide they want to feel it again– and that it’s worth the sacrificed involved. My goal was to show them that sacrifice can produce a good feeling equal to the feeling they get when their own wishes have come true.
Show them the greater good.
Whatever children give up is generally only temporary. They will get more of it–sometimes sooner, sometimes later. To focus on the negative – the act of depriving oneself – doesn’t work well in almost any avenue of life. Better to pivot toward the positive – the achievement of something far more worthy than whatever valuable possession or enjoyment they gave up.
Tweetable: When a child sacrifices something valuable to him, in order to make life better for someone else, we can point out the rewards. Here are some ways to do that. Click to Tweet
Two months ago I moved to Northern California. Our backyard has a deck and lots of bare dirt. I was talking with some of the children in our extended family (ages 9, 7 and 5) about ideas for the dirt. The five-year-old suggested that we put in a “beaver pond.” Other ideas floated were for a butterfly garden, lizards, birdhouses, sunflowers, ladybugs and “a bird’s nest—tiny.”
As we talked, the youngest started making a checklist (I recognize those boxes with check marks!) and another was sketching out the garden design (see above). When I noticed their affinity for planning, I decided to turn their ideas into a S.M.A.R.T. goal for myself and show it to them. Maybe I could model for them one proven method of moving ideas into becoming a reality.
I chose the birdhouses as my example S.M.A.R.T. goal.
- SPECIFIC: I want to add two birdhouses to my garden.
- MEASURABLE: To meet my goal I will gather materials to make 2 birdhouses and invite these children to help me make them.
- ACTION PLAN: Go to the craft store for supplies. Arrange with their parents a good time to work on it. Brainstorm what we want to do to celebrate our completed goal.
- REALISTIC: (for reflection afterwards) Did I reach my goal? What worked? What didn’t work?
- TIME (BY WHEN?) By June 15
Maybe one of them will want to try making a SMART goal for something they want to do this summer.
“Small victories, successfully implemented, yield huge results.” –Peter Walsh
Tweetable: Free from school routine, kids can turn some of their own ideas into reality with S.M.A.R.T. goals. Click to Tweet
In an old issue of Psychology Today, I ran across an article featuring the words of Dennis Rosen, M.D.
Sometimes children seem so self absorbed and so preoccupied with gadgets and toys, we wonder whether they are aware of, or care about, what goes on around them. We like to tell ourselves, “Something” must be wrong with this generation.
Except there isn’t. The problem lies with us, the adults, who could be challenging them to think about others, and leading them to action.
Prior to going to Haiti to volunteer at a hospital, Dr. Rosen spoke to his daughter’s second grade class about the conditions there, showing them pictures of what life is like for children just like them. Following his visit, the class collected over 7,000 vitamins for him to give out.
“The empathy and genuine interest of these seven year olds was so impressive, and yet, upon reflection, not really that surprising. To help others in need is a very basic human instinct (though one that is not always acted upon).”
5 fun activities teach kids to think of others.
Author Cat Skorupski’s ideas I’m going to use with the kids in my life this summer:
- Surprise parents by making a favorite food for each of them and present it at the next meal.
- Do a chore without being asked. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s one that will resonate big-time with parents. The more annoying the chore, the better. Make a movie of each child doing it and show their parents.
- Raise money for a cause dear to someone’s heart. Showing that you care about something he or she cares about—enough to invest your time and energy—is a huge compliment.
- Take a song you already know and write new words to it, making it about someone special to you! It doesn’t have to be complicated—heck, it doesn’t even have to be on-key. It’s the thought that counts! Then record it onto a phone or computer and send it to them.
- Create a scavenger hunt. Hide affirmation notes around the house for a sibling or other relative to find. The notes could be hidden in sequence with clues that lead the hunter to the next treasure or they could just be hidden randomly.
Tweetable: Show kids how you care about others, then guide them do this directly on their own with 5 new ideas. Click to Tweet
One of my family’s weirder slogans or expressions — Self-Praise Stinketh – came into being on account of me. As the story goes, I said so many nice things about myself that they shortened it to SPS to save their breath. Later in life, I had to ask myself, “Why did I do that? Why was I constantly affirming myself?”
It dawned on me
Although my family loved me, they did not often compliment me or praise my accomplishments. When I talked to my mother about it much later in life, she said they didn’t want me to get a big head or grow up to be arrogant. But she also expressed regret and said she wished she had done it differently.
Even though a caregiver may do everything for the best of the children, providing for their needs and more, showering them with gifts– the child will experience a void unless the caregiver’s actions are accompanied by spoken words of acknowledgement.
What are our hindrances to spoken blessings?
Sometimes, it’s fear. We might fear saying the wrong things. We might fear the reaction our words will bring: rejection, embarrassment, doubt, laughter or misunderstanding.
Ironically, for many parents, it is busyness – the countless loving things parents do for their kids – getting in the way of meaningfully saying the words. Kids need to hear us say the words too.
We can learn this skill.
Educator Dr. Becky Bailey suggests five categories of what we might notice in children daily–at times like when they leave for school in the morning, before practice or rehearsal in the afternoon, at supper, before bedtime. This week, say words that:
- Affirm and approve – Cody, you held the door for Grandma. That was helpful.
- Commend and compliment –At the game I noticed how you were looking up while you were dribbling and passing the ball. Great game.
- Specifically speak love and affection – With a song you make up, “Good morning, good morning, how are you today? I love you, I love you, I love you today.”
- Invoke hope and self-confidence – Shayna, you planned the tasks involved in making that diorama. That took organizational skills. You have them.
- Answer pain and disappointment with support and faith – I can imagine you feel embarrassed and deeply hurt by what was said. I heard Taylor say some very hurtful things to you. Go tell Taylor “I don’t appreciate being called names.”
Note: The concept of the blessing is taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing. Dr. Bailey’s examples are found in her book Conscious Discipline.
- Loving acts parents do for kids can get in the way of passing on encouraging words they need to hear. Click to Tweet
- Bless children with the healing power of words. Go here for practical examples you can use right away. Click to Tweet
A dreaded part of my childhood piano lessons came on the days I got excused from school to go before an adjudicator for grading on my skills. I was very nervous, but I did well enough to receive small silver and gold pins signifying my competency.
At times I felt disappointed by my piano performances, and my mother seemed to know the words to say when I knew I messed up. But when her arm, slung around my drooping shoulders, pulled me close the real comfort set in. Touch can mean more than words.
Meaningful touch blesses a child physically.
We can give almost every child a pat on the shoulder, a high five, a fist bump. Temperament is a factor in how much touch and what kind of touch a child wants. And the touch must be right for the relationship you have with that child, as well as being culturally appropriate.
- Auntie gives a manicure.
- An uncle arm wrestles.
- A family friend sneaks up behind, covers your eyes with their hands and says, “Guess who?”
- Grandma holds your hand in both of hers.
Obviously you can hug your own children but not every neighbor child or friend of your child. Follow the child’s cues. Touch is meaningful when it is done for the benefit of the child, not our own. It symbolizes acceptance. Conversely, if someone refuses to shake hands with you or touch you, it symbolizes lack of acceptance.
Appropriate touch blesses a child emotionally.
If we are consistent about being a source of blessing to others, we will begin to recognize the number of biochemical changes taking place when we reach out and touch. Deep emotional needs are met.
With all the media reports of child abuse and inappropriate touching, we back away from touch. Realize, however, that avoiding healthy, appropriate, meaningful touch sacrifices physical and emotional health in a child’s life.
How can children feel the touch of God?
Obviously God, being spirit, does not touch us physically. God’s touch is inward. It is a lack of fear. It is the absence of anxiety. It’s the knowledge that no matter what noise, what disappointment, what complications surround you—you are held. We crave these touches because they will not come and go with each passing circumstance. These are God’s meaningful touches for us and the children we love.
Ways to bless children right now with meaningful touch.
- Give a spontaneous hug.
- Put your arm around a child while watching a movie.
- Give a goodbye kiss on the head when kids are heading out to school.
Note: The concept of the blessing, along with some of the ideas under “Ways to bless children right now,” are taken from John Trent’s book The Blessing.
Tweetable: How can children feel the touch of God? See how our meaningful touch can facilitate it. Click to Tweet