As A Self Care Tool
Mindfulness is something we can help our children learn through the power of self-reflection. Helping children to self-reflect on their own thoughts, feelings, sensations, and actions, allowing them to stay with the feelings, sensations and thoughts that emerge for them in the present moment can help them stay connected with who they are, think through their own solutions, make sense of their world, which is a separate and different one from ours. How do we do this? Let’s explore it with the example of one emotion, anger. How can we be present to this emotion, and allow the child to be present to it, face it, with the use of expressive arts?
The child is upset because he is not being allowed to eat another piece of chocolate.
Instead of reprimanding the child by telling him (in a raised voice) that he has had enough, and that his teeth will rot if he eats more chocolate, could I instead be the Stable Bow that Kahlil Gibran advises us to be in the presence of our children, mindfully bend down to the child’s level, look into his eyes, pause a moment to understand his feeling and his need in the moment, breathe to ground and center my own self, be aware of my own bodily presence, and say something like: ‘Hey! You want another piece of chocolate… (pause a few seconds – then add expressive arts mindfully based on the observation of the child’s facial expressions, verbal expressions and bodily movements)?
Example1: “ Here show me with these crayons how much more chocolate you would like to eat! I would love to see…”
Example 2: “ Here create with this clay the chocolate you long to eat!"
Example 3: “ Hey, show me with your hands how much more chocolate would you like?”
And go back and forth, reflecting back to the child his own expression till it comes to a natural self-regulated end for both of you (or not) stay with an attitude of acceptance. Mindfully dropping those judgements around chocolate and your child, instead just be fully present to connect with the child from his mind and heart, getting into his mind and heart, imagining for yourself how it would be like if you desperately wanted something and couldn’t have it. Feeling your own response to that within yourself. Be both, with yourself and with him, at the same time.
Allow yourself to feel his frustration. If his anger shows up through movement like a kicking of legs, or a full-blown tantrum with his body on the floor, you could mark mirror him, again with an attitude of acceptance, not discounting nor mocking, just objectively moving your own body in the same way that he moves his, in a bid to understand what this child is going through, and to be a mirror for him to see his own behavior, yet, that very behavior being held by you in the safe container of your own body.
Allow yourself to be fully present to his upset feelings, holding them safe, till they subside in the child. Once there is a natural end to this back-and-forth exchange between parent and child, we may wish to introduce a Self-Reflection Journal for the child to spend a few minutes in silence to draw or write out his experience of that shared experience with the parent.
There you have it, you have started your child off on a journey of mindfulness, self-reflection and the expressive arts.