Habits change into character (Ovid). Profound, isn’t it.
Whining kid to happy relaxed kid. (Tick)
Anxious child to adventurous kid. (Tick)
As the new school year begins, and children get anxious about all things new, it’s helpful for children to learn to deal with anxiety. Here are my top five yoga habits developed as a children’s yoga instructor, to promote calm and change the mood. Trust me, over time they will change your life.
Let’s Roar! Who doesn’t like being the roaring lion, or the whizzing airplane. Use it with breathing. “Everyone take a deep breath and let’s roar like a lion, and on the third roar, let’s see who is the loudest!”. The funny thing is taking deep breaths is fundamental to calming oneself, but we all forget. In the game, we all subconsciously start breathing more and more deeply. You’ll have to remind them to take a deeper breath initially, but slowly kids will be winning. A reminder that we too are prone to shallow breathing and practice makes everyone better. (Yoga has always been big on breathing and it’s especially important for children to know that they can take a deep breath and calm themselves – it empowers them and makes them feel like super heroes.)
Fun claps: Sounds simple and yes, it is! Just say, “let’s do our fun claps! /How many fun claps should we do today (for an older child)?”. As you buckle up your child in the car for school, or maybe on the way to the doctor’s, or wherever/whenever you think the child might be getting anxious, this simple sensory activity will be calming and restores happiness. Most importantly, play the fun clap game when going for camping, ice cream together, birthday parties, or even going to play in the park with friends. The happy feelings associated with the clapping and the playful mood become a memory that get carried over to days where we all might be feeling anxious. (Optional: To engage the senses even more, clap with something like a lavender stem held in one hand – the fragrance adds to the soothing powers and the twig is something tactile that’ll engage the child for a little bit more)
Let’s be a jellyfish! This one’s funny and simple, just bend forward and flop your arms about and be silly. It’s a simple, forward bend that really works wonders to relieve stress – jelly fish yogis are always relaxed – have you ever seen a stressed out one?
Paint and destroy ‘bother bugs’: This one is wonderful when you are at home and starting to delve deeper into figuring out the root of the anxiety. Children sometimes verbalize an anxiety better when they are busy playing or immersed in an activity. So, pick a time when you can give them all the focus (even ten minutes is great) and ask them to draw the “bother bug”. Then comes the super fun part – go on to destroy the bother bug – either take scissors and let the child cut up the drawing or talk in silly voices and drive the bug away. You can direct the activity in any way you want, all that the child wants is comfort and reassurance and the feeling that they were heard. Reinforce the message that that they are strong happy kids who can push out the bother bugs and not let them take control. It’s cultivating the muscle that will help ward off all negativity.
Night-time magic! A minute spent at that beautiful, pure moment when you tuck children to bed to say that they are amazing is incredibly powerful. E.g. “My baby loves everyone – hitting might hurt someone and we wouldn’t like that.” “You shared your toys so well today, I felt joy watching you.” Any habit that you’d like to promote is simple, but the ones you say ‘no’ to all the time, pick one of those and try re-phrasing it as a positive affirmation. The yogis consider these moments just before sleep to be extremely powerful and any positive affirmations used then help the child thrive.
Pick one, or try them all. Habits do take time to stick, so just be consistent. Believe in yourself and your child and you will be the be kick-ass parents with happy, relaxed and adventurous kids.