What will my 8 year old son think of being told to sit on the floor and breath slowly – focusing on the breath – taking care to think about what his toes and legs and arms feel like? Will he giggle and feel silly? Probably the first and second time he does it. But then you never know – it might actually start working. When he feels anxious or stressed maybe he’ll be able to use these techniques to help him feel happier and calmer.
There are so many pressures on our kids. We all see it but many of us feel powerless to do anything about it. There’s the constant battle we all face with their electronic devices. I dread the day I give my son a mobile phone “just so he can stay in touch with me” – but of course then he’ll be staying “in touch” with all his friends – constantly. Soon he’ll be under pressure for his school sats. I know he already feels pressure to perform well when he plays football. Eating disorders are a huge issue for girls and boys – I know of a 9 year old girl in hospital with anorexia.
My son’s school thankfully takes it’s pupils mental wellbeing extremely seriously. Children who are perhaps more sensitive and anxious about their work or social skills are given “resilience” group sessions. Just the very word is empowering. The children are helped to find their own inner strength- don’t we all need that sometimes?
We all wish for the carefree days we experienced, for our children. But the world has changed. We live in a country where Eight-year-olds in England are less happy than those in Estonia, Poland and Turkey. England ranked 13th out of 16 countries when it came to children’s life satisfaction, according to an international survey last year. It doesn’t take a genius to work out where the problems lie – body image, social media, pressure at school – these all exacerbate it. We need to do something and surely mindfulness isn’t a bad place to start.
A government backed scheme aimed at promoting wellbeing and happiness will help remind teachers who are under so much pressure to get our children to perform well academically, that they also have a duty of care for their mental wellbeing. Surely the two must go hand in hand.
We must do all we can to equip our children with the necessary tools to empower them to deal with challenges confidently. Mindfulness lessons at a young age can perhaps give our children a huge gift not just for their younger years but to use throughout their adult lives.