The promotion of wellbeing through music (Part 2).

Music has been well researched as a facilitator for increasing wellbeing. According to Rickard (2014), irrespective of culture, music has a profound positive influence on enhancing wellbeing through multiple routes, for both hedonic and eudemonic reasons – emphasising several elements of Seligma’s (2011) PERMA theory. For example, research has shown that music can enhance positive emotion (Juslin et al, 2008) and be used to manage and regulate moods (Lonsdale & North, 2001). It can foster social cohesiveness; or offer comfort and meaning to a person (Richard, 2014). Music can also produce effortless absorption or flow (engagement) within an individual, which in turn can facilitate a way to transcend everyday life, through achieving cognitively stimulated peaks, or spiritual experiences through sound (Eerola, 2013).

 

Music can assist in forming personality, self-identity and relationships (Rentfrow, 2012). In early education settings, teachers have also successfully used music and rhythm as a tool for developing language skills and building memory (Foran, 2009). Listening to melodies has a significantly positive effect on active practice and overnight consolidation of procedural memory (Cash, Allen, Simmon & Duke, 2014) and numerous studies on the controversial Mozart effect (Pietschnig, Voracek & Formann, 2010) have demonstrated that listening to classical music from this composer can lead to improved social, cognitive and physical development in young children (Mattar, 2013); concentration in adolescents (Taylor & Rowe, 2012) and spatial-temporal abilities in geriatric patients (Cacciafesta et al, 2010), while also reducing epileptic episodes in young children (Lin et al. 2012); and tinnitus in adults (Attanasio et al, 2012).

 

A study by North, Hargreaves and O’Neil (2000), found that the average teenager between 13 to 14 years, listens to over two and a half hours of music each day. They concluded that through the difficulties of adolescence, music can empower identity and satisfy emotional needs. Overall, studies suggests that people value music over other leisure activities due to the versatility music has at serving an individual’s different needs, which can change over time (Lonsdale & North, 2001). Preferences that cause strong experience with music (SEM) depend on a complex interplay between the music, the person and the situation, and research has demonstrated that any kind of music, from drumming, electronic or pop, melody, form, timbre, rhythm and lyrics, has the potential to be a SEM (Eerola, 2013).

 

In conclusion, in order to enhance wellbeing in children we should be exposing them to music. Music facilities the growth of intellect in various ways and we should encourage children to listen to melodies and other forms of music on a regular basis. Allowing the child to develop their own preferences of music genre helps the child form their own identify. This in turn will assist them through transitioning the difficult adolescent years.

 

(Insert is a picture of one of my own daughters. Her full time profession is being a primary school teacher, however, she has always been passionate about singing and writing/performing her own music. You can find more info about her songs on her Facebook page: Vienna’s Notebook ).

 

References

Attanasio, G., Cartocci, G., Covelli, E., Ambrosetti, E., Martinelli, V., Zaccone, M., Ponzanetti, A., Gueli, N., Filipo, R., Cacciafesta, M. (2012). The Mozart effect in patients suffering from tinnitus. Acta Oto-Laryngologica, 132(11), 1172-1177. doi:10.3109/00016489.2012.684398

Cacciafesta, M., Ettorre, E., Amici, A., Cicconetti, P., Martinelli, V., Linguanti, A., Baratta, A., Verrusio, W., & Marigliano, V. (2010). New frontiers of cognitive rehabilitation in geriatric age: the Mozart Effect (ME). Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 51, 79-82. doi:10.1016/j.archger.2010.01.001 [Abstract].

Cash, C. D., Allen, S. E., Simmons, A. L., & Duke, R. A. (2014). Effects of model performances on music skill acquisition and overnight memory consolidation. Journal of Research in Music Education, 62(1), 89-99.

Eerola, T. (2013). Review of Strong experiences with music: Music is much more than just music. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 23(1), 49-51. doi:10.1037/a0030781

Foran, L. (2009). Listening to music: Helping children regulate their emotions and improve learning in the classroom. Education Horizons, 88(1), 51-58. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov.ezproxy.cqu.edu.au/?id=EJ868339

Juslin, P. N., Liljeström, S., Västfjäll, D., Barradas, G., & Silva, A. (2008). An experience sampling study of emotional reactions to music: Listener, music, and situation. Emotion, 8(5), 668-683. doi:10.1037/a0013505

Lonsdale, A. J., & North, A. C. (2011). Why do we listen to music? A uses and gratifications analysis. Br J Psychology, 102(1), 108-34. doi: 10.1348/00712610X506831. (Abstract)

Mattar, J. (2013). The effect of Mozart’s music on child development in a Jordanian kindergarten. Education, 133(3), 370-377

North, A. C., Hargreaves, D. J., & O’Neill, S. A. (2000). The importance of music to adolescents. Br J Educ Psychol. 70, (Pt2), 255-72. [Abstract]. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10900782

Pietschnig, J., Voracek, M., & Formann, A. K. (2010). Mozart effect–Shmozart effect: Ameta-analysis. Intelligence, 383, 14-323. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2010.03.001 [Abstract].

Rickard, N. (2014). Editorial for “Music and Well-being” special issue of PWB. Journal of Psychology and Well-Being, 4, 26. doi: 10.1186/s13612-014-0026-3. Retrieved from http://www.psywb.com/content/4/1/26#B7

Seligman, M (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness. New York, NY: Free Press.

Rentfrow, P. J. (2012). The role of music in everyday life: Current directions in the social psychology of music. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(5), 402-416. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00434.x

Taylor, J. M., & Rowe, B. J. (2012). The “Mozart Effect” and the mathematical connection. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 42(2), 51-66.

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The promotion of wellbeing through music (Part 1).

The promotion of wellbeing through music is a research based blog discussing the benefits of sound.

 

Listening to music can be considered a mediator of meditation since the activity can be classified as an attention-related experience through a person’s ability to become absorbed or engaged with the music. Additionally, physical and cognitive entrainment (synchronizing to the rhythm detected in music) are enjoyable activities (Grosse, 2013) that stimulate the release of dopamine (a pleasure chemical) within the striatum (an evolutionary ancient part of the brain).  Therefore, since meditation increases eudemonic wellbeing and the pleasure from rhythm increases hedonic wellbeing, listening to music can have a twofold effect on producing feelings of wellbeing (Salimpoor et al., 2013).

 

According to scientific research the human brain has evolved to receive pleasure from music due to its ability to predict and expect the sound patterns, which suggests rhythmic synchronization to music and other metrically regular sounds is an innate human quality (Zentner & Eerola, 2010). Based on these research findings it may be that the human brains’ natural capacity to seek patterns, proximity, similarity or closure, known as the Gestalt principles (Sabar, 2012), results from the pleasure or feelings of wellbeing that the brain experiences (due to dopamine release) during this activity. Furthermore, after birth, both physical or mental rhythmic synchronization (entrainment), and the pleasure this brings may be a result of the brain associating beat or rhythm with the innate feeling of wellbeing experienced within the safety of the womb, due to being surrounded by the sound of a mother’s heartbeat. Hence, after birth, and throughout life, human beings may be unconsciously driven to seek comfort and/or pleasure through listening to rhythmic sounds.

 

In conclusion, since wellbeing can be enhanced through listening to enjoyable sounds due to the minds innate tendency to seek out rhythm for its own personal pleasure or feelings of comfort, playing music for young infants may promote self-soothing abilities in a peaceful way. This will also naturally encourage the development of meditation. Additionally, using music as a technique for promoting self-soothing, meditation and wellbeing can be incorporated into a regular routine for children of all ages.

 

References

Grosse, S. J. (2013). Brain gym in the pool. Aquatic Research and Education, 7, 72-80. Retrieved from             http://www.americankinesiology.org/AcuCustom/Sitename/Documents/DocumentItem/07Grosse_J4177_72-80_ej.pdf

Sabar, S. (2012). Review of Gestalt therapy: 100 key points and techniques. Gestalt Review, 16(2), 203-206.

Salimpoor, V., Van Den Bosch, I., Kovacevic, N., Mcintosh, A., Dagher, a., &  Zatorre, R. (2013). Interactions between the nucleus accumbens and  auditory cortices predict music reward value. Science, 340(6129), 216-219. doi:10.1126/science.1231059

Zentner, M., & Eerola, T. (2010). Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy. Proceedings    of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(13), 5768-5773. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1000121107

Additionally research on music for children

Babies’ brains benefit from music lessons, researchers find http://www.mcmaster.ca/opr/html/opr/media/main/NewsReleases/Babiesbrainsbenefitfrommusiclessonsresearchersfind.htm

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Mindful play with children

Mindful play with children includes being mindful of our children’s attitude. Teaching children to be mindful of their attitude allows them to self-assess and re-adjust their perspective in order to enjoy life.

 

A simple way to accomplish this is to predetermine an appropriate time to practice a gratitude exercise with them (but don’t tell them about your plan). That is, rather than try to force them sit still and verbalize all the things they should be grateful for (possible after they have just been sulking about not getting something), find an out of the blue (secretly planned) time to play a game together.

 

Children love spending time with their parents (when it’s fun!). And as long as you don’t expect to get away with doing gratitude mediation with them every second day, your child will enjoy a spontaneous ‘let’s play who’s the most grateful – I bet I win!…and then I will beat you in a game of snap!’

 

Once the meditation is over and you are onto the next game ask them how they are feeling and whether they think the meditation had anything to do with how they feel. By following up in this way you will teach them to self-assess their inner state and they will consciously acknowledge within themselves they can use meditation mind skills when they need to re-adjust their attitude.

 

Teaching children to meditate doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that takes time and patience. By easing children into gratitude exercises without the exercise being a big deal, you will have a lot more success with teaching them to spend heart felt, quality time within themselves.

 

What is a gratitude meditation and how do I turn it into a game?

 

A gratitude exercise is simply a time where we sit and think of all the things we are grateful for. While it’s good to be grateful for everything you have in life, it’s better to focus on being grateful for the non-material things you have in life. For example, your relationships, your positive attitude, your passion for something, your ability to seek knowledge, your ability to help others, your health, your life, etc. It’s also a wonderful feeling to be mindful of your gratitude for nature: the trees and the fruit they give, the birds and the songs they sing, the waves crashing on the shore, the sun and the warmth it gives, the rain, the mud and even the bugs that help manage the cycle of life. Nature is a beautiful thing and teaching children to appreciate it will encourage a sense of wellbeing within them.

A gratitude game to play the next time you are driving in the car.

Here’s another great way to do a gratitude training exercise with your child. Rather than simply playing ‘I spy with my little eye’, simply add ‘something that I’m grateful for that starts with the letter ….’ Playing the eye spy game in this way will engage a child’s higher order thinking skills in several ways. Firstly, the child experiences an opportunity to dig deep into their own gratitude resources to find things to spy when it’s their turn. Secondly, they learn to critically think within an empathetic context when trying to guess what you chose to be grateful for. Finally, the process will engage meta-cognition (thinking about their own thinking and what someone else is thinking) without even realising it.

 

Note: When you engage in mindful play with children there’s no need to correct your child for saying they are grateful for all their toys, or their favourite television show, or the ice-cream shop. It’s great to be grateful for everything. And over time as your child sees you focus on the non-material things or the beauty of nature, rather than the house, car and fancy things, they will learn to do the same.

 

Author Elizabeth Mulhane

 

Got o another blog: A mindful eating exercise

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Free Mindfulness For Children Exercise

A free mindfulness for children exercise created by Elizabeth Mulhane

 

An exercise in mindfulness of feelings, thoughts and mental objects for young children

 

This free mindfulness for children exercise focuses on mindfulness of feelings, thoughts and mental objects – for young children and is best delivered, after you yourself have experienced it. So, before teaching this to the children please take the time to do the exercise yourself. When we teach from ‘insight’ we teach from a place of true knowledge and understanding.

 

When you look at this picture – where do you ‘feel’ your emotions and sensations?

For me, I feel emotion within my face the strongest (even within my eyes) ❤️. Then I notice the sensations flowing down my throat and into my stomach. And I feel sensations traveling through my arms and into my hands.

 

What automatic thoughts pop into your head?

For me, it’s things like ‘Awwwwww, way too cute’ and ‘one day you will be mine’ ?

This image is powerful enough for just a sitting interacting group session. It’s is a really powerful exercise to promote conscious awareness of feelings (sensations and emotions), and thoughts. I asked the ‘questions’ to you (since I was wanting you to answer – within yourself). However, if you want the kids to just experience this session without answering – remember to use the word ‘notice’, rather than ask them questions (and guide them through the experience). For example, “Notice where you are feeling the joy……Notice how your emotion is making you smile…Notice where the sensations are occurring in your body…maybe you can feel sensations in your throat or arms or hands…. Notice what thoughts are popping into your mind“… (and give them a moment to experience each sensation, emotion or thought). Then they can share their thoughts as a group when quiet reflection is over.

 

Teaching mental phenomena and the mind’s eye to young children

Printing out the picture and allowing each child to take longer to capture the image in their minds will also help you take the older ones to the next level (of understanding mental phenomena and their mind’s eye). That is, once the session is complete – ask them to close their eyes and see if they can recall, or see the imagine in their mind.

When they say ‘yes’, let them know, “We call these pictures in our minds ‘mental objects’ and we see them with our minds eye” (repeated sessions with different pictures will eventually have them remember the big words – you could also use the word – mental phenomena, or interchange them)…. Then you can say, “And we all have a lot of mental objects in our minds…and they also keep changing, rising up and going away again, keeping your eyes closed, put your hand up if you can also see an image of mum in your mind, or someone else you really love.”

Once most of them have their hands up (should only take a moment) you can say, “OK. everyone open your eyes and lets all share who we saw.” Allow each child to take turns sharing their experience.

 

Taking the exercise further…

How about we try imagining holding the puppy in our hands. Cup your hands and see if you can imagine the puppy there. Notice how it makes your face feel. Think about whether you prefer to do this with your eyes open or closed“….give them time to experience this.

End the session with a chat about our imaginations. For example, “Our imaginations are so powerful. We are all so very creative. You are all so amazing and you all did so well with this mindfulness exercise. We can use our imagination to create lots of fun experiences – just like this one. And we can do this anytime we want to play in our imaginations. Who thinks this was a fun way to experience feeling good?” “Let’s try this again tomorrow…I will find another really great picture for us to use.”

 

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Teaching mindfulness to young children is an excellent way to give their the keys to successfully navigate their future. If you are a teacher or a parent please check out our internationally accredited mindfulness for children teacher training. This course has been specifically designed for childcare teachers. Through the 8 week part time course, teachers will learn how to confidently practice and teach mindfulness and various forms of meditation, in ways the children will really enjoy.

 

Here’s a few reviews from some of our qualified teachers

Amazing online course! I highly recommend doing it, Elizabeth has literally changed the way I educate and care for myself. I never would have thought a course could help so much with all aspects of my career and personally. The course is user friendly and so informative, I loved the flexibility of doing the course online and I refer back to the course notes consistently as they have so much information and links to refer too. If you have been thinking about doing a course to benefit children and yourself this is the one to do! – Cath Howard

 

I have recently completed the 8 week course. I found it covered a wide range of information to implement with children and to deepen my practice. Lots of support and so much knowledge gained.  – Karen Power

 

This was a great course and I definitely recommend it. Elizabeth was approachable and available to discuss any questions or to talk through something that I needed clarification on. The course was informative and gave lots of suggestions and ideas for my practice with younger children. Thank you Elizabeth!  – Zoe Casson

 

Really enjoyed this course learning how to take time and just be in the moment which I seriously lacked. Then to learn how to implement some fantastic mindfulness activities with my Kindergarten children has been very rewarding.  – Lynda Goulding

 

I have recently completed the 8 week course. I found it full of information to implement with children and to deepen my practice. Elizabeth is extremely supportive throughout the whole process gently guiding and prompting. Elizabeth’s passion kindness and caring way is evident throughout the course she has embedded so much valuable content within it. Looking forward to implementing the 10 week program with my children. Absolutely brilliant thank you. – Cynthia Hoffman

 

I hope you enjoyed this blog and please get in touch if you would like to know more about our teacher training.

 

Kind regards

Elizabeth Mulhane B.PsychSci(Hons).

 

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Trivia: Buddha’s Kiss And The Shih Tzu’s White Spot

You may have noticed that some Shih Tzus have a white spot on their coat on top of their head. The legend of this spot goes all the way back to Buddha.The story goes that Buddha was walking along the road with his dog when several robbers came upon him. They intended to rob and murder him, but Buddha’s dog transformed into a lion and chased the robbers off.When the robbers were long gone, the lion changed back into his normal pup self, and Buddha picked him up and kissed him on the head. The place where Buddha kissed the pup turned white, and that’s where the Shih Tzu gets their spot.

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Helping one of my own children overcome anxiety.

Helping one of my own children overcome anxiety was one of the reason I decided to begin teaching others how to teach and learn mindfulness.

 

My fifth child was delivered via caesarean. After over 10 hours of labour I was rushed into an emergency caesarean due to complications.  When he was born he was left with his father for hours, while I was in recovery. And I was told later, that no one could comfort him. So, his entry into this world was followed by hours of uncontrollable crying and stress. This triggered strong anxiety within him, that would last for another 5 or so years.

 

When we finally met he clung to me like a little koala. If fact, I nick named him Koaly. He literally spent most of this time attached to me in a baby joborn. Even when I was reading or working around the house, he was attached, which really helped him feel secure, content and happy. And he was a very happy baby, always smiling and laughing…as long as I was right there. But, still his anxiety would get the better of him at times. And sadly, the little darling suffered from hallucinations whenever he had a high fever (under the influence of the drug Nurofen) and would literally see scary figures and experience walls moving and unfortunately we didn’t know this was happening until he was old enough to speak. Fortunately, he wasn’t sick too often and he rarely allowed us to administer drugs to control his fever. By age three he never took Nurofen again!

 

Even almost 3 years of breast feeding and having him always with me, didn’t relieve him of his anxiety. As he grew, I noticed he was very shy around others and would become anxious quiet easily. So when he was ready to start school at age 5, I enrolled him in the local Montessori school, just to ensure his social and emotional development was going to continue to be developed in a nurturing environment. It was wonderful to be able to only need to leave him for 3 hours a day, until he was ready to stay longer.

 

He was the brightest boy in the class and every teachers favourite. And the love and care he received from his first teachers at Montessori really helped him to start to come out of his shell. Still, I could see he needed to build more resilience. So I decided the best way to do that was through teaching him about the human mind and why people think the way they do. We both enjoyed studying people and chat about people’s behaviour (and still do it through watching reality TV) . Each day after school he would tell me about his day and most of the conversations were about what the other children did – in detail. He also had an innate moral compass and this caused him to also become quite judgemental…which also lead to teaching him how to apply compassion to our thinking and try to resist dobbing on all the children. Before long, to help him cultivate his thinking style, we also got into the routine of him having a mention 5 good things about his day before he began filling me in with all the other details.

 

He was growing to be a very capable self-learner and his socioemotional intelligence was gaining so much ground that after two years of Montessori and moving into the next stage, he told me that the school was no longer good for him because it wasn’t providing him with enough structure (he also had a lot of other complaints about his new teacher). After asking the principle was it possible to give him more structure (since he was raised in a very structured environment before attending Montessori, due to being born when I was half way through my university studies) I was told that just isn’t the Montessori way.

 

Changing Schools – at his request!

 

I urged him to continue for one more year, but found him in tears on the way home, telling me stories of his teacher not giving him the repeated lessons he felt he needed to gasp new topics at the rate he wanted to (and we both knew he was a jumper and needed repetition for learning certain topics). And after a parent observation sit in session and watching most of the children daydreaming (role modeled through the teacher), I realised he was right and it was time to move him into a more structured environment, where children weren’t bored, day dreaming and struggling to find things to.

 

So, I enrolled him in the local Catholic school and he love it and continued to thrive, That was, until the following year when he had to deal with a ‘screaming’ teacher. I was told by the other parents and children that she wasn’t really a ‘screamer’, she just raised her voice a lot and was a little tougher on the kids towards producing results. However, in my sons mind (or perception of reality), she was a ‘screamer’! Although, she never ever raised her voice at my son. However, he saw that at times, she got it wrong and raised her voice at a child without due cause, or simply because she wanted the child to hurry up and this cause anxiety within my son, because he felt it was only a matter of time before she did the same to him. And he was pretty much the only child that she never raised her voice at.

 

I wondered if I had made a terrible mistake by listening to him and removing him from Montessori. He was around 7 years old by now, and while is was doing quite well, I was feeling that I still needed to do more for him to help him deal with anxiety. That’s when I came up with a brainstorm and decided we would start a project together, of breeding pedigree mini lop rabbits. We purchases a few baby rabbits and grew them up and began breeding, never allowing the herd to reach more than 7. I also purchased (saved) another quality adult female that was a bit more anxious, due to living her first two years in a small box in a shed full of other rabbits in small boxes and not having much human contact.

 

Through studying the behaviour of our rabbits he learned how anxiety wasn’t always trigger by the outer environment, but more so, the inner environment. We cultivated two lines, one was just your normal everyday playful rabbits (that could get a little anxious) and the other was a much more docile line. And we spend a lot of time – just watching them and chatting about them. It was a wonderful bonding experience and also an opportunity to both learn about colour genetics in order breed the colours we wanted. I wanted to create a blue otter. He wanted to create a Charlie.

 

In a very short period of time he was able to conceptualise how our own thinking created our reality. As we watched the rabbits interact within their environment he could clearly see that the same environment produced different effects within each rabbit. This was best observed during their play time. Particularly though one of our girls, that preferred to not even come out and play.

 

Each day we allowed the rabbits to roam around in their own little yard areas. When the rabbits heard certain bird calls, some weren’t affected, while others would scurry back into their homes. Some rabbits enjoyed cuddle time, while some preferred less handling. Some rabbits were extremely affectionate and would ran up for their cuddles, while other had to be caught. And as the different females became pregnant we also noticed how their hormones also affected their behaviour.

 

Some females became quite aggressive, one would even run at me and attack me for entering her space (she was never bred again and was re-homed). Even the more docile females had moments when they lunged forward to bite me when I put my hand in their cages – through a certain period of their pregnancies. Then after giving birth they would completely return to their normal selves.

 

Overall, within the three years that we spent breeding our mini lops my son had fully conceptualised how anxiety, or behaviour in general really was an inside job. And although the outer environment could trigger anxious moments, the degree of effect usually always came down to the personality and disposition of the rabbit, more so than the outer environment.

 

My son learned to ‘check in’ with himself

From this learning experience my son was able to ‘check in’ with himself, within the class room, or elsewhere and notice what he was feeling and thinking and learn to use his breath training, as a way to reduce his reactivity. And since throughout our breeding project he was also educated on the fact that, while we are also animals, we aren’t the same as animals because we have higher order thinking skills that allow us to purposefully cultivate our thinking, he was able to always apply his mindfulness in situations where he felt stressed, by simply returning to his breath and then cultivate better ways of thinking. He also learned to use mantras, or prayer as internal dialogue to deal with stressful situations. He also learned that he was capable of thinking through situations in a much more positive frame of mind.  We also occasionally spend time developing his resilience through play acting stressful scenarios so he could use critical thinking through a cognitive behaviour therapy understanding of testing and assessing the reality of the situation, or his thoughts about the situation.

 

Now, as a teenager, he is so resilient that I feel that maybe he should be a little more fazed by particular situations. He gets a little too big for his boots at times and can be very pushy and determined to get his own way! However, I know it’s such a blessing to watch him display his confident demeanour over the timid little one that he once was. And fortunately, I too enjoy getting my own way and am very capable of applying a loving hierarchy within our relationship.

 

I hope this blog has brought you a little more understanding towards creating ways of building social and emotional intelligence and resilience within children with anxiety. And while you may not all be rushing out the door to purchase a bunch of rabbits (since the cleaning side of it is ridiculously labour intensive), you can still just have plenty of chats with your child about anxiety, or anxiety within animals, and internal and external environmental triggers – as a way of fostering understanding for building resilience. Additionally, developing a deep sense of gratitude is also a wonderful way to build resilience against feelings and thoughts of stress or anxiety. Prayer can also have a powerful impact within a young child’s mind.

 

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Kind regards,

Elizabeth Mulhane B.PsycSci(Hons).

www.mindfulnessforchildren.com.au

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