Easy as 1 - 2 - 3
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Shelter personnel can help children by having them first draw or play with hand shadows to gain comfort with a bird or a butterfly image. Then, perhaps invite them to imagine their bird or butterfly opening its wings as they count slowly from one to three, 1 – 2 – 3 , and then imagine the butterfly closing its wings as they count again slowly, from one to three, 1 – 2 – 3. When they have really gained a comfort with the visualization, invite them to close their eyes breathing in with the opening of the bird/butterfly wings, and breathing out with the closing of the wings.
Note for parents
The “Kids and Cortisol” project would like to first give some information about why we provide free MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) resources for you, and why it could be helpful for your kids to participate.
There is no right or wrong way to experience these exercises So often, the demands of academic, social, or family life can make it difficult to find time to cope with emotional or stressful experiences. Children who live in difficult situations experience greater stress. This has been shown to have a long-term detrimental effect on their physical health and their ability to learn and retain information.
Our MBSR practices provide children with the coping skills which, while they cannot address the underlying situation, at least allow children some protection against the added harm that comes from the “fight or flight” chemicals the body releases in such situations.
Because the mind and body are connected—and because the mind and body affect each other—it’s important for both emotional and physical health to take the time to calm the mind and rid our bodies of unnecessary stress.
Although emotional reactions are not very common in simple breathing exercises such as ours, they can happen. When uncomfortable reactions come up, the instructor will stop the child, telling the child that the child isn’t a bad meditator, but that this is part of the normal range of experience. Emotional breakthroughs in meditation can sometimes have a positive effect on a child’s life, so a temporarily uncomfortable experience can actually be quite positive in the long run.
Lastly, we want to say again that there is no right or wrong way to experience these exercises. By taking the time for these wellness exercises, participants are taking positive action in caring for both mind and body, and the benefits will be both immediate and long term.