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As any parent who has worked with me knows, I always say, “it starts with Calm”.  Without a calm child and a calm parent, no learning can take place and no problems can be solved. While this may be an easy concept to grasp, getting to a calm place is often no easy task.  One of the major challenges people face, especially many with ADHD, is the ability to regulate their emotional reactions to frustration, anger and the unanticipated.

“Calm” is a Skill
When something emotionally stimulating occurs, whether something exciting like a fun game, or something upsetting like hearing “no” to a request, a child might have a hard time responding appropriately for the situation.  Parents are often heard telling their children to “Calm Down”, but unfortunately, children may not have the skills to help themselves become calm.  By recognizing that “calm” is a skill, and not just a choice, parents can begin to bond with their children and teach a valuable life lesson.

Finding Calm
“Mindfulness Training” has become more widely used in recent years as a way to help people manage their emotions and stressors more effectively.  “Mindfulness” is the practice of being aware of the present moment in a non-evaluative manner. In Star Wars, we hear Yoda tell Luke to clear his mind or to “let go.” This is one of the most basic principles in mindfulness.  It is truly the beginning place for finding calm.  Meditation and mindfulness training offer structured tools for helping you clear your mind of other thoughts so that you can return to a place where learning and reasoning can ultimately take place.

Basics of Mindfulness
Children can be taught the basic principles of Mindfulness using simple games and techniques.

  • As a start, helping children associate the rhythm of their breathing with their ability to think clearly will give them a tool to control their body’s reaction to emotion. Blowing bubbles works great with younger children. Older children and teens can learn the simple technique of breathing in for three or more counts, holding for two counts, and then breathing out for three or more counts.
  • During this time, teach them to recognize their thoughts, but to let them go and not focus on them.
  • The next step will be to learn to choose what they think about.

Once they learn the basic methods of focusing their thoughts, they can utilize these skills anywhere they are in their lives, whether it’s preparing to take a test or approaching a new situation.