Now is a great time for families to begin mindfulness-based practices to help ease the strains and stresses of this difficult time. Padmaja Sarathy, author of Mindfulness-based Practices for Developing Brains: Cultivating Calmness, Concentration and Coping Skills, answers a few questions and provides insight about how mindfulness practices can help families handle the challenges of school closures.
1. Many parents are currently working from home and attempting to simultaneously parent (and perhaps homeschool) their children. What are some good behaviors working parents can model for their children as they try to meet the incredibly demanding needs of both their job and their kids?
In these unsettling times, with normal routines gone awry, both parents and children may find it quite demanding to go through each day peacefully. Therefore, some steps that parents can take to navigate through this turbulent period are:
Practice patience and model calmness as they navigate the demands of the job and their children both requiring their attention at the same time. Exercising patience and modeling calmness will not only help them with their children but contribute to their own well-being. When parents show patience in their interactions with their children, and model calmness, it will have a positive impact on their children, nurturing their social-emotional development.
Set an example to their children of their commitment and focus for their job while working from home. Seeing their parents demonstrating dedication and concentration on their work, children will be motivated to imitate their model. (Some children may require some clear explanation of how and why parents are working from home during these extraordinary times).
2. What particular aspects of the P.R.E.V.E.N.T. guide and the Mindfulness guide do you think may be especially instructive to parents in the next few weeks?
Both the P.R.E.V.E.N.T. guide and the Mindfulness guide offer a lot of key takeaways for parents. When parents and children are in constant and continuous interaction with each other at home, it can sometimes be challenging. Children are likely to exhibit frustration. Both parents and children may experience anxiety and stress which could aggravate children’s behavior problems. Both the guides provide useful pointers that will help parents to use these moments together proactively.
The P.R.E.V.E.N.T. guide offers guidance on how to prevent problem behaviors through proactive and contemplative preventive steps.
- Parents need to be proactive and plan ahead to prevent behavior problems.
- Parents need to be reflective when disciplining children and not be reactive.
- Parents should use them as opportunities to guide and teach not punish. Punishing children will not teach them the appropriate behavior (the right way to behave).
- Navigate out of a problem situation instead of escalating it.
Taking it further, the Mindfulness guide, provides positive tools that parents can use to teach calmness, concentration and coping skills to their children for longer-term social-emotional outcomes.
The step-by-step directions on how to practice mindful breathing, mindful yoga, mindful positivity, presented in the guide aided with pictorial illustrations will enable both parents and children to practice them together.
3. What are the potential benefits that you see emerging for kids and their families from the next few weeks?
Multiple beneficial outcomes could result if parents can approach the time together with calmness and creativity. These unprecedented times also offer an opportunity to stretch the limits of our abilities and the boundaries of our creative capacities. Parents can:
- Take advantage of the time at home to bond with and nurture their child’s growing brain.
- Share stories, sing songs and dance together. Take turns and allow your child to take the lead.
- Play games to teach children to pay attention, to learn to follow rules, etc. and to have fun. For example, play “I Spy”, “Twenty Questions”, “Simon Says”, etc.
- Use the additional meal times together for interactive, back and forth conversations. Use them as opportunities to advance your child’s language and thinking skills.
- Train children to assist with chores around the house ensuring that the expectations are reasonable for child’s age, developmental level, etc. Make it fun and not a burden.
4. What about special needs children and their parents? What advice do you have for them?
Really, parental engagement should not be any different for children with special needs. Perhaps, these extraordinary times offer parents an opportunity to spend more time working more intensively, one-on-one with their child. Parents need to:
- Make sure that they develop a daily schedule and follow them consistently.
- Set up clear expectations for their child and ensure that she/he follows it.
- Use the time together to nurture and engage with their children.
- Offer reasonable choices instead of issuing frequent directives.
- Plus, the mindfulness-based activities, such as mindful breathing, yoga, positive thinking are just as relevant to pursue with children with special needs, may require minor adaptations.
- For example, use the time together to practice mindful breathing daily, maybe for a few minutes (2-3 times a day), with both parent and child doing it together. Begin with 30 seconds of practice and build it up. Another example would be for a child with physical disabilities to perform mindful breathing exercises and yoga using arm movements while sitting in the wheel chair.
- Follow a structured routine with a predictable schedule (very similar to a school/work day) for children with autism. Use all of the visual and technology supports, (visual picture icons, videos, assistive technology, etc.) as per school routine.
- Provide multiple opportunities to prepare children to become self-dependent.
Try to build an environment of positivity. Give yourself a pat on the back at the end of each day for practicing patience and calmness and having a peaceful day. Provide your child with positive feedback multiple times during the day. Most importantly, have a joyful time together.
Padmaja Sarathy, educational consultant and author of P.R.E.V.E.N.T. Problem Behaviors guide and the Mindfulness-based Practices for Developing Brains guide and has written several other books and reference guides (www.infinitepossibiliites-sped.com). As the founder and president of Parent Engagement for Active Child Enrichment (PEACE), her nonprofit’s mission is to empower parents with nurturing tools and resources to help put their children on a positive academic and life trajectory (www.peacenurtureskids.org).
Educators and Families: Take advantage of free educational webinars! Padmaja Sarathy is presenting several webinars monthly through AbleNet, Inc. Find out more information about the webinar at https://www.ablenetinc.com/resources/live_webinars.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2020 @ 11:00 AM (CDT)
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Presented by Padmaja Sarathy, Educational Consultant and Author, founder and president of Parent Engagement for Active Child Enrichment (PEACE)